Registered Dietitian’s Tips for Healthy, Fun Back-to-School Lunches (That the Whole Family Will Love)

It’s that time of year again – back-to-school! While the kids may be out of your hair at home, they still need lunches and snacks to keep them energized and primed for learning. Here are some ideas the whole family will enjoy.

Make-Ahead Smoothie

Smoothies can be easily prepared the night before and stored in a Thermos for breakfast on the go or lunch. Use fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese, and a splash of milk or 100% fruit juice. Check out this recipe to get you started.

Mini Turkey Meatball Sandwich Dippers

Buy the pre-cooked frozen variety, bake them off, slice in half and fill with cucumber slices. Skewer with a cherry tomato and serve with light ranch dressing for dipping. Add bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas and a hummus pack for sides.

Healthy Snacks with No Fridge Required

These snacks don’t require refrigeration, making them great if your child doesn’t have much time for lunch or needs a snack before afterschool activities.

  • Mix up a batch of dried fruit, nuts, and cinnamon raisin bagel chips. Or try my Afternoon Reboot Trail Mix.
  • Sandwich together whole grain crackers with almond butter and a drizzle of honey.
  • Fill mini whole grain buns with sunflower seed butter or natural chocolate hazelnut spread and banana slices.
  • Keep a bowl of whole fresh fruit on hand so you can toss a piece in the backpack on your way out the door.

Rethink Your Drinks

Milk (dairy or fortified non-dairy) tops my list as the best lunchtime beverage for kids to help them meet their calcium and vitamin D needs. Pre-chill milk in a Thermos or buy individual milk boxes. 100% fruit juices rank second on my preferred list (besides apple) and offer some beneficial nutrients. Try to limit the portion size to 4 ounces for younger children and up to 8 ounces for older children. A bottle filled with water to sip throughout the day makes another wise hydration choice. Most kids don’t need sports drinks unless they’re participating in activities that cause them to sweat vigorously for an hour or longer.

Next week, after the nice long weekend, try out some of my ideas to give your family lunches they won’t want to trade.

Disclosure: Some of the featured lunch box gear was provided to me as free samples.


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  1. Rebecca says:

    I am a professional school student, and I feel very empowered in making the conscious habit of bringing my lunch to school about 95% of the time. It’s so easy to do with the mini freez paks :). As an aside, there are a number of very cute & stylish “adult” lunch bags on the market also! I purchased mine from Vera Bradley ( at a reasonable price that has plenty of room for my lunch along w/ additional snacks for my later days.

    1. Rebecca,
      Those bags are so cute! And good for you for packing your lunch 95% of the time. That is impressive. Do you have any new lunchbox/bag ideas to share? People are always asking me for new ideas.

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