How To Plan a Healthy School Lunch
Now that summer is winding down and back-to-school shopping is in full swing, let’s chat about school lunches! It is helpful to go into your child’s school year with a plan for what school lunches will look like in order to reduce time, save money, and maximize variety, color, and nutrition.
With any meal, we want to promote a well-balanced plate that not only provides your child the nourishment he/she needs but also is something they will eat and truly enjoy. Try and incorporate one item from each of the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy. This plan of eating will ensure your child gets a variety of both macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). Start with your main “entree” for lunch, add in fruits/veggies of choice, and finish with sides and snacks. The possibilities are endless!
Main Entree Ideas
- Pita bread with grilled chicken and/or hummus
- Mini pizzas on an English muffin
- Turkey/ham and cheese roll-ups
- Black bean/cheese quesadilla
- Pasta salad
- Meat and cheese kabobs
- Hard-boiled eggs
- PB&J or almond butter/jelly
- Tuna or chicken salad sandwich
- Grilled chicken strips
- Sugar snap peas
Sides and Snacks
- Fruit leather
- Sweet potato chips
- Veggie straws
- Granola bars
- String cheese
- Trail mix
- Fruit cups
- Whole grain crackers
- Graham crackers
Tips for healthy, balanced School lunches:
- Provide 2 or 3 options for fruits or veggies and have your child select one.
- Involve your child in preparing their lunch. Have them help the food into containers.
- Challenge your child to try something new in their lunch each week. Track with stickers!
- Lead by example. Pack similar ingredients in your own lunch!
- Try cutting healthier food into fun shapes. Remember, we eat with our eyes first and this can help get your child excited about his/her food!
- Remember food safety. Store an ice pack or two in your child’s lunch box to keep perishable food safe!
- Plan for leftovers from the night before. Pack your extras leftover from dinner into containers that can be grabbed the next morning!
- Write out a few of your child’s favorite or preferred foods from each food group. Together, build your child’s lunch!
Dietitian-Approved Lunch Ideas
- Turkey, cheese, and baby spinach roll up in a whole wheat tortilla with applesauce and baby carrots
- Black bean, cheese, tomato quesadilla with blueberries and cucumbers
- Homemade “Lunchables” with whole wheat crackers, thinly sliced cheddar cheese, low sodium deli meat, and bell peppers
- Tuna or chicken salad on a whole wheat bun with veggie straws and fruit cups in 100% juice, 1% milk
- Mini pizzas on English muffins with grapes and celery
- Pita pocket with grilled chicken, shredded cheese, hummus, and lettuce along with clementine and grape tomatoes
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread with a side of yogurt and fresh berries, carrots/cucumbers with Ranch
- Pasta salad with assorted veggies, protein granola bar, raspberries, and popcorn
MS, RD, LDN
She has a passion for working with vulnerable populations, including older adults, those with special needs, low-income families, individuals with food allergies/intolerances, those with autoimmune conditions, and college students.. READ MORE