Healthy Lunches: Your Essential Back to School Checklist

Healthy Lunches: Your Essential Back to School Checklist hover background

Jul 29

With summer vacation almost coming to a close, and with school around the corner, it’s time to re-think and refresh your kid’s lunches. Back to school time is the perfect opportunity to start packing a healthier lunchbox.

Need some inspiration for what to pack in a healthy lunch? Use this back to school checklist to make sure your child is getting the nutrition they need this school year.

Healthy Lunch Back-to-School Checklist

    • Stick with water. Steer clear of sending your kid off with sugary drinks or juice boxes that pack calories and no nutrition. Get your child into the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle to school every day. Try adding lemons, limes, cucumbers or strawberries for taste.
    • Be creative. Just because you pack a healthy lunch doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Encourage your child to eat them by finding creative ways to serve and combine foods. Check out these 25 creative lunch box ideas for every school day of the month!
    • Use the 5 food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy) as your guide. Remember to include at least one item from each of these groups to help ensure a balanced meal.

Whole grains

    • whole wheat or grain bread
    • oatmeal cookies
    • whole grain dry cereal


The USDA recommends that meats and proteins make up less than one quarter of each meal. Protein provides sustained energy and helps maintain blood sugar levels. Serve up some delicious sandwiches with their favorite meat or include edamame, deviled eggs or nuts. Peanut butter for dipping veggie sticks also provide protein for your child’s lunch. Some protein ideas:

    • Chicken
    • ham or turkey slices
    • string cheese
    • hummus
    • cottage cheese
    • milk
    • tuna fish
    • hard-boiled egg or deviled eggs


Be sure to pack up some calcium-rich foods like these:

    • Greek yogurt
    • cottage cheese
    • string cheese
    • cheese cubes
    • broccoli with Greek yogurt dip
    • milk

Fruit & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should make up about half of each meal. Think of different ways to include fruit and veggies into school lunches to keep your kids from getting bored. Kids love to dip things—cut up fruits and vegetables into small slices and add a small container of Greek yogurt dip, hummus, cream cheese, peanut butter or almond butter for dipping.

  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Melon
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Applesauce
  • bananas
  • baby carrots
  • broccoli
  • snacking peppers
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes

Print off this back to school checklist for healthy lunches to be well-prepared when school starts!

Whipping up some healthy recipes is easier than you think—you can make simple ingredient substitutions to create healthy food that doesn’t sacrifice taste. Download this helpful substitution guide to cook up some healthy meals today!

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