Packing a lunch from home is one way to make sure that your child has a nutritious meal at school. Unfortunately, many kids lunch boxes are often filled with prepackaged or convenience foods like Lunchables, Spaghettios, soda, chips, and cookies. It can be hard to pack a healthy lunch every day that your kids will love! If you are in a school lunch rut check out these ideas to help you pack a healthier lunch for your kids.
Your child’s lunch should (ideally) include:
- One serving of vegetables
- One serving of fruit
- One serving of dairy such as a low-fat cheese stick, a yogurt cup, cottage cheese, or low-fat or fat-free milk
- One serving of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, or beans
- One serving of grains, preferable whole grains
- A healthy drink, water is best
Using the right lunch bag and containers allows you to pack a variety of nutritious foods and keep them fresh. Insulated lunch bags are the best choice for school lunches. Some insulated lunch bags come with freezer packs, or you can buy the freezer packs separately. Insulated lunch bags with freezer packs will ensure lunches will not spoil. For hot foods you can purchase insulated food jars in a couple of different sizes.
The healthiest options for sandwiches include whole grain breads, wraps, bagels, or pitas. Here are some healthy sandwich ideas:
- Lean meat such as turkey or chicken with mustard and a slice of cheese
- Egg salad with lettuce
- Peanut, almond, soynut, or cashew butter with 100% fruit spread
- Low-fat cream cheese topped with veggie slices
- Tuna mixed with light mayo and topped with lettuce and tomatoes
Having sandwiches everyday can get boring so here are some other lunch ideas:
- Burrito with rice and black beans or refried beans in a tortilla with tomatoes and lettuce
- Chili with whole grain crackers or bread
- Quesadilla with chicken and veggies
- Thermos filled with hot soup
- Grilled chicken breast
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Sliced meat with whole grain crackers and sliced cheese
- A salad with low-fat dressing topped with chicken breast and shredded cheese topped with chicken breast and shredded cheese
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Brown rice with canned beans or shredded lean meat
Skip the chips! Adding healthy sides is a great way to fill in the nutrition gaps in your child’s school lunch. Some healthy side ideas to include:
- Carrot or celery sticks
- Apple slices
- Fruit salad
- Bananas, grapes, melons, pears, peaches, or other whole fruit
- Almonds or other nuts
- Raisins or other dried fruit
- Whole grain crackers
- Cheese stick
- Low-fat yogurt
- Unsweetened apple sauce
- Trail mix made with whole grain cereal, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, or raisins
Start your kids off right by packing healthy school lunches with nutritious foods that taste good. This will help them to establish healthy eating habits for life.
Make school lunch fun and include a note! Photos, jokes, riddles, comic strips, sports articles, or other articles they would be interested in are also fun to include in their lunch bag. Do they have a test in the afternoon or sporting event later that day? Wish them good luck in the note!
Our kids spend a lot of their day away from us at school. Packing a healthy and nutritious lunch and adding a note will remind them you are thinking about them when they are away.