School Lunches

SMART Ideas for Back to School Lunches

Categories: Nutrition

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

Back to school means it’s time to think about backpacks, homework, and packing lunches. It is easy to get stuck in a rut with packing the same lunch every day. Start the school year off on a new foot, with healthy and creative ways to provide fun and nutritious lunches for your child. Nutrition has a huge impact on growth and development but also affects energy levels, brain development and the ability to concentrate. Make sure your child hits the ground running with a good breakfast and a SMART lunch to give needed fuel for their busy day.

Serve Up Some Fun

Create excitement around healthy foods by keeping the meal interesting.  Include dips for fruits and vegetables, cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters or add a handwritten note from you.

Made to Order

Make sure to include your child in the planning process, improving the likelihood that they will enjoy lunch. Give them choices between two items like grapes or strawberries; yogurt or string cheese; graham crackers or wheat crackers.

Add Finger Foods

Provide foods that are easy to pick up or require some assembly. Kids love popular lunch kits so make your own! Pretzel sticks to push into cheese cubes, small pizzas from mini tortillas or turkey rolled up in tortillas.

Ready to Go!

Pack lunches the night before to make sure they are ready for a rushed morning. Let your child help pack their lunch to provide input for what is packed, as well to learn meal prep and healthy food choices.

Tastes They Love

Take into consideration the foods your child likes to eat. As many parents have experienced, a full lunch box returns home if the foods are not interesting. Create a check list of healthy foods that your child likes and let them choose what to buy for the week. Take them grocery shopping to help pick out their favorite healthy foods like fruits or vegetables and dipping sauces.

Bento Box

  • Grapes
  • Carrots & dip
  • Whole wheat PB&J cut in triangles
  • Low-fat milk

Make Your Own Pizza

Cut a whole wheat tortilla with a round cookie cutter to make bite size mini pizza crusts. Provide pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese for topping. Change to a sweet treat using yogurt for the sauce and cut fruit for toppings!

Top whole wheat tortillas with nut butter. Drizzle with honey and add a banana. Roll banana in tortilla and cut into bite-size wheels. Switch it up and use turkey, lettuce, tomato and avocado instead.

A little planning goes a long way! Taking the time to plan and prep lunches as a family provides peace of mind, knowing that your child is eating a healthy lunch while engaging children in long-term healthy eating behaviors.

Share with us!  Share your inventive ideas and popular foods that your child likes in their lunch.  HWO will help you eat right, stay fit, and enjoy life!

Lisa Cooper

About the Author

Lisa Cooper is a dietitian specializing in prevention and wellness at Orlando Health.  She is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University and a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University.

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