Back to School: Swapping in a Healthier Lunch

What better way to start the school year than with healthy eating habits for your child? We spoke with a couple of family nutritionists to learn tips for packing healthy lunches for school-aged children.

When thinking about what to pack, nutritionist Reyna Franco first gets into the mindset of a student.

“Kids want to eat and then go out to recess,” said Franco, who works at Nutrition and Exercise Consulting in New York. “Make it something that the kid will actually enjoy, feel good about eating and give them energy.”

The building blocks of a healthy school lunch include whole-grain carbs, lean proteins and a fruit or vegetable, she said. With that in mind, Franco suggested whole-wheat pasta with veggies, plus an apple as dessert. Pay attention to portion size; kids don’t need as much food as an adults.

Another nutritionist, Katrin Lee, had another suggestion for a packed lunch: try chicken or even tuna salad – made with yogurt instead of mayo – and lemon juice on wheat bread.

Parents should try to avoid imparting their own eating habits to their children, Lee said. If a parent is on a no-carb diet, for example, that shouldn’t be their kid’s diet, as well.

“Sometimes kids do need a good amount of carbs because they are active,” she said. Still, it’s important to replace white bread with whole wheat and make other substitutions. 

If you're in a pinch and need a healthy lunch option, there's always that classic sandwich to fall back on: peanut butter and jelly. Just make it on wheat bread instead of white bread. 

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