Healthy School Lunch Ideas

This article is full of healthy school lunch ideas!

Sammi and I are blessed to be able to send our children to a small Christian school. There are many benefits to Christian education, but one of the few drawbacks for us is the absence of facilities necessary to provide nutritious school lunches for our kids.

Unfortunately, when we did a bit of research into the issue, we realized that public school lunch options aren’t much better.

Healthy School Lunch Ideas like sandwiches and fruit.

By: Sarah Koontz

Throughout our Whole Food Family Series, we have been teaching you how to transform the health of your family ONE whole food at a time.  We have taught you how to Snack Smart, Take Back Breakfast, Bump Up the Whole Food Count at Dinnertime, and now we are switching our focus to school lunches.

In our conversations with other moms, we discovered that they generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to the noon meal.

On one side, there are women who feel like lunch is the one meal of the day they have the least control over.  The whole family is spread out and it is too complicated or time-consuming to organize healthful lunches for them.

For these women, lunchtime has become a battleground between convenience and nutrition.

Conversely, there are many moms who started the new school year with intentions of packing healthful and creative lunches for their kids every day of the week.  It is now mid-year, and these women are either bored with their routine or completely exhausted and ready to throw in the towel.

A clock, apple and brown lunch bag with colorful chalk.

No matter how you started the school year, or where you find yourself at the present moment, we want you to end strong!

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I am confident that the information in this article will rejuvenate and refresh your lunchtime routine.   But before we dive in, we want to share this word of caution with you: Lasting change comes one small step at a time.  

Lasting change comes one small step at a time.  #wholefoodfamily Click To Tweet

And lasting change is what we are aiming for here!  So if you have never packed a brown bag lunch for your kids, don’t call the school to cancel your child’s meal ticket just yet.  Start by replacing just one school lunch per week with a nutritious homemade meal, and build up from there.

 7 Healthy School Lunch Ideas

#1 – Lower your Standards

Say what?!?  I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out.

If your kids have been eating pizza and French fries at the school cafeteria every day for lunch, it shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming to improve upon that with your own brown bag lunches.

Conversely, if you have been trying to create a “Social Media Worthy” creation for each and every lunchbox….lighten up a bit.  This is a marathon not a sprint!

#2 – Ask your Kids what They Want

We simply adore this idea from our reader Johanna!

My son and I went to and looked at all the pictures of healthy school lunches. He told me what looked good and what didn’t. I know some kids might not enjoy this step, but my 6-year-old thought it was really cool.  I wrote down his top choices and divided them into categories and compiled menus out of them.

#3 – Supplement Rather than Stress

Too busy to pack school lunches for your kids?  Supplement what they are getting at school with a piece of fruit or some carrot sticks and ranch.

Buy the pre-made packages of sliced fruit and veggies if you have to, it’s all about doing whatever we can to get more whole foods into our children!

 #4 – Create a Rotating Menu for the Week

Sometimes it is too difficult to come up with a unique lunch idea each and every day of the week.  Why not pick two plans for the week and alternate each day (sending one combination 2x and the other 3x).

Healthy School Lunch Ideas with a girl eating her lunch.

#5 – Mix it Up

Here at Grounded & Surrounded, we are all about the 80/20 rule.  That means 80% of the time we feed our children nutrient-dense, healthful foods and 20% of the time we loosen up and live a little.

I like to apply this same rule to my kids’ lunches.  4 days a week I pack them a lunch, and they get to pick one day to order off the menu at school.

My kids love it and it gives me a day off from packing lunch each week.

#6 – Get Ahead of the Game

Making lunches in the evening before my children go to bed has revolutionized my lunch packing routine.

There is nothing like waking up in the morning, opening your fridge, and having prepared lunches ready to be stuffed in backpacks.

This way you can spend your morning lounging around drinking HOT coffee, right?

#7 – Have Your Kids do the Heavy Lifting

With just a little bit of organizing, it’s simple to involve your kids in the lunch packing process.

Some moms create lists or organized boxes to give their children more ownership of the lunch packing process.  Since I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to making lunches, I ask my children to assist me as I make their lunch.

Although it doesn’t speed up the process, it is preparing them for lunchbox independence in the future.

Healthy School Lunch Ideas

There are so many bloggers who write lunchbox menus and share their beautiful creations on social media.

We simply adore this article from 100 Days of Real Food showing Moms how to make their own homemade lunchables!

They set the bar pretty high, don’t they?

