Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Healthier School Day Lunch

My daughter returns to school in two weeks, so I am starting to think about packing her lunch box.  Even if you homeschool, a busy day might leave you short on prep time for the midday meal.  Below, I list a week’s worth of lunch ideas, for the lunch box, or the busy family at home.

As you know from reading other posts, I make most of our meals from fresh whole foods.  My daughter attends public school, and even though our school district makes an effort to include whole grains and fresh foods on the menu, much of the offerings are processed and/or overcooked, often with lots of added sugar and salt.  So, I try to limit her school lunch purchases to once a week.  Even though her school lunch is inexpensive, buying often can add up, so bringing lunch from home saves money.

One way to stock the lunch box with something besides sandwiches is to make use of leftovers from dinner or weekend lunch (another great way to save money on lunch instead of making something special).  My kids won’t always eat something a second time, but there are some things they really like.  In the plan below, I share some of our go to leftovers (and suggest some from recipes I have posted on this blog).  In particular, I list the things my daughter likes to eat cold, because she doesn’t have time to wait in line for the microwave (she is a slow eater).  Plus, our ceramic food containers (no plastic in the microwave) are too heavy for her to carry back and forth.

The key to packing a varied lunch is to have a good set of plastic containers.  Just a note: I am not a big user of plastic containers.  I use glass as much as I can, but glass is not practical for carrying to school (or anywhere). 

I was planning to recommend the plastic jars we use, but apparently they have been discontinued.  I suggest a set of round or jar shaped plastic containers with screw-on lids that your child can easily operate.  Unfortunately, screw-on lids are not spill proof, but jars that seal well are difficult for children to open.  If you plan to send liquids, try a soup thermos.  Whatever you use, make sure you get something that is made without BPA.

Also, don’t neglect the safety of the lunch box or bag that you buy.  Look for ones that are lead free, BPA free, and PVC free to avoid exposure to dangerous substances.

If your children are not in the habit of drinking water at lunch, try sending it one or two times a week, or dilute juice with water to cut back on sugar.  Get a BPA free water bottle and send a non-sweetened drink along with the usual to start a healthier habit.  Sometimes, I send chamomile tea, and this year, I may try sending naturally flavored water.

In addition to the protein choices I list below, I send fruit every day.  Most days, I send the fresh fruit that is in season (we cut up big fruits like pineapple and keep them in the refrigerator so they are ready to go).  Occasionally, I pack dried fruit.

5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

Monday = Sandwich day.
Peanut or other nut butter and jelly or fruit sandwich, with cut up veggies on side (carrots, cucumber, jicama).  See my post about the healthier version of this sandwich.

Tuesday = Pasta day. 
Leftovers, such as pasta with sauce, pesto, or fresh tomatoes and sunflower seeds, plus salad on the side.  Boil vermicelli or angel hair quickly in the morning if you don’t have leftovers.  Pour sauce or pesto from a jar or pull it from the freezer.  Or, pack leftover Sesame Noodles.  Add a cheese stick or grate cheese on the pasta for more protein.

Wednesday = Bean day.
Refried beans and veggies wrapped in a tortilla or a pita pocket filled with hummus and veggies.  Or, leftover Curry Lentils or Cilantro Lime Chickpea Salad.

Thursday = Yogurt day.
Plain yogurt with fruit and granola and a trail mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit on the side.

Trail mix of pecans, peanuts, raisins, & sunflower seeds.

Friday = Egg day.
Leftovers, or boiled eggs with a salad (boil extra eggs at breakfast earlier in the week), or buy from the cafeteria.

Of course, there are many other healthy things to pack for lunch.  I hope you’ll leave your favorite lunch ideas in the comments.

Need ideas for healthy breakfasts?  Find them here.


  1. I actually need this for me. I never find the time to make myself a healthy lunch. Thanks for sharing at my Our Favorite Things Link Party.

  2. I hope this helps, Karri. I only work in the office twice a week, and on those days, I have been known to pack up my daughter's lunch and forget to pack mine! I may try packing the night before this year.

  3. Packed lunches, wow that reminds me of my younger years!! Your packed lunches sound good!!! Thursday sounds the best to me!!! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful tips, Elisa!! God bless!!

  4. Jennifer, I like yogurt for lunch too. It also makes a great healthy snack!

  5. Packed lunches are really good for kids. It's a healthy snack! Thanks for sharing all these ideas.

    Healthy Lunch Ideas

  6. Thank you so much for linking up with Motivational Monday - my children will thank you for that as I'm sure they are fed up with sandwiches. Some really great ideas - thanks for sharing.

  7. I love all of the tips and suggestions! :-) Thanks so much for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday!" Hope to see you again soon. God bless!


Your feedback, reactions, and ideas are appreciated!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...