Tips for packing a healthy school lunch

Unless your child buys his or her lunch from school, you’re probably juggling with ideas of what to pack for lunch each day. There are so many things to think about: Is it healthy? Plentiful? Tasty? Boring? Having to worry about your kid’s lunch every day can get stressful and tiring. By the middle of the school year, you might find yourself handing your child money to purchase lunch from thereon out. However, packing a nutritious and fun lunch for your child doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little creativity and planning, you can create a packed lunch any kid would be proud of without breaking a sweat.

  • Change up your sandwich game. A sandwich is probably the most go-to lunch menu because it’s a simple and all-inclusive option. The same sandwich every day can get pretty dull, though. Try switching plain bread for other options like pita, tortillas or flatbread (make sure these are 100 percent whole wheat and high in fiber!). You could just skip carbs altogether and make a lettuce wrap instead.
  • Skip the deli meats. This is a tough sacrifice, but most luncheon meats are highly processed and filled with chemicals and preservatives. They have also been linked with a risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Although this is the cheap and easy option, try to go for more healthy and high-quality meats.
  • Always include fruits and vegetables! Whether you put veggies in a sandwich or have them as a side item, just make sure they’re included. You could substitute fats like mayo or cheese for healthier fats such as avocado or hummus. Food companies make a lot of ready-to-go fruit or veggie snack packs that are easy to pop into your child’s lunch bag. Some of these come with fun dips, and these little kits are much healthier than a cookie or bag of chips.
  • Pack leftovers. Although it may seem lazy, you really shouldn’t be ashamed to simply pack last night’s dinner for your kid’s lunch the next day. As long as your child is okay with eating the same thing again, this is a good way to provide a hearty meal without wasting food in the long run.
  • Think outside the sandwich box. Lunch doesn’t always have to be the classic sandwich to be hearty and filling. Think about other options like soups, salads, pastas, casseroles — the possibilities are endless, as long as you can break away from the sandwich mold.
  • Be sure to include your child’s input. When your child is going to be the one eating, he or she should have a say in what goes into the meal. If your kid absolutely hates a certain food item, don’t force it just because it’s healthy. Ask your child what he or she likes and offer many healthy options to choose from. You could also let your kid follow along on grocery trips and have more freedom in decisions. Don’t be too commanding, but make sure to set boundaries on certain food choices.

Sources: American Heart Association, TakePart, WebMD

For recipe inspiration, visit our Healthy Recipes section.

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.