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How To Pack Healthy (and Cheap!) Lunches For Back To School


As another school year rolls around and we find ourselves gathering the last supplies on the class list, let’s remember to plan healthy lunches for the kids, too. Although more and more schools are adopting healthier lunch options to combat the country’s increasing child obesity rate, healthy food habits, like most good habits people take into adulthood, start at home. Here are 6 tips to make those habits stick this back to school season.

1. Include your kids in the process

Assigning small tasks like packing snack items or sorting through ingredients, can be a fun way to teach kids how easy it is to make healthier food choices. Take the kids grocery shopping and let them have boundaried input into what goes in the cart. This will foster a sense of empowerment and responsibility. 

2. Make it a group activity

Designate one section of the kitchen as the lunch packing station and make it a group activity. Our favorite lunch snack to make with Abuelita was veggie rolls: spread hummus, fresh veggies, and shredded cheese rolled in flour tortillas.

3. Pack the rainbow

A balanced lunch includes all food groups and macronutrients. Luckily, there are fun ways to enjoy every category! 

  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, dried, canned, pureed, or baked like banana chips
  • Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or baked like kale chips
  • Protein: baked chicken, deli meats, hard boiled eggs, beans, or nuts if they’re allowed in your child’s school
  • Dairy: milk, cheese, or yogurt
  • Grains: whole grain pita, sliced bread, tortillas, rice, or pastas

One fun trick that kids love is to try to choose a different colored food from each category so that the meal resembles a rainbow.

4. Turn healthy foods into fun foods

Use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into fun shapes. A melon baller will make fruit finger-friendly and fun, too! Our kids like to theme lunch days and choose foods based on the theme.

5. Skip the processed snacks and make your own

Snacks provide extra energy for busy kids. However, prepackaged snacks can be high in sugar, fats, and sodium. They’re also more costly than making your own energy-boosting snacks. Try these homemade recipes instead: 

6. Don’t forget to hydrate

According to Children’s Health of Orange County, school-aged kids should drink between 6-8 cups (48-64 oz.) of water per day. They should drink more if they’re active or the weather is hot. Make it a game! Let your kid pick out their favorite water bottle and challenge them to drink 2 full bottles of water during school. Reward them for hitting a streak. Make their water more flavorful by adding frozen fruit. Bonus: water will stay cooler for longer.

With a little bit of planning and prep work, you can pack fun, healthy, and affordable lunches for your kids (and yourself!) every day. And the best part about making healthy eating a daily habit at school? You don’t have to shoulder the responsibility on your own. Including your kids in the process from planning to assembling will make it more enjoyable and appreciated for years to come.

More Tastes Good – Feels Good Tips.