• By Clancy Harrison
  • In 2017
  • August 24, 2017

Back to School Lunches

by Felicia Porrazza, MDA, RDN, LDN

Summer is coming to a close and before you know it, school will be back in session. Although school lunches have come a long way in terms of healthful options, some may still choose to brown bag it due to limited lunch options or long lines at school. No matter if you choose to buy or pack a lunch, nutrient-dense foods should still be at the forefront of your menu. After all, a nutritious lunch will help to fuel your child’s growing body and give them the energy they need to focus during the school day.

If you are planning to have your child buy lunch, review with them the school lunch menu so they can pick healthy and well-balanced options for each day. When packing a lunch, it is important to get your child involved since they are more likely to consume what they helped pack. You will also help to eliminate food waste when taking into consideration their food preferences.

When choosing or packing a lunch, try to aim for a balance of lean protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Lean proteins could include chicken breast, tofu, beans, nuts, or seeds. High-fiber carbohydrates can include whole fruits, whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, unsweetened applesauce cups, or quinoa. Healthy fats could include nuts, seeds, avocado, or low-sugar yogurts. Brainstorm some of you and your child’s favorite lunches and see where you could swap in some healthy options.

Lastly, when packing a healthy lunch or snack, remember to keep food safety in mind. Keep lunches cool and at a safe temperature by sending ice packs, insulated lunch boxes, or frozen waters.

Check out some of the sample lunch options below for inspiration!

  • Fresh fruit salad using cookie cutters for fun shapes.
  • Fruit kebabs with low-sugar yogurt as a dip.
  • Hummus and veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, celery sticks, cucumbers)  with whole grain pita.
  • Apple slices and peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter) with whole grain pretzels
  • Lettuce wraps stuffed with grilled chicken, shredded carrots and hummus with apple slices.
  • Homemade veggie soup in an insulated container with whole grain crackers.
  • Salad topped with roasted chickpeas and mixed veggies and served with fresh fruit.
  • Whole grain tortilla wraps stuffed with veggies and lean protein.
  • Healthier PB&J made with chia jam, natural peanut butter, and whole grain bread.
  • Homemade granola bars with fresh fruit.
  • Brown rice bowls (or quinoa) topped with sauteed veggies and chickpeas (or tofu).

I hope these tips and ideas will help you and your child create healthy lunches that will be anything but boring!

Felicia Porrazza, MDA, RDN, LDN is the owner of PorrazzaNutrition, a private practice in Philadelphia, PA. She conducts in-home nutrition counseling and cooking sessions and worksite wellness programming.