School is In: Healthy Lunches for All

Lunchtime can get a bit boring for both kids and parents. Sure a turkey sandwich and an apple are wholesome and nutritious, but by the second month of school, it’s pretty monotonous. Start the school year right and stay on a healthful path with these lunch tips for students and parents alike.

Start with balance.

Whether you’re packing your own lunch or lunches for the kids, begin with the notion that food is nourishment and meals should be balanced. Include at least one good source of protein such as chicken, tuna, beans, tofu, eggs and cottage cheese. Always include both fruits and vegetables.

Add some fun.

Balance and fun really can go together, so make lunch something to look forward to. It may be easier to pack the same lunch everyday, but it’s not enjoyable to eat the same lunch everyday.

  • Think beyond bread. Rotate your meals with whole grain bread, rolls, tortilla, pita bread and crackers. Consider lettuce wraps and rice or quinoa bowls.
  • Add some extras. Make sandwiches and salads interesting with a few add-ins. Slip roasted peppers and fresh basil leaves into a sandwich. Or add olives, goat cheese and steamed beets to a salad. Dress up tuna with diced avocado and artichoke hearts.
  • Allow kids to assemble their own food at school. They’ll enjoy cracker stackers with layers of whole grain crackers, sandwich meats or cheese and fruit slices. Let them skewer sliced kiwi, strawberries and grapes onto pretzel sticks.
  • Be surprising. Make little kids smile with sandwiches cut into fun shapes. Older kids might enjoy a note with a funny joke tucked into their lunchboxes.

Don’t forget the beverage.

Lowfat milk and soymilk are good choices. So are water and other calorie-free beverages. If you’d like a little sweetness in your iced tea, stir in a bit of sucralose or other no-calorie sweetener. A can of zero-calorie flavored seltzer water is also hydrating and fun to drink.

Pack your food in the right containers.

Have an insulated sack or a lunchbox for each family member. Keep cold food cold with reusable freezer packs. And pack hot soups and casseroles in thermal containers. If you can, allow your children to select their own lunch supplies, including a bento box and a lunch bag.

Have easy-to-pack staples.

Sometimes you need to race out the door before your dream lunch is packed. Be sure to have lots of grab-and-go options on hand. A few good choices are yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, tuna in foil packets, canned fruit, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, nuts and hummus.

Take time to plan a few lunches and gather the proper supplies. The whole family will benefit. An interesting and healthful lunch is just what we need to recharge for a busy or demanding afternoon.


Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator in SE Virginia and a paid contributor to Through speaking, writing and coaching individuals, she helps empower people to live healthier, happier lives. Jill is the author of three books including Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart (

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September 11, 2016 Lifestyle Advice