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Healthy Lunches for Learning All Day

Published on Sep. 07, 2021

Diagram of a healthy plateBack to school!

Having your kids go back to school means back to packing lunches for them. Having a healthy, balanced lunch can help them focus and have enough energy to last them throughout the day.

A balanced lunch should have slow-releasing carbohydrates for energy as well as healthy fats and protein to keep them full all day. Every meal should be balanced to look like the "ideal plate" with about half of the plate filled with vegetables, a fourth of the plate filled with protein and the last fourth of the plate filled with carbohydrates.

The main meal can be full of fun vegetables for fiber and nutrients. Many kids will not like vegetables on their first try, but repeated attempts with vegetables may persuade them to get used to the taste and texture. Popular vegetables that are simple to prepare are baby carrots, steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes, mini sweet bell peppers and sweet corn that is in season right now. If your kids are picky eaters, try chopping vegetables into tiny pieces and making fried rice or blending them up to hide in a marinara sauce.

The protein portion of the meal can include some small pieces of chicken, deli slices of turkey, sautéed tofu, lentils or chickpeas. Healthy fats and protein can be found in cheese cubes, hummus and nut butters. Carbohydrates can include pasta, bread, rice or tortillas.

Some snack ideas include low-sugar yogurts, string cheese, fresh fruits and no-bake energy bites (recipe below!). 

Energy Bites Recipe

Foods to avoid depend on your individual school policies. The official policy may suggest to skip foods that contain peanuts or other highly allergenic foods that may not be safe to eat at school around kids who may have a severe allergic reaction.

Don't forget their reusable water bottles for this Central Valley heat! In the heat, kids need more water that they may have lost through sweating throughout the day.

About the Author

Dr. Bhavishya Devireddy is a member of Valley Children's Pediatric Residency Program Class of 2024. As a diabetes empowerment and education program instructor, she is passionate about advocating for and educating patients who are struggling with their diabetes care.