School Lunch Ideas

The trick to school lunches is to make them healthy, but also yummy. This school lunch ideas guide offers tips and inspiration to strike the perfect balance.

School Lunch Ideas 101

Think of the four food groups when packing your child’s lunch box. Try to include foods from at least three groups to ensure that your child’s lunch will be nutritious and satisfying, and offer a variety of healthy snacks for fussy eaters. It’s important to have at least one source of whole grains and protein in every lunch to give your kids the energy they need throughout the day. You should also ensure perishable items are kept cool to reduce the potential for spoiling. Kids tend to get bored with their lunches too, so try to be creative and switch up your choices of fruits, veggies, cheeses and grains. Making lunches can also be a fun activity to share with kids. And if they’re involved in the process, they may be less likely to turn their noses up at the results. 

Dairy & Substitutes

Milk, cheese and yogurt are healthy ways for kids to get calcium into growing bones and teeth. If your child is lactose intolerant or vegan, you can substitute soy milk, almond milk  or rice-based non-dairy products instead. Easy lunch ideas for kids include cheese-filled pasta or lasagna (using healthy recipes), milk-based soups, vegetable pizza, and cheese quesadillas. Cheese sticks, whole grain crackers with cheese cubes, fruit yogurt, yogurt tubes and veggies with yogurt dip are healthy snack ideas. 
 

Meats & Substitutes

Deli meats like turkey, ham and salami work great as primary sandwich ingredients. Try changing up the other ingredients, such as avocado, mushrooms and red peppers one week, and lettuce, tomato and pickles the next. Salmon or tuna salad pairs well with whole grain crackers. If your child doesn’t eat meat, try veggie burgers, veggie chili or quinoa salad for mains.
 

Fruits & Veggies

It’s easy to include fruits and vegetables in school lunch boxes. Canned fruit, such as peaches, pineapples and pears, make great fruit cups and fruit salads, while frozen blueberries, strawberries and raspberries can be added to yogurt and granola for a nutrition boost. Your kids should also love healthy snacks like applesauce, apple chips and fruit purées. Canned veggies, such as corn, carrots and green beans work well as sides, and veggie chips make healthy snack options. You can also make a simple soup for school lunches by dropping some mixed vegetables into a pot, along with broth and spices
 

Grains

Grains help to satisfy hunger and give your kids the energy they need to get through the school day. Healthy lunch ideas for kids include turkey or chicken wraps with whole wheat tortillas, pita bread with tzatziki and English muffin sandwiches with ham and cheese. If you’re making sandwiches, try different types of breads and grains to add variety to their lunch box fare. Rice cakes with cream cheese, whole grain crackers with almond butter or peanut butter, flatbread with hummus and bread sticks with tomato sauce are satisfying grain-based snacks.
 

Snacks

When packing lunches, it’s better to think of snacks as small sides rather than treats. Healthy fruit snacks include fruit leathers and fresh fruit, such as sliced apples and orange wedges. Granola bars, nuts and trail mixes made with dried fruits like raisins are popular. Dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, veggie chips and fruit chips make nutritious, satisfying snacks. You can even get creative by making things like pigs in a blanket (whole wheat pastry wrapped around tiny sausages).
 
 

Drinks

Water is the best drink to keep your kids hydrated throughout the school day. Bottled water works fine but make sure to purchase it in plastic containers instead of glass. For a more environmentally friendly option use a reusable bottle with filtered water, with a spritz of lemon or lime for flavour. If you want to give your kids a nutrition boost, milk and yogurt smoothies are good sources of calcium to strengthen growing bones and teeth. Try to buy healthier juices too: they taste delicious but the sugar content is considerably lower.
 

School Lunch Gear

Lunch boxes help kids store and carry lunches, while other lunch gear keeps things organized. A thermos is good for keeping soups warm, while an ice pack will help keep perishable foods cold. Mains that aren’t perishable should be placed in re-sealable sandwich bags or containers to avoid lunch box leaks and spills. Plastic cutlery is lightweight and fuss-free, and you won’t risk losing flatware from home. And don’t forget to pack napkins!
 

School Lunch Tips:

  • Mix up the types of grains you use, such as rye, flax and pumpernickel
  • Add dips, such as guacamole and hummus
  • Let your kids choose their favourite fruits and veggies at the grocery store
  • Ask your kids to help you pack their lunches to help them learn about nutrition and meal planning
  • Wash all fruits and veggies thoroughly
  • Prepare school lunches on clean surfaces with clean hands
  • Make sandwiches into fun shapes using cookie cutters
  • Mix up the variety of cheeses, such as Cheddar and Swiss
 
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This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.

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