Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids

Kids can give you a pretty cold look when you say you’re going to pack their lunch. If your school lunch ideas have been pretty boring so far, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find ways to liven up your kids’ school lunches and make them healthy. Find the secrets to school lunches that keep kids coming back for more.

Packing lunches can save money and give your kids a healthy variety of foods each day. However, it’s easy to get in a rut of plain old PB&J or packaged lunch-meat meals from the grocery store. What you need is a laundry list of nutritious tasty foods to mix and match. Even if your child totally loves the same thing each time, find out how to make it healthier.

Let’s do a quick nutritional review to make sure you have all the food categories. For a balanced lunch you’ll need protein, carbohydrates, fruits and veggies, dairy, and sometimes a treat. You will need to keep the age and appetite of you child in mind when you make portions.  For more a exact breakdown of the suggested nutritional intake check out the new food guide pyramid put out by the USDA.

If your child has a few old stand-bys, find ways to give your child’s lunch a nutritional upgrade. For a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, substitute whole wheat bread for white bread, spreadable fruit for jelly, and reduced-sugar peanut butter for the regular version. If you need to, introduce these changes one at a time. You will cut down on simple carbs and increase complex carbs and fiber without sacrificing flavor.

For picky eaters, just make sure what they choose is nutritious. As long as each item packs easily and isn’t a bunch of junk food, sheer repetition won’t hurt them. Since your picky eater might not get a variety, be extra aware of “hidden” sources of sugar, sodium, and empty calories. For example, if they love yogurt, compare nutrition labels to get a reduced-sugar choice.

Here’s your collection of healthy tasty foods to put in your child’s lunch. A suggested portion size is listed for each category. Increase or decrease the portion according to your child’s individual needs and preferences.

Protein: 2-3 ounces
Peanut butter, sandwich meat (ham, turkey, roast beef), roasted chicken, tuna/ham/egg/ chicken/crab salad sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, nuts

Carbs: 1-2 slices bread, ½ cup grains (go for complex carbs, avoid white bread)
Pasta, rice, beans, carrots, cereal, potatoes, bread, corn, broccoli, pita bread, bagels, rice cakes, whole wheat or other whole grain bread, tortillas, graham crackers

Fruits and veggies: at least two different types
Various raw fruits and veggies, spreadable fruit, applesauce, dried fruits

Dairy – 1 cup milk or 4 oz dairy product
Cottage cheese, hard cheese, milk, yogurt

Treats
Popcorn (not heavily buttered or salted), granola, apple/berry crisp, yogurt, pretzels

Combination foods
Soups, casseroles, cold pizza, other entrees that can fit in a thermos; heat it up hotter than usual, then put in thermos.

School lunch ideas for kids don’t have to be boring anymore. They can be fun, interesting, and nutritious. Your kids may even start asking you, “So, what are you making me for lunch tomorrow?”

You might also find the following helpful:

Children's BMI Chart

Fitness for Kids

Child Fever Basics

Picky Eaters 101

 

 

 

 

 

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