When packing school lunches for your child, pack up foods that meet their nutritional needs, as well as their enjoyment.

Back to school with healthy lunches

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Many kids are back to school and already I can hear parents asking for ideas for packing up lunches. The most common complaint is that bag lunches become boring. One strategy is to let your child purchase school lunch a few times a week. That can break up the brown bag lunch routine.

Lunch time is an important refueling time for kids in the middle of their school day, so what you pack in their lunches takes some thought. It can help to get things started the night before so that it is not too crazy-busy the next morning in the kitchen. Here are some healthy reminders for packing up lunches.

Pack up foods that meet your child’s nutritional needs, as well as their enjoyment.

Protein for growing muscles and bones, body tissue maintenance and to get to full height potential:

  • Eggs, fish, chicken and turkey, lean red meats
  • Cheese – sliced, cubes, cottage cheese
  • Nut butters including almond and peanut
  • Hummus and dried beans and peas
  • Tofu

Whole-grain starch to supply carbohydrate energy for active bodies:

  • Whole-grain breads, rolls, tortillas, flatbread and pita pockets
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Homemade whole wheat or oatmeal muffins

Fruits and vegetables to provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber for body functions:

  • Fresh seasonal fruit, light-packed canned fruit
  • Assorted raw vegetables
    • Cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks, pepper chunks

Beverages for hydration:

  • Water, water, water; milk

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.