Healthy Choices for Kids’ School Lunches

Monday, August 9, 2010

If your kids are sick of sandwiches, here are some tips to help provide healthy and fun school lunches!

Your Child’s Input

My kids have been making their own school lunches from the time my oldest was in kindergarten. While my friends have differing opinions about this, I have to say that I enjoy it. It teaches my kids greater responsibility as well as time management in the mornings before it’s time to catch the bus and head to school.

Because my kids are greatly interested in what they eat, I take their preferences into account. Involve your kids in the decision making regarding what kinds of foods are available for school lunches, like ham vs. turkey, bagels, different kinds of cheeses, and particular flavors of snack foods.

A Loose Guideline

Just because my kids make their own lunches doesn’t mean that they get to pack whatever they want. I wield my nutrition power by carefully considering the different snack foods that I purchase. I’ve replaced processed foods with options low in fat and high in necessary nutrients. Some of the foods I avoid include potato chips, high-sugar granola bars and candy. I found that the qualities of "salty" and "sweet" could be satisfied by a larger variety of healthier choices when I started looking at more natural foods.

I like to give my kids a guideline for packing lunches that is easy to remember. I tell them that for lunch balance is important, and they need to have at least one salty, one sweet, one bread choice and one dairy, and they can pack up to two of each category to provide more variety. Whatever they don’t eat can be brought home and used on another day instead of thrown out.

Highly Nutritious Options

These are foods that I like to have available. They are easy to pack back and forth, and provide a wide variety of choices.

Salty Snacks

There are salty snacks that are higher in protein, requiring smaller portion sizes to satisfy the desire to snack. Some of these saltier options include:


Beef Jerky

Low-Fat Pepperoni (usually a turkey variety)


Sunflower Seeds

Puffed Rice products

Pita Chips or Carrots and Hummus

Sweet Snacks

Kids may be conditioned to want candy, but it's surprising how satisfying these more nutritious choices can be. These sweet snacks include:

Fresh Fruit - Blueberries, Strawberries, Bananas, Apples, Grapes, and other budget-friendly fruit that's in season

Dried Fruit - Mango, Raisins, Apples and Fruit Leather

Dense, Multi-Grain Granola or Granola Bars (Kashi is a great brand)

The Dairy Group

Dairy items provide kids with necessary nutrients as well as being filling snacks. Some of these include:

String Cheese

Yogurt packaged in tubes - Gogurt has a all-natural alternative, and you can also make and package your own

Cubed and cream cheese and crackers or fruit

Hard-boiled eggs

The Bread Choices

Whole-wheat bread options are filling and work well for school lunches. Foods included in the bread group are:

· Bagels (with cream cheese or hummus)

· Pita bread

· Whole wheat crackers

· Sandwiches made from whole wheat slices of bread

· Pretzels or pita chips

I like to give my kids the option of buying milk at school or packing 100% juice products. Water is also a great choice!

School lunches can be fun and full of flavor, especially with a variety of nutritious food choices.

Kelly Wilson is an editor for Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing classrooms with high-quality Teacher Supplies for over 25 years.

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