Packing a Healthy School Lunch for Kids

Can you believe back-to-school is less than a month away? Packing school lunches doesn’t have to be tedious and boring! Check out these tips to make sure your child is getting a fun & nutritious lunch that they’ll actually enjoy!

When packing a balanced, kid-friendly lunch, ideally you want to ensure a combo of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, with at least 1/2 cup each of colorful fruits and veggies. Aim for variety, and remember, keep offering kids new and different foods as it often takes up to 7 times of trying a food before a kid may like it!

Here are our Dietitian’s tips for keeping your child’s school lunch healthy and fun!

-Kids love finger foods and dips. Try packing colorful and nutrient-rich dippers like carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, or cucumbers and pair them with hummus, guacamole, ranch, or tzatiziki.
-The more colors, the better! Make their lunch look like a rainbow. The dark, rich hues in plant foods like fruits and vegetables contain disease-fighting phytochemicals, powerful nutrients that help kids be and stay healthy!
-Does your child participate in an after school activity or sport? Be sure to pack them a snack, too! Healthy snack ideas can include Greek yogurt and nuts, berries and a cheese stick, peanut butter and banana “sushi”, or a whole grain bagel with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers. A balance of fiber-rich carbs, healthy fats and protein will help keep them energized and satisfied until dinner time!
-Make food more enticing by using cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes, or cutting fruits and veggies into fun shapes. Or add stickers or a note to your kid’s lunchbox for a fun surprise!
-Get your kids involved in the process – the more they help with picking out the food or the preparation, the more likely they are to eat it. Even better, take them to the SodaCity farmer’s market one weekend and have them pick out some fresh and nutritious foods to try!

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Here are some fun & nutritious lunchbox ideas for this fall:

-Whole grain bagel topped with cream cheese and cucumber slices (cut into stars for even more fun!)
-Pb & banana sushi (made with a whole grain tortilla) paired with carrot sticks and guacamole, and fresh fruit (such as berries, grapes, kiwi, apple slices). Does your child’s school have a nut-free policy? Swap peanut butter out for sunflower seeds butter – still delicious, creamy, and packed with plant-based protein!
-Pita sandwich filled with hummus, tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced bell peppers paired with apple slices and nut butter and some cheese sticks
-Leftover veggie pizza paired with celery and hummus, greek yogurt, and berries
-Hard boiled eggs, almonds, apple circles topped with peanut butter and dark chocolate chips, paired with 1/2 PB&J sandwich on whole grain bread (cut into hearts or stars)
-Chicken salad over greens paired with hard boiled eggs, kiwi/berries/grapes, and dove dark chocolate for fun!
-Pimento cheese and cucumber sandwich on whole grain bread, paired with apple slices and mozzarella/cucumber/tomato skewers

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Want to check out our tips in video form? Our RD, Caroline Waters Green, discussed these healthy school lunch tips with WIS10 Columbia, check out the video here!