four girls

Lisa Cooper, MS, RD, LDN
Dietitian, Orlando Health Center for Health Improvement

There are three important pieces for packing a healthy school lunch—Plan, Shop & Prep. For the best results, always include your child in the process. Be prepared for the week by creating a menu plan — get the kids involved so that they can pick their favorite foods. Take the kids shopping with you — letting them help pick out the foods will increase the likelihood that they will eat their lunches. Let them choose fruits, vegetables & yogurts.

Have the Right Tools on Hand

  • Lunchbox, thermos, snack sized baggies, sandwich bags, plastic utensils, small plastic containers, refillable water bottle.
  • Let the kids pick their lunchbox. Make sure it is well insulated and keeps foods at a constant temperature.
Lunch Box
Girl and Refrigerator

Keeping Your Fridge Stocked with the Right Foods

  • Fruit cups, fresh and dried fruits, 100% juice boxes (4 oz)
  • Yogurt, low-fat string cheese
  • Whole wheat bread, mini bagels, whole grain crackers
  • Fruit/nut-based granola bars
  • Tuna, nut butter, turkey, low sodium canned beans
  • Cut-up vegetables with low fat dip/dressing or hummus

Pack Lunches the Night Before

  • Get the kids involved in helping to pack lunches, cut up veggies, and let them pick out what they want to eat the next day
  • Put the juice boxes in the freezer. They work as a great freezer pack for keeping yogurts and other items cold during the day

Serve the Right Amount for Your Child’s Age

brown paper bag

Make it Exciting! Include a Variety of Foods in an Innovative Way

  • Trail mix: cheerios, craisins, nuts, goldfish, mini chocolate chips
  • Sliced apples with almond butter dip
  • Celery filled with peanut butter and topped with 3 chocolate covered raisins
  • Pretzel sticks to stick into cheese cubes
  • Roll turkey breast around a cheese stick
  • Pinwheel: Place low fat cheese, turkey breast and avocado on a whole grain tortilla and roll. Slice into pinwheels.
  • PBJ’s cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  • Homemade ‘lunchable’: whole grain crackers; cheese cubes; turkey squares; chocolate kiss

Keep a running list of your child’s favorite lunch items. Continue to try new items (only one new item in the lunch at a time) until you have 2-3 weeks of lunch ideas. Then mix, match and repeat!

Do you have an innovative lunch idea that works well for your child? Share it with us! We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

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