A Week of Healthy, Easy School Lunches

Shanthi Appelo
Shanthi Appelo

| 3 min read

A parent chops vegetables for their child's school lunch.
In the United States, two-thirds of children’s calories come from ultra-processed foods. Too many cookies, crackers, snack cakes, pizzas and ice cream are just a few items on the list of ultra-processed foods that can increase the risk for childhood obesity and health problems down the road. Packing a healthy lunch and establishing bedtime routines are two healthy habits to instill all school year long.
Many parents worry whether their child is getting the nutrients they need. USDA’s MyPlate is a good place to start. For lunch, it’s important to aim for at least three out of the five food groups of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy to ensure balance. At snack time, include at least two of the food groups. Making half of their grains whole grains helps boost fullness and long-lasting energy.

Afterschool snack ideas

Afterschool snacks can help cater to sports and pre-teen and teen growth spurts. Here are some healthy, minimally processed snacks to include:
  • Apple slices and nut butter
  • Unsalted trail mix
  • Smoothies are a great way to incorporate calcium, fruits and veggies
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Whole wheat toast with nut butter and bananas
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Veggie and hummus pinwheels

Quick, easy and nutritionally balanced school lunches

Need inspiration for balanced school lunches? These easy options cater to all of the nutrients kids need and some can be prepared in under 5 minutes.
  • Healthier “Lunchable” – English muffin pizzas with marinara, veggies, cheese and a side fruit + milk.
  • Taco Tuesday – Two-ingredient slow cooker salsa chicken with veggies, cheese and street tacos and a side fruit + milk.
  • Mediterranean Wrap – Whole wheat pita with grilled chicken and veggies and a side fruit + milk.
  • Stuffed Cucumber Bites – Cucumbers filled with tuna salad or flavored tuna packs with pasta salad and fruit skewers + milk.
  • Mexican Pinwheels – A vegetarian wrap filled with veggies and black beans with a side salsa for dip. Served with mixed fruit + milk.
Healthier Lunchable
Healthier “Lunchable”
  • Toasted whole wheat English muffin
  • Marinara sauce
  • Low-sodium turkey pepperoni
  • Cheese
  • Side fruit
  • Side milk
Taco Tuesday
Taco Tuesday
  • 2-ingredient slow cooker salsa chicken (chicken breast, can of salsa cooked on low for 4 hours)
  • Veggies
  • Cheese
  • Street tacos
  • Side fruit
  • Side milk
Hummus Wrap
Mediterranean Wrap
  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Grilled chicken
  • Veggies
  • Hummus
  • Side fruit
  • Side of milk
Mexican Pinwheels
Mexican Pinwheels
  • Tortilla wrap with corn, diced tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, cheese, black beans
  • Salsa for dipping
  • Mixed fruit
  • Side milk
Stuffed cucumbers
Stuffed Cucumbers
  • Cucumbers with tuna salad or flavored tuna packet
  • Pasta salad
  • Fruit Kabobs
  • Side milk
Photo credit: Getty Images
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