A Lunchbox Full of Healthy Ideas

  • author name Lori Good, RN
Young girl with healthy lunch

Packing healthy lunches and snacks to fuel your child throughout the school day is just as important as making sure your child gets enough sleep each night. A healthy lunch can lead to an improved attention span and better school work.

Lunch should not just be a matter of what kind of sandwich, how many cookies, or what type of snack you include. A lunchbox full of empty starches will add extra calories and weight and lead to an afternoon of sleepiness, inability to pay attention, and poor school work.

Pack With Nutrition in Mind

Avoid junk food and make sure you are packing nutritious foods from each of the food groups. Lunch should include two servings of fruit and/or vegetables; one serving of low-fat dairy; one or two servings from the grain group; and one serving from the meat group.

Keep it Colorful

If everything is white or beige, you’re not covering the bases. Baby carrots, sliced peppers, and whole grain crackers are delicious and nutritious. Let your child use the "My Plate" example as they choose what to pack for lunch.

Use MyPlate

MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy meal using a familiar image---a plate. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. By simply looking at the plate, you can visualize that half the meal should be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

 My Plate

Get Your Kids Involved

When kids are involved in making choices, they are more likely to eat it. Pack yourself a lunch so that your child can see you are eating a healthy lunch, too.

If your child insists on a salami sandwich, potato chips, and cookies, it’s important to talk about food choices with your child and explain the reasons for choosing healthy foods.

Be Creative

In addition to old standbys like peanut butter and jelly, try pitas or wrap sandwiches stuffed with grilled chicken or veggies. Try soups and salads, last night's leftovers might be an easy and healthy lunchbox filler.

These small changes can make a nutritional difference:

Instead of:  Consider:
Higher-fat lunch meats Lower-fat deli meats, such as turkey, or home cooked leftovers
White bread Whole-grain breads (wheat, oat, multi-grain)
Mayonnaise Light mayonnaise or mustard
Fried chips and snacks  Baked chips, air-popped popcorn, trail mix, veggies and dip
Fruit in syrup Fruit in natural juices or fresh fruit
Cookies and snack cakes  Trail mix, yogurt, or homemade baked goods such as oatmeal cookies or fruit muffins
Fruit drinks and soda Low-fat milk, water, or 100% fruit juice

Buy or Pack?

A packed lunch gives parents more control over what their children eat. Some children may prefer to buy or qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Set a good example at home by offering plenty of healthy foods and talk to your children about making better choices outside the home as well.

Look over the cafeteria menu each week together to discuss the best options. If you are concerned about what is being offered, consider becoming involved with your school’s Wellness Council.

Pack Safely

Food safety is an important issue when packing lunches. Remember that hot foods need to be kept hot and cold foods need to be kept cold. If your child uses a lunchbox rather than disposable paper bags, wash the container daily to keep it germ free.

author name

Lori Good, RN

Lori Good, RN, is a registered nurse with Lancaster General Health Community Health and Wellness.

Education: Good holds an associate’s degree in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism from Shippensburg University. Her areas of expertise include healthy weight management for children, adults and families, heart health, and group and individual health coaching. She enjoys creating healthy, affordable recipes that are simple to make.

Call: 717-544-3283

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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