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By: Tarie Beldin, RD, LD, FAND

Now that school is back in session it’s the perfect time to start over and “reboot” your kids’ school lunches! By now, most of us have gotten back into a routine with meals, snacks and balancing school, work and leisure time.  In my house, it usually takes a few weeks to get back into a routine and so this is a great time for me to focus on changing some eating habits and getting the kids involved in some of the planning and food preparation. If kids pick out a new fruit at the grocery store or help make the salad for dinner, they are more likely to eat it!

The goal of a healthy lunch is to try and include: protein, grain, fruits or vegetables and dairy. However, this can be tricky with picky or extremely slow eaters. You know your child’s palate best. Some will only eat peanut butter and jelly while others love goat cheese. Either way, the more you get your child involved in the planning of the meal, the more likely they will be to eat what is packed rather than throwing it in the trash at school.

Use the ideas below to help plan nutritious meals and snacks, or think outside of the “lunchbox” and come up with some different ideas of your own!

Sandwich on a Stick

  • Cubes of whole wheat bread
  • Cubes of cheese
  • Cubed Turkey or lean Ham
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Cherry tomato
  • Mini pickle

Apple Slice Dip

  • Combine low-fat mayonnaise and some yellow mustard to make a dip then serve it with apple slices and yogurt.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Baked animal chips:

  • Using a cookie cutter, cut animal shapes out of a tortilla, spray with cooking spray and season with salt/pepper and parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown.
  • Serve with orange circles and string cheese

Turkey Wrap:

  • Whole wheat tortilla
  • Turkey breast
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Lettuce & tomato slices
  • Serve with pretzels and grapes

Waffle Sandwich:

  • Toasted and cooled Nutrigrain waffle
  • Peanut butter
  • Banana and strawberry slices
  • Serve with vanilla yogurt and homemade trail mix
  • *If your child’s school has a “no nut” policy, this waffle sandwich works great with slices of lean ham, cheese and thin slices of apple

Hummus Dip:

  • Baked whole wheat pita wedges
  • Cut up carrots, celery and red pepper
  • Serve with Babybel cheese and low fat pudding on the side

Cheese Quesadilla:

  • Whole wheat tortilla
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Pack pinto beans and strawberries on the side

Tuna Salad:

  • Crackers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Apple slices
  • Yogurt


  • Tostada shell(s)
  • Fat-free refried beans
  • Grated cheese
  • Pack with applesauce and animal crackers on the side

Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwich:

  • Softened low fat cream cheese mixed with honey and orange zest. Spread on whole wheat bread and top with sliced strawberries.
  • Pack a boiled egg and watermelon cubes on the side

Pasta Salad:

  • Mini sized pasta
  • Peas
  • Shredded carrot
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Cubed turkey or ham
  • Dress with low-fat Italian dressing and serve with some whole grain crackers or breadsticks

Although schools are serving fewer French fries and more fruits and vegetables, children are only in school six to seven hours a day, five days a week.  The rest of the time they are at home and therefore parents or guardians play much more of a role in their daily nutrition. So, grab an apple as a snack, toss the football after dinner and choose water over soda! All of these small behaviors we think do not matter can make an impact over time.

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