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How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

Make an easy, healthy lunch that your child wants to eat (and won’t trade with classmates). Here are some tips for a school lunch that makes the grade.

  • Start with an insulated bag.
    Protect your child from food poisoning by keeping perishable foods—such as deli meats, milk, and yogurt—cold with an ice pack. Use a thermos or insulated bottle to keep hot foods above 140 degrees.
  • Pack in the food groups.
    For a well-balanced meal, aim for a lunch that includes dairy products, whole-wheat bread or other whole grains, fruits, veggies, and protein (for example, meats, beans, and eggs).
  • Involve your child.
    When your child helps prepare or select foods for lunch, he or she is more likely to come home with an empty lunch bag. This may mean grocery shopping with your child and/or offering a choice of healthy options.
  • Make lunch fun.
    Cut sandwiches or fruits into fun shapes, put dipping sauces on the side, or include a little note with your child’s lunch.
  • Go juice-less.
    Water or milk is a more nutritious drink choice than juice, which often has a high sugar content and little nutritional value.
  • Be creative.
    Kids get tired of eating the same foods just as adults do. For some interesting suggestions, see “15 lunch ideas” below.

15 lunch ideas

Mix and match these suggestions for main dishes and sides.

  1. Pita pocket with hummus and vegetables
  2. Yogurt with fresh berries and granola
  3. Baby carrots with low-fat dip
  4. Chicken salad on raisin bread
  5. Air-popped popcorn
  6. Homemade veggie pizza
  7. Cereal with dried fruit
  8. Pasta salad with vegetables
  9. Fresh fruit or veggies on skewers
  10. Salad with dried cherries and cheese
  11. Soup with whole-grain crackers
  12. Turkey, avocado, and cheese on a wrap
  13. Black bean burrito with veggies and cheese
  14. Tuna on a green salad
  15. Smoothie with plain yogurt and fruit