How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

The key to packing a healthy school lunch is to make sure that it’s well rounded. Don’t just pack “something;” be sure to pack “something” from each of the main food groups- protein, grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. We’ve compiled a list of kid-friendly foods from each food group to make packing lunch a whole lot easier. Don’t forget to check out the new eMeals Lunch Menu for 5 lunch menus per week, plus a shopping list, to take the headache out of planning school lunches for the whole year.

Protein: Choose lean options*

  • Nut butter (like peanut or almond)
  • Hummus
  • Lunch meat or leftover cooked meats
  • Beans and peas
  • Nut s
  • Cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs and egg salad

Grains: Choose whole grains*

  • Sandwich bread, rolls, pita bread, wraps, tortillas, bagels, waffles
  • Crackers, pretzels, bagel chips, rice cakes, pita chips
  • Muffins, banana bread, zucchini bread, or other quick breads
  • Granola or cereal bars
  • Dry cereal

Dairy: Choose fat-free or 1% options*

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Pudding

Fruits: At each meal, make half the plate fruits and veggies*

  • Applesauce (choose one that is all-natural and unsweetened)
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Clementines, tangerines, and oranges
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins and other dried fruits
  • 100% fruit juice

Vegetables: At each meal, make half the plate fruits and veggies*

  • Baby carrots
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Jicama
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Salad greens
  • Sugar snap peas

*Key messages from the USDA Choose My Plate campaign

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5 thoughts on “How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

  1. christy

    !Thanks for the suggestions. HOWEVER, I subscribe to your lunch plan and with very few exceptions my children love it! Their friends are excited to see what they bring each day and I am thrilled to pack healthy and satisfying lunches. Thank you e-meals!!!!

  2. Roxanne

    Something else parents can do in order to make healthy lunches more appealing, is to use cut cutters (flowers, hearts, stars, etc), to make shape out of fruits/veggies. They can also use cutters to make healthy sandwiches.

  3. karen kendall

    My high schooler does not carry a lunchbox to school, only a brown bag. How do i keep his lunch cold so we can pack more good lunches for him?

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