Once kids get to a certain age, they may have more options to choose from for lunch. This transition means kids get to choose their meals for themselves. While school lunches have improved, it’s still commonplace for schools to provide nutritious options alongside unhealthy options. Children will need to learn how to make good decisions for themselves. See how you can help with some healthy school lunch tips. Plus we’ve compiled some healthy sack lunch ideas in case your child’s school does not provide adequate nutritious options.

Healthy School Lunch Tips for the Cafeteria

Encourage Fruits and Vegetables

A serving of fruits and vegetables isn’t as much as many think. It can be one medium-sized apple and 3-4 sticks of celery for example. Make sure to reinforce that they don’t need to fill their plates with fruits and vegetables to be healthy but a little should be incorporated at every meal.


Support Moderation

Children who are making their mealtime choices for the first time may be very tempted by unhealthy options. Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and fries can be quite enticing. Schools that also provide prepackaged snacks like chips, candy bars, and soda add another level of temptation. Let them know they can choose these items on occasion but should never be the entirety of their meal.


Avoid the “Clean Plate” Mentality

Enjoying lunch is one of the few times in the school day that children and teens can socialize. It can be easy for them to recognize that they’re getting full. Encourage them to recognize when they’re getting full at-home meals and reinforce that they don’t have to finish their plate if they’re full. This will build the habit to listen to their bodies when they’re not at home and stop eating when they feel full.

Healthy School Lunch Tips for Sack Lunches

Want to have a better idea of what your children are eating for lunch? Preparing lunch at home is the best way to ensure your children are eating well if they consistently are making bad decisions, or the school isn’t offering enough wholesome options. Here are some healthy sack lunch ideas to try!

  • PB&J (with wheat bread), strawberries, mixed nuts, and sliced bell pepper.
  • Crackers, sliced salami, sliced turkey, cheddar cheese cubes, and grapes.
  • A ham sandwich (with wheat bread), cinnamon applesauce, baby carrots with dip, and chocolate raisins.
  • Cubed chicken with dip, fruit medley, snap peas, and pretzels.
  • Pesto pasta salad, blueberries, cucumbers, and veggie chips.
  • Ground turkey and cheese quesadilla with guacamole, corn, and sliced zucchini. 
  • Sliced Italian sausage, cut tomatoes, string cheese, and olives.
  • Maple cinnamon oats, salad with dressing, a hard-boiled egg, and sliced kiwi.
  • Rolled ham, chopped broccoli, sliced apple, and chocolate-covered pretzels.
  • Cheese tortellini with pesto dip, canteloupe, sliced radishes, and a granola bar.
  • Italian meatballs, air-popped popcorn, yogurt topped with raspberries, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Turkey, lettuce, and cheese wrap (with a whole wheat tortilla), orange slices, and 
  • A cucumber sandwich, cubed watermelon, blackberries, and trail mix.
  • Homemade pizza roll-ups with pizza sauce, celery with dip, and a banana.
  • Tuna salad, hummus with pita chips, cottage cheese, and sliced cucumbers.

Lunchtime is a time of the day for kids and teens to unwind. But it’s also a great time for them to experiment with new foods that they find interesting. Or you can provide them with that variety through packed lunches. Either way, introducing variety and healthy options at a young age will help them make healthy choices into adulthood. Some circumstances can make this difficult. Hopefully, these healthy packed-lunch ideas provide inspiration for healthy eating. Plus these lunches can be easy to prepare ahead of time, making the lunch packing process much smoother.

Sources: Nemours, Eating Well, Baby Foodie, The Rising Spoon.