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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


  • Clementines
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Melons
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Sugar snap peas

Sides and Snacks


  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit leather
  • Sweet potato chips
  • Veggie straws
  • Granola bars
  • String cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Trail mix
  • Fruit cups
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Graham crackers

Tips for healthy, balanced School lunches:

  1. Provide 2 or 3 options for fruits or veggies and have your child select one.
  2. Involve your child in preparing their lunch. Have them help the food into containers.
  3. Challenge your child to try something new in their lunch each week. Track with stickers!
  4. Lead by example. Pack similar ingredients in your own lunch!
  5. 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!
  6. Remember food safety. Store an ice pack or two in your child’s lunch box to keep perishable food safe!
  7. Plan for leftovers from the night before. Pack your extras leftover from dinner into containers that can be grabbed the next morning!
  8. Write out a few of your child’s favorite or preferred foods from each food group. Together, build your child’s lunch!
berries graham crackers celery apple and other healthy snacks


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
Olivia Chadwick

Olivia Chadwick



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


  1. https://www.modernhoney.com/back-to-school-kids-lunch-ideas/