Yes, we are all back to school and it’s still early in the year! We have pencils and all supplies, but what do we pack for lunch? A packed lunch isn't automatically healthier than one they’ll buy at school. If you pack chocolate cake and potato chips, that's not a nutritious meal! 

Following these 10 tips for packing healthy lunches can help encourage your kids to eat right and maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Parents control the supply lines. You decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Though kids will pester their parents for less nutritious foods, adults should be in charge when deciding which foods are regularly stocked in the house. Kids won't go hungry. If their favorite snack isn't all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a while so they don't feel deprived.
  2. Balance the lunch. When people talk about balanced meals, they mean meals that include a mix of food groups: some grains, some fruits, some vegetables, some meat or protein foods, and some dairy foods such as milk and cheese. If you don't have a variety of foods in the lunch box, it's probably not balanced
  3. Try a multi-compartment lunch box. It may look more appetizing to kids and keep fruits and vegetables very fresh, and you have different portions of a variety of foods. 
  4. Veggies are versatile. Try other dippers or dressings in small amounts that may make them more appealing. Some may prefer roasted rather than raw. Use your vehicles or dips and preparation options to get kids to try healthy foods. 
  5. Don’t overpack. If you pack tons of pretzels and only a few vegetables, all they will eat is the pretzelsare the pretzels. But if you pack a few of each, they’ll eat it all. This also encourages portion control. 
  6. Skip the white bread. Mix it up! Use whole-grain breads, pitas, and tortillas Try new mixes of proteins and healthy fillings. For example, if your child loves PB&J, try a peanut butter and banana roll-up! Spread peanut butter on a whole grain tortilla, add a sliced banana, and roll!
  7. Mix up the “sides.” Dip apple slices in a small amount of honey rather than sending a sweet treat. Instead of buying chips, make a healthy trail mix in bulk and pack small individual bags for the week. 
  8. Mix it up more. Do they eat the same lunch every day? If that lunch is a hot dog, it's time to change the routine. Keep your taste buds from getting bored and try something new. Eating lots of different kinds of food gives your body a variety of nutrients.
  9. Rewrite the menu options. It’s always easy to pull the same familiar “on-the-go” items such as  …. hot dogs, lunchables, pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, chips…and more chips…!
  • Send a few small bites of new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. 
  • Try a day without a sandwich.
  • Use a thermos for last night’s leftovers. If you make a healthy dinner, all you have to do is reheat it and place it in a thermos…so easy.

10. Stop the sugar! 

  • Drink calories count. Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids. Juice is fine when it's 100%, but kids don't need much of it — 4 to 6 ounces a day is enough for preschoolers.
  • Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are ok, but don't turn dessert into the main reason for eating a meal. When dessert is the prize for eating a meal, kids naturally place more value on the cupcake than the broccoli. Try to stay 

Now you are on your way to a healthy lunch! Remember, don’t strive for perfection! The lunch you make doesn’t have to be featured on Pinterest, it just needs to be healthy! Here are a few simple ways to upgrade that lunch to a healthier status! There are also many websites for many, many more!


Typical lunch

Nutritional upgrade

Why it's better

Beef bologna on white

Lean turkey on whole wheat

Less fat and more fiber


Lettuce and mustard

Less fat and fewer calories

Potato chips

Carrots & celery with light dressing

Less fat and a serving of vegetables

Fruit cup in light syrup

Fresh grapes

Less sugar and fewer calories

Chocolate sandwich cookies

Homemade trail mix

Less fat and more fiber

Fruit punch drink

Skim milk

Fewer calories, less sugar, plus calcium