What are some ideas for packing a healthy school lunch for my child?

Protein-rich snacks would be a good option. Try things like cheese sticks, little peanut butter cups with pretzels (if there’s no nut allergy), hummus with pretzels or carrot sticks and water or milk to drink.

To pack a healthy school lunch for your child, add healthy snacks. A few favorites are:

  • clementines
  • bananas
  • apples
  • pears
  • whole-grain crackers and cereal
  • dried fruit and nuts (in small amounts as the calories can add up)

As a note—if you are flying on a trip, unpeeled fruit is okay to take through airport security.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

One of the best ways that you can pack a healthy lunch that will be consumed, rather than tossed away, is to sit down with your child to negotiate healthy options. If the child feels that he/she is invested the decision, the lunch is more likely to be eaten.

A healthy lunch should consume grains (preferably, whole grains), protein (peanut butter, lean meat and poultry), fruit and veggies. Here is an example:

Roll-up lunch:

  • Whole wheat flour tortilla
  • Lean roast beef or turkey
  • Light cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lettuce

(Put roast beef/turkey, cheese, mayo and lettuce on flat tortilla. Roll up. Place in container.)

  • Carrots sticks (1 cup)
  • Light Italian salad dressing (2 tablespoons)

(Packing tip: Pour salad dressing in bottom of small container. Stack carrots sticks on top. Cover.)

If your child takes lunch to school, include fruit or veggies and a lean protein, such as chicken or turkey. Try to avoid processed foods or high-fat, high-calorie items. Substitute baked chips for fried and whole-grain bread for white. If the plan is to buy lunch, talk about how to make healthier choices.

Dr. Darria Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

A good school lunch should contain a protein + some good fat + carbs + fruit/veggie. Make it more fun by turning it into a sandwich or adding pasta.

Some examples:

  • turkey wrap with whole-wheat, cheese, a side of edamame and a side of oranges
  • tuna salad (no mayo) on bread
  • leftovers from last night! 

If your child will be reheating the lunch, be sure to pack it in a glass (rather than plastic) container.

Samantha Heller, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

If your child takes his lunch to school, you want to make sure you pack a healthy one. Find out how by watching this tip-filled video featuring registered dietitian Samantha Heller. (Hint: PB&J is perfectly fine!)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.