4 Healthy (& Easy) School Lunch Ideas for Kids

by Jessica DeCostole, RD, LDN
October 25, 2019

School cafeterias don’t always provide the healthiest of foods. And even if they do, it can be difficult for kids to spend their lunch money on the nutritious items when pizza, cookies, and chips are in sight. Preparing and packing your child’s lunch at home can help them avoid these unhealthy pitfalls. Plus, making meals at home is a great way to show your child what a healthy lifestyle is all about.  Read on for healthy food options to help you pack your child’s lunch this school year.

Packing your child’s lunch is a great way to ensure they #eathealthy and avoid unhealthy food choices in the school cafeteria. Learn four healthy and easy-to-make foods they can take with them to school via @MedStarHealth. #LiveWellHealthy

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1. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

A peanut butter and jelly (or PB&J) sandwich is one of the oldest lunch staples for good reason. It’s easy to make and is a healthy option as long as you use the right ingredients. The healthiest peanut butters are those with limited ingredients, so check out the ‘Ingredients’ list on the back of the jar and you should only see “peanuts” and “salt” listed, or some supermarkets have peanut butter that you can grind yourself. And you don’t need to just stick with peanuts, other nut butters such as almond and hazelnut are also healthy and delicious.

When picking out jelly, choose one that is made with real fruit and no added sugar. Or, in place of jelly use sliced bananas, strawberries, or other healthy whole fruits to provide that sweet taste.

2. Hummus Roll Ups

Hummus-made from ground chickpeas and sesame seeds, along with some olive oil, garlic and lemon juice-is a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. You can make your own at home using the recipe below or buy it pre-made in the store. As a main meal for your child’s lunch, try easy roll ups. Spread about 2 tablespoons of hummus on a whole grain tortilla or wrap, layer 4 thin slices of turkey or ham, 1 slice of lettuce, and a cheddar cheese stick in the middle, and roll.

Hummus can also make a great side to any lunch when you pair it with fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, bell peppers, celery sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Homemade Hummus Recipe

In a food processor combine:

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • ¼ of lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup of tahini
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3. Quesadillas

Quesadillas are an easy and nutritious option for lunch, and most kids will happily gobble them up at room temperature. You’ll need two whole grain tortillas—they’re a great option for adding fiber, shredded cheese, oven baked or rotisserie chicken, and bell peppers or any other veggie that your child likes. Layer the tortilla the night before and in the morning, sauté in a pan over medium heat until the cheese melts, and cut into slices before placing into lunch box.

If you have an avocado lover in the house, mash some up with a little salt and sprinkle some lime on it to prevent browning so your child can use it as a topping. Add a small container of your child’s favorite fruit, and you have a full meal to keep their energy up throughout the day.

You Tell Us: Have a special recipe you use for quesadillas? Tell us about it on Twitter or Facebook by tagging @MedStarHealth and using the hashtag #LiveWellHealthy.

4. Pasta Salad

This is an easy dish that combines protein, carbohydrates, and veggies all in one. It can be eaten cold or hot, and you can even use leftovers to toss with the pasta. Choose a fun-shaped pasta that will excite your little ones, such as wagon wheels, shells, or bowties. Combine the cooked pasta with some steamed veggies and grilled chicken or cut up lean ham or turkey, and then toss it all together with some heart-healthy olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and lemon or other dressing of your choice. Here’s a simple recipe to try.

Do you have questions about how to eat a more nutritious diet?
Discover how to make healthier food choices with the help of a registered dietitian.

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Category: Eating Healthy     Tags: Adolescent's HealthChild Nutritioneating healthyhealthy eatinghealthy food choicesmeal planningnutritionTeen Nutrition