15 Healthy Foods to Pack in a School Lunch

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR

Starting your kids off right by packing school lunches with nutritious foods that taste good will help them establish healthy eating habits for life. Instead of a sandwich on white bread, bag of chips, and cookies, try some of the following healthy (and more interesting) items for your child's lunch box:

  • Wraps made with whole wheat tortillas, containing either lean cold cuts or lowfat cream cheese topped with veggie slices. Even the classic PB and J (peanut butter & jelly) is healthier in a wheat wrap.
  • Single portion-sized cups of unsweetened apple sauce or fruit without added sugar.
  • Trail mix made with cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins, and a few chocolate morsels.
  • Low fat cheese spread on whole wheat crackers.
  • Individual serving-sized packages of low fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or yogurt smoothies.
  • Baby carrots, celery sticks, or apple slices with dips made from yogurt or low fat sour cream.
  • Mini-burritos made with rice and black beans or refried beans in a tortilla with tomato salsa. These can be heated or eaten cold.
  • Baked chips or pretzels are a better choice than high-fat potato chips or cheese snacks.
  • Drinks made from water with a splash of cranberry, peach, grape, or other fruit juice are healthier than sodas. Excess consumption of pure sugar-laden juices can increase the risk of obesity.
  • Whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese-vegetable spread.
  • Air-popped popcorn flavored with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
  • Low fat cheese cubes and seedless grapes make a delicious side dish for sandwiches or wraps.
  • Cold strips of grilled chicken with honey mustard dip.
  • Dried cranberries or cherries are a sweet alternative for kids bored with raisins.
  • Quesadilla slices made with cheese and chicken or vegetables.

For more healthy nutrition tips, visit our Nutrition Center.


Last Editorial Review: 9/5/2006