Cook Fast, Live Young: More Tips for Healthy School Lunches


It’s that time of year again. The kids are heading back to school and you want to arm them with the nutrition they need to do their best–but on a budget, of course! The best way to make sure your child is eating good food is to pack it for them.

The nutritional quality of the lunches available for purchase at school is usually not the best. After all, they often only have a budget of $1 to $3 per child. And kids sometimes have access to vending machines which may be stocked with junk food and soda. You want to prepare a lunch that will be exciting and filling, so your child can avoid the other less than nutritious temptations that may be available.

Last year, I shared a few school lunch tips, but now I’ve come across some new ones!
Use a water bottle. Want to avoid the high amounts of sugar that may be found in some juice boxes but can’t afford the ones that are healthier? No problem! Just invest in a cheap water bottle and include whatever healthy beverage you have available. But I’d like the emphasize again: a cheap water bottle is best since it’s possible it may end up getting accidentally thrown away at some point.

Don’t forget the fruit
. Who doesn’t like something sweet after a meal? Help your child avoid the temptations of chocolate bars and candies by including his or her favorite fruits. Change it up based on what is in season.

Skip the “fruit” snacks. Fruit roll-ups, gummies and similar snacks are not the same things as fruit. Usually, the first ingredient is sugar or another ingredient that is basically the same thing as sugar, such as corn syrup or juice concentrate. They often contain little in the way of vitamins. In fact, the vitamins that are included are usually specifically added because the nutritional value of the fruit is gone. Have a problem with fruits going bad before you can eat them? Try dried fruits instead. They are just as yummy and also full of vitamins.

Make it a hot lunch. Change it up! If you use a thermos, your child can enjoy everything from baked beans to soup at school. Think about what favorite dinner leftovers would make a nice lunch the next day.

Include a surprise
. Imagine how excited your kids would be if every time they open their lunchbox, they might get a new toy or game. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Hit up the dollar store or the discount aisle for silly gadgets, stickers, or even just a nice note from you and include them every now and then as an unexpected surprise. Now it’s not just fast food that’s associated with getting a “free” toy with a meal.

What are some things you do to make lunch healthier and more exciting for your kids?

Juliana Weiss-Roessler has ten years of professional writing and editing experience. For four years, she managed the web content for the star of an Emmy-nominated reality series. Currently, she is an editor for the geek girl e-zine, a contributor to the career blog at, and owner of the food blog Follow her @cookfast on Twitter and learn more about her work at

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  1. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    My son liked protein snack bars for in between classes or recess. Helped stave of the hunger. He loved recess so he was really tired by end of day if he didn’t have a snack bar in his backpack.

  2. ashleywade

    3 years ago

    Love the reusable water bottle tip!

  3. ebbeszoo

    3 years ago

    dont forget the school lunch notes! every chld needs one of these!

  4. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    yep, the nice note is always a good touch.

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