Smart Tips For Packing A Healthy Sack Lunch

Lunchtime provides school-aged children and teens a break from classroom learning but is still very important to their success as a student. A healthy lunch provides children the nutrients that they need to fuel their brains and growing bodies. In fact, studies show that well-nourished children perform better in school and are better able to concentrate and remember what they learn. Follow these smart tips to help ensure that your child heads to school with a healthy lunch:

Include nutrient-rich choices from each food group:

Fruits and vegetables- Pack a variety of fruits and vegetables into your child’s lunch. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables are all nutritious options. If packing canned fruit, avoid added sugar by buying those packed in water or fruit juice and avoid added sodium in canned vegetables by buying “no added salt” varieties. 

Whole grains- Whole grain products include important nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins. Rather than selecting bread based on color, (brown bread is not necessarily whole grain), check the ingredient list and choose those made with whole grain or whole wheat flour. 

Lean proteins- When it comes to deli meats, choose turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef instead of higher fat choices like salami and bologna. Other great choices include tuna, peanut butter or hummus.

Dairy- Pack your child low-fat or fat-free dairy foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt or string cheese made with skim milk. These products contain the same important nutrients (vitamin D, calcium, protein, etc.) as the full-fat products but without the fat.  

Aim for variety:

Try not to pack the same thing every day, even though your child may be content eating peanut butter and jelly 5 days a week. Each food provides a unique nutrient package so variety helps ensure that your child isn’t missing out on important nutrients. 

Get your kids involved:

Allow your children to help with meal planning, shopping and preparation. This will increase the chance that it will get eaten rather than traded or tossed in the garbage. Packing a healthy lunch is important but foods are only nutritious if they are eaten. 

Think about your child’s drink:

Avoid empty calorie drinks that provide added sugar but little to no nutrients such as soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks or energy drinks. Instead pack low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or bottled water. 

Don’t forget about food safety:

To prevent foodborne illness, pack your child’s lunch in an insulated lunch bag and include an ice pack to maintain the proper temperature of perishable foods.  You can also freeze lunch box items such as bottled water, juice boxes or yogurt tubes to help keep items cold. Also keep their lunch in the refrigerator until they leave for school. 

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