I’ve discovered that simplicity is best when it comes to packing healthful lunches for my children.  Kids are easy to please, and I generally always try to balance out the uber-healthy options with foods I know my kids will be excited to eat.

Because, it truly is possible to transform the health of your family ONE whole food at a time!  And packing healthful lunches for your children is a fantastic place to start.

It's time to hit the #RESET button on School Lunches. Here are 7 great tips to get you started! Click To Tweet

We focused heavily on theory and shifting your mindset in this article, next time we are going to get super practical!Healthy School Lunch Ideas with a brown bag lunch

Sammi will be dissecting her lunch-making process into simple to follow steps for you and creating a free printable resource to help you take your homemade lunches to the next level.  Be sure to check back in a few weeks for this exciting new #WholeFoodFamily post.

Sarah Koontz Header.

P.S. We’ve covered so much already in our #WholeFoodFamily Series!  Below you will find links to a few of our most popular articles from this fun series.  What would you like to see us cover next?  Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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  1. Great tips! Saved this to my Pinterest to remember when school starts 🙂 In a couple of years 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing your great ideas with us at Family Joy Blog Link Up Party. Have a great week!

  3. Thank you for sharing!! These are all great tips. I typically start the school year off with visions of grandeur and variety only to end up doing the same things over and over. My oldest daughter is quite picky which can be very discouraging.

    • Oh goodness, I can relate! Having a picky eater can make things even tougher. Do you think you could come up with a list of a variety of foods she likes and then vary it week to week for her? Then maybe her lunchbox would come home empty each day and you both would feel better about brown bagging it 🙂

  4. There are some really great ideas here – and you are right, it is a marathon, not a sprint! I particularly like the idea of involving your kids in the lunch choices and preparation. Thank you for sharing this post with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop.

  5. Great tips! I think planning ahead will always be key. Preparing the lunches the night before and having a menu, both of which you mentioned, are essential!

  6. Hi Sarah and Sammi – These are great tips. I always had to pack lunches for my kids too, and it was a challenge. Thanks so much for sharing with the Let’s Get Real party.

  7. Thanks so much for joining us at 100 Happy Days. I have loved reading your post. Hope you come back again this Thursday.

  8. These are great tips! I don’t have to pack lunches, but we do still have to eat, and we like to have simple lunch meals. Easy to get out, and easy to clean up. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop, you are being featured tomorrow!

  9. Most of these apply to adults too 😉 I’ve been packing for a few months now and switching things up is key for me.

  10. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Sarah, these are absolutely fantastic tips. Your first one-about lowering one’s standard-intrigued me. I love the idea of this being a sprint rather than a marathon. Healthy school lunches take time to create; you have to get into the groove of it first before everything starts falling into place…and this is such a great reminder of that. Thanks so much for sharing this on #SHINEbloghop this week. Your tips are wonderful and will be useful to many of our readers 🙂

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the article, Maria. I am a recovering “hare” and an aspiring “turtle.” So slow and steady is an excellent goal for me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share y story with your readers through the hop.

  12. I teach preschool and our students bring their lunches from home. Oh moms, it is a real experience to watch your children eat…and NOT eat… their lunches! It didn’t take me long to realize that moms who don’t send a sandwich aren’t lazy. They know that their kids won’t eat one-EVER!
    I only see my little kiddos one time per week (we are a school for homeschoolers!) but as a teacher I want mom to know what’s been going on. So, unless it is too messy to send home (like an open yogurt container) I have the child put the uneaten food back in their lunchbag for her to see later.
    Sinea ♥

    • What a great point, I always ask my kids to bring home what they couldn’t/didn’t eat. Good eating habits must start at home if we expect them to carry over into the school lunchroom. Thank you for taking time to add to the conversation.

  13. I like number 2. These are awesome tips.

  14. Great ideas! Thank you so much for sharing these. I like the unexpected tip, “Lower Your Standards”. As a recovering perfectionist, I tend to not do it at all if I can’t do it perfectly. I like your approach of every little bit counts.

    • I am a recovering perfectionist too, Elizabeth. I think that is why I just had to put that as the first tip. Often we forget that our mothering attempts need not be perfect, they simply must be persistent. Blessings to you!

  15. Such terrific ideas to keep kids healthy . . . and therefore able to learn . . . at school. As a former teacher, I would always smile on Fridays. It was painfully obvious that for many parents, all their great intentions for a week of healthy packed lunches had run out, or there was simply not much left in the house to pack! Great ideas here!

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