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Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Tips

By Lara Hamilton RDN, CDE

It can be a hectic time of year for parents getting ready to send their little (or big) ones off for a new school year. Packing school lunches can be a big stressor, as it takes time, effort and pre-planning. Everyone wants their children to eat healthy, but it is hard to avoid getting stuck in a rut with the same lunch every day.  Here are some tips for packing healthy school lunches.

Invest in some lunch supplies such as: containers, lunch bags, freezer packs and water bottles. You can decide what lunch system works best for you. There are several lunch containers (BPA-free) available that have divided compartments for sandwiches and side items. This is a great tool for putting together well-rounded lunches for your kiddos.

Start packing!

  • Step 1: Plan ahead and write down lunch/menu ideas for the week for your children.

  • Step 2: Plan shopping trips based around your menu. Get your kids involved in helping pick out healthy foods so that they will be more apt to eating them. For example, give your child a choice. Ask questions like: “Would you like apples and oranges in your lunch this week or grapes and blueberries?” 

  • Step 3: Pack lunches the night before. This step will save time and most importantly, decrease stress. Mornings are chaotic enough between waking up kids, making and feeding them breakfast, and getting to school on time. Make this a nightly habit and it will get easier to do. 

  • Step 4: Mix it up! Don’t make the same lunch everyday as it gets boring for both you and your child. Be adventurous; don’t be afraid to experiment with some non-traditional ideas, we’ve listed a few below.

 Sample Healthy Lunch Ideas

  • Peanut butter (or sunflower butter if peanuts are not allowed) and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, 1 cup milk, 1 cup grapes and baby carrots
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread, 1 container yogurt, 1 cup blueberries (can be added to yogurt if desired)
  • Ham and cheese pinwheels (use 10-inch tortilla, fill with ham and cheese, roll, use toothpicks to pin edges and slice into 1-inch pinwheels), 1 apple with peanut butter(or sunflower butter) for dipping, sliced peppers, 1 cup milk
  • Turkey, hummus and cucumber wrap (use 10-inch tortilla, spread hummus on tortilla fill with turkey and sliced cucumbers, roll tortilla to close), 1 plum, 1 cup milk
  • Egg salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread, 1 clementine, 2 cups popcorn, baby carrots, 1 cup milk
  • Ham sliced into circle or squares, cheese slices (cut into squares), 10 whole-wheat crackers, 1 cup strawberries, baby carrots,  1 container yogurt
  • Mini ham and cheese sandwich (serve on whole-wheat slider buns), celery slices with peanut butter (or sunflower butter), 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup milk
  • 1 string cheese, 1 banana muffin (homemade, if possible), 1/3 cup raisins and mixed nuts (almonds and pecans), 1 apple with peanut butter (or sunflower butter) for dipping, 1 container yogurt
  • Hummus and cheese pita sandwich, 1 hardboiled egg, ants on a log (celery slices topped with peanut or sunflower butter and raisins), 1 clementine
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread (use cookie cutter and cut into heart), 1/3 cup sunflower seeds and raisins, cucumber slices and carrots with guacamole
  • 10 whole-wheat crackers, turkey sliced into circle or squares, string cheese, container applesauce, ¼ cup nuts, 1 cup milk
  • Whole–wheat cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese,  hardboiled egg, 1 cup strawberries and blueberries, 1 container yogurt
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich in a whole wheat tortilla, 1 cup strawberries, container apple sauce, 1 cup milk
  • Hummus and cheese pita sandwich, 1 cup grape tomatoes, 1 apple, 1 container yogurt
  • Turkey, hummus and cucumber wrap (use 10-inch tortilla, spread hummus on tortilla fill with turkey and sliced cucumbers, roll tortilla to close), 1 orange, 1 cup milk
  • Rotisserie chicken and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, 1 cup strawberries and blueberries, 1 container yogurt
  • Rotisserie chicken, cheese and cucumber on whole-wheat wrap, 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, 1 container applesauce, 1 cup milk
  • Peanut butter (or sunflower butter if peanuts are not allowed) and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, 1 cup milk, 1 cup watermelon and sliced bell peppers
  • Egg salad in a whole-wheat pita, 1 cup watermelon, baby carrots and celery, 1 cup milk

 



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