School Lunches, Healthy Choices
Packing up a healthy school lunch is easy with these tasty tips.
Healthy School Lunches: Make Other Meals Do Double Duty
You can get a healthy midday meal together fast when you've cooked it up
that morning -- or the night before.
Leftovers for Lunch. When dinner is a hit, dish it up again the next
day for lunch. These leftovers work well in a thermos or insulated bag:
- Sloppy Joes: Serve with bread sticks, crackers, or a roll, baby carrots or
celery sticks, and 1% low-fat milk
- Pizza, fruit, and 100% fruit juice
- Shepherd's pie, stew, macaroni and cheese, Chinese food, or pasta and
meatballs; fruit, and 1% low-fat milk
Lunch on Breakfast. Kids love to mix up meal times. They'll look
forward to lunch with these midday meals in the bag.
- Dry whole-grain cereal, slivered almonds for mixing with cereal; thermos of
1% low-fat milk (or purchase a carton at school); fruit
- French toast cut into strips, single-serve container of applesauce for
dipping, carton or thermos of 1% low-fat milk
- Whole-grain bagel or mini bagels spread with low-fat cream cheese, carton
of low-fat yogurt, banana
- Waffle sandwich: two whole-grain waffles, spread with any nut butter or
sunflower seed butter, carton of low-fat yogurt, fruit
Deal With Dessert.When other kids are eating cookies, candy or other
treats at lunchtime, it may be difficult for your child to go without. So pack
- A mini candy bar or a mini muffin works well to satisfy a sweet tooth;
100-calorie packs of lower-fat cookies, such as animal crackers, are a happy
- Dessert doesn't have to be sweet. Pack a single-serve bag of low-fat
popcorn (it's a whole grain!); sliced hard cheese and dried fruit; or a small
amount of snack chips.
Healthy School Lunches: Getting the Kids Involved
A great way to be sure kids want to eat right is to make them part of
the process. Some good ways to do that include:
- Have Everyone Jump In. Muster enthusiasm for the midday meal by
having kids participate in planning and assembling their own lunches. When
children help, making healthy school lunches becomes second nature, and they'll
soon be doing it on their own.
- Get Kids Excited. Let kids choose a lunch box or insulated bag; a
thermos; and small reusable hard plastic containers for taking lunch to school.
A small freezer pack keeps food cold. Have them decorate them with stickers,
markers, or paint. Children who brown-bag it can decorate a different bag every
- Shop Together for Healthy Choices. Take your child to the grocery
store to pick out healthy ingredients. "At the very least, lunch should
include a source of protein, such as turkey, chicken, beans, eggs, nut butters,
or sunflower seed butter; grains; fruits or vegetables; and a nutritious
beverage, such as low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice," Nissenberg
- Make Compromising Cool. When kids clamor for fatty luncheon meats,
chips, sugary drinks, and desserts -- compromise. Have them concoct their own
healthier versions. Purchase reduced-sodium deli meat; reduced-fat cheese;
whole-grain bread or crackers; small fruit, such as clementines and tangerines;
cartons of 1% low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice; and mini candy bars.
- Check Up on Lunch.If you're curious what your child is actually
eating what he packs for lunch, ask him to bring home any uneaten food.