Watch Now: Packing a Healthy Lunch

(VIDEO: Top tips for packing a healthy lunch from Lucette Talamas, a registered dietitian with the Community Heath unit of Baptist Health South Florida. Watch now.)

As you prepare for back-to-school season, don’t forget to include planning for healthy lunches. The timing is perfect: August is not only back-to-school time, but also Kids Eat Right Month. Ensuring a healthy future for our nation’s children starts with a healthy lifestyle based on daily physical activity, adequate sleep and nutritious meals.

Lunch is an important time for kids to refuel their minds for classroom success as well as for after-school sports. It may be a daunting task to pack something that is healthy AND appealing to kids. Here are some simple tips:


ABCs of planning a healthy lunch box

Assign a day to plan, purchase and prepare. Grocery shopping and meal-prepping sessions may be during the weekend or a weekday night that is best for your schedule.

Be sure to provide healthy food choices. As a parent, you are in control of the choices you offer your child. Fuel a growing body with healthy food choices by following My Plate guidelines to build a healthy meal based on fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy.

Consult with your child. For better chances of your child eating a healthy lunch, involve them in the planning. Ask them what they like to eat for lunch, and then offer healthy versions.

Day off. School-provided lunches serve up balanced meals, so don’t worry if you take a day off and give your child some lunch money instead.


Making a healthy lunch box: as easy as 1-2-3
  1. Lunch box safety. Your child can choose a “cool” lunch box, but make sure it is insulated to keep food safe. Rule of thumb: Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods can be kept cold with ice packs or by freezing certain items, such as yogurt. Hot foods can be kept warm in insulated bottles like thermals.
  2. The 5 food groups. Plan to include as many food group choices based on My Plate guidelines. Here are a few lunch box friendly ideas:
    • Veggies:
      Add veggies to a sandwich, including sliced bell peppers, cucumbers or dark leafy greens. Pack a bag of cut carrots or celery with a bean dip like hummus.
    • Fruit:
      The list is endless. Alternate choices by offering what is in season and thinking beyond apples and bananas! Pack extra for an after-school snack.
    • Protein:
      Offer a variety of lean proteins, including chicken or turkey, hard-boiled eggs or tuna. Other options include plant-based protein sources like beans and lentils (mmm chili).
    • Grains:
      Aim for half of your grain choices to be whole grain, including whole grain bread, rice or pasta. Use caution with whole grain cereals and bars, which may be loaded with added sugar.
    • Dairy:
      If your child is bringing a home-packed lunch, it may also be possible to buy a milk carton at school. Low-fat cheese or yogurt can also be included in their lunches.
  3. Beware of added sugars. From fruit jelly, fruity snacks, cereal bars and sugary drinks, the amount of added sugars can really build up in one lunch box. Before purchasing packaged items, review the Nutrition Facts label for grams of sugar and ingredients list to identify products that have less sugar, or even better – no added sugar.

For more information, visit:

My Plate (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Kids Eat Right by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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