Victoria Lawlor, MS, CNS is a long time HMN member and volunteer Community Organizer for our New Haven County (SW) CT Chapter. Below she provided us with some great information on how to pack healthy school lunches!

To pack a balanced meal or snack it must contain all the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats.  Every cell depends on protein, it helps build muscle and is used for immune function and tissue repair. Protein can come from animal or plant sources. Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for muscles and preferred source of energy for the brain. They are made up of fiber and starch as well as sugars. Inadequate carb intake can cause fatigue and tiredness, depression, anxiety and constipation. Fats provide long lasting energy and satiety. We need fats in our diet to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. Fatty acids can be converted into energy and some like Omega 3 EFA’s have an anti-inflammatory effect. Inadequate intake of fats can cause fatigue, liver and kidney disorders.

This magical food combination of all three, protein, carbohydrates and fats provides sustained energy. You can see on the graph below how different food categories alone help with hunger control over time.

What these combinations look like:
Fruit slices + almond butter (carb, protein, fat)
Cottage cheese/yogurt + pineapple (protein, fat, carb)
Yogurt + granola (protein, fat, carb)
Whole wheat crackers + cheese slices (carb, fat, protein)
Cup of lentil soup (carb, protein, fat)
Sandwich wrap with tofu, hummus, vegetables (carb, protein, fat)
Dark chocolate + nut butter (carb, pro, fat)

You can also customize these combinations to your child’s tastes. Use a category chart like the one below and have kids help you pick items from each group to include with lunch.

Apple (whole) Bell Pepper Beans (cooked) Crackers – W/G
Applesauce Broccoli Cheese Crispy chickpeas
Banana (whole) Carrots Edamame Granola
Blueberries Celery Egg (hard boiled) Nuts – Almonds, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
Clementines Cherry tomatoes Guacamole
Grapes Jicama Hemp Seeds
Kiwi Pickles Hummus Pita chips
Orange Radishes Jerkey Plantain chips
Raspberries Shelled Peas Meat (deli slices) Popcorn
Strawberries Sugar Snap Peas Meat (ground) Pretzels
Watermelon Sweet Potato Nut/Seed butter Rice Cakes
Tuna Sunflower seeds
Tofu Tortilla chips (baked)
Yogurt Veggie Sticks

Here are some more tips for success with school lunch:

  • Involve the kids
  • Create a 2-week rotating lunch schedule
  • Keep a list of proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables for easy packing
  • Eat a rainbow
  • Finger foods
  • Include something you know they will eat and love
  • Skewers
  • Bake healthy recipes into donut shapes
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes
  • Continue to offer your child new foods on a regular basis along with your good old standby options
  • Follow school lunch calendar

Contact Victoria for more information here:

Victoria Lawlor, MS, CNS