How to Keep Your Children’s School Lunches Healthy and Fun

By Paige Briggs, Mayo Clinic Dietetic Intern

July is quickly coming to a close and August is just around the corner. This can only mean one thing: Kids will be headed back to school soon. The start of a new school year and getting back into a routine go hand in hand. One of those routine tasks for your family may include packing lunches for your children to take to school. It can be a struggle to keep children from getting into a lunch rut of the same items over and over again while still keeping the meal healthy. Try these healthy and fun lunch ideas below to keep your child from getting into a lunch rut this school year.

  • Instead of a deli sandwich, offer a whole-wheat wrap that has been spread with taco hummus and topped with fresh veggies. Roll it and cut into smaller pieces.
  • Replace a child’s yogurt with plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and granola.
  • Apple slices with your child’s favorite nut butter are a great side option. Keep the apple slices from browning by wrapping the slices in a damp paper towel and placing them in a sealed container.
  • Thinly sliced sweet potatoes that had been baked at home can be just as tasty but much healthier than store-bought potato chips. Or if making chips at home seems daunting,pick up a bag of Beanitos. One serving contains 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.
  • Substitute regular fruit snacks with Stretch Island fruit leathers. They are a great alternative with no added sugar.

Remember to consider food safety when packing lunches. If packing a lunch the night before, keep it in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to have plenty of cold packs on hand for each child’s lunch. Cold packs will ensure that your child’s lunch stays cold and safe until it is time to eat. And, finally, make sure your child’s lunch box has good insulation to help ensure food remains safe throughout the day.

It can also be helpful to have your child participate in the lunch process. Whether they help pick out lunch items at the grocery store, decide what fruit to have, or help wash and prepare the lunch, it will help them feel included and more interested in the meal when it comes time to eat it. Lunch is an important part of your child’s day. It keeps them nourished and allows them to focus on learning throughout the day. Using these simple ideas can help your family avoid the lunch rut this year.