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Healthy For Kids: School Lunch

Updated on January 31, 2010
This lunch consists of ham and cheese roll-ups, an apple, carrots, a granola bar, water and juice
This lunch consists of ham and cheese roll-ups, an apple, carrots, a granola bar, water and juice

Healthy Eating For Kids

What is healthy for kids may not be what your child wants to eat. So, coming up with healthy school lunches that your child will eat, especially when not in your presence, may seem like a challenge. Luckily, there are creative ways to sneak that healthy food in so that your child won't even know that what he is eating is good for him.

I think my son would be perfectly happy eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day. As a mother, though, I want to make sure he is getting a variety to pick up the most nutritional value from an assortment of foods. I don't want my efforts, however, to end up in the trash can in the school cafeteria. This is where creativity comes into play.

Finding healthy food for kids is actually not as hard as what it may seem. To start with, I know that he needs protein, fruit and veggies, and water. I make sure to include at least one of each item. The easy part is always throwing in bottled water and a juice.

Protein Ideas:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich - natural peanut butter is healthiest but all provide protein (I like using Simply Jif which is low in sodium and has less sugar than normal brands), use bread with some grain in it and work up to higher contents of whole grain.
  • Ham and cheese roll-ups - for some reason a sandwich is boring but anything rolled up in a tortilla is fun! - tuna, chicken, cheese, peanut butter, egg salad (using whole wheat tortillas adds more nutrition!), try shredding some carrot real fine and mixing in with the meat - I'll bet your child will never notice!
  • Hard boiled eggs - or deviled eggs
  • Pizza sub - brush olive oil on the sub bun and sprinkle with garlic powder and basil, top with sliced tomato, mozzarella cheese and sliced pepperoni (I usually heat them in the oven the night before and then refrigerate - they are great cold the next day - can also be microwaved) My kids love these.

healthy lunch foods
healthy lunch foods

Fruits For Kids

Fruits and vegetables are must have items in the school lunch. Luckily they are easy to eat and easy to pack. There are numerous choices making it easy to include them as a daily choice. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Easy to pack fresh fruit or vegetable - apple, banana, grapes, nectarine, carrots - pre-washed baby carrots are super easy and celery - spread with peanut butter for some protein
  • Dried fruit - raisins, craisins - dried cranberries, dried cherries (these are all popular with kids but you can try any dried fruit) Dried fruits are tasty and nutritious versus the packaged fruit snacks which hold little nutritional value.
  • Packaged single serving fruit cups - applesauce, mandarin oranges and peaches are all favorites
  • Vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumber, zucchini and squash can all be chopped fine and added to sandwiches if your child is freakish about vegetables. They have very little flavor and hide well in a sandwich!


healthy school lunch
healthy school lunch

Healthy Snacks For Kids

It's easy to fill the lunch box with this list of helpful ideas. All of the items are nutrition packed to help power your kids through the school day. They need all the help they can get with a stressful day full of learning and tests. Keep varying the choices to keep your kids interested.

  • banana bread
  • granola bars - There are so many delicious choices. Check the nutritional information because there are good tasting bars that are also healthy. They don't have to taste like saw dust to be good for you.
  • trail mix
  • cereal snack mix - Cheerios has some great tasting snack mixes out.
  • oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
  • pudding
  • yogurt - Probiotic yogurts will boost the immune system. A daily dose of Danactive will help to keep illnesses away and your child in school.
  • milk or chocolate milk
  • veggies and hummus wrapped in a tortilla
  • cubes of cheese
  • almonds
  • whole wheat crackers with cheese
  • tortillas wrapped with cream cheese, ham and chopped broccoli


Insulated Lunch Bags From Amazon

School Cafeteria

Although packed lunches ensure the healthiest choices for lunch, sometimes it is necessary or advantageous to use the school cafeteria. Many healthy choices are provided at schools. The problem may be whether or not your child chooses those healthy items.

Along with the healthy menu items, there is usually a variety of not so healthy items such as french fries, greasy pizza, etc..These would be the things my kids would want to grab. Occasionally it may not be a problem, but a daily habit is very unhealthy. This is one of the causes of the rising obesity in children today.

Our school has a wonderful computerized system that allows parents to see exactly what our children are purchasing for lunch. We just sign into their lunch program account to view such things as their balance, purchase amounts and exact meal choices. It's a great way to monitor. If the lunch program is being abused, we can choose to simply stop funding it and start packing our own lunches.

Sometimes a combination of the two options is ideal. Maybe the cafeteria is serving a great healthy main entree. Your child can purchase that and all you have to do is pack the sides. This saves money and allows a little more variety for the main entree.

Beware of just sending money with your child to buy lunch. You lose all control over what they are buying. If your school has vending machines, that could be the first place your child wants to spend the money.

**Whether packing a full lunch or partial lunch - if any of the items need to stay cool, make sure to use an insulated lunch bag for food safety!


mystery food
mystery food

School Lunch Program

The video that follows shows some of the problems that kids face with many of the nations school lunch programs. Even if your child has good intentions of purchasing healthy food, he or she may not find the choices appealing.

I have had complaints from my own kids about the food which they found to be disgusting, the only good choices being the occasional slice of pizza or french fries. This is why I opted to make their lunches everyday.

Watch the interviews with the students to get an idea of what our kids are up against. From mystery food to expensive prices, it's no wonder they may choose the vending machines.

organic food
organic food

Organic Food

Some school lunch programs do an exceptional job of offering healthy food choices. The following video shows a school that has adopted a whole grain food lunch program. They bring fresh organic fruits and vegetables right to the school cafeteria. Students are offered salads and other fruits and vegetables that are free of pesticides. Not only that, but they have a bakery bringing in breads and cereals with whole grains. And yes, this school even provides breakfast in the morning.

This is something that should be adopted everywhere for the health of our children. It is essential that our kids are getting the nutrients to work their brains. Since this program eliminated all processed, unhealthy foods, every choice is a healthy ones. This can give parents a certain peace of mind. Sometimes it may not be possible to make a bag lunch - maybe mom is sick or out of town! In these cases, it would be comforting to know that there are healthy choices at school.

Healthy School Lunches


What Do Your Kids Eat For Lunch At School?

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    • profile image

      Health Store 7 years ago

      Hi Song-bird very nice hub, very informative and useful

    • profile image

      me 8 years ago

      i think that us children should eat healthier starting


    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 8 years ago from Michigan

      :) yeah, it can be hard to get in a good lunch sometimes!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I wish my lunches were this good!