Healthy Make-Ahead School Lunch Ideas

Imagine you’re cooking dinner for four people. Then imagine you’re cooking dinner for fifty people. The menu would change, wouldn’t it?

When you’re serving small numbers, you can afford better ingredients, and you can take more time in the preparation.

A meal for a large number of people would almost inevitably lean heavy on carbohydrates, with lots of high-fat and high-salt extras to add flavor.

Our public schools face this issue on a much larger scale every day, which is why, try as they might, it is virtually impossible for schools to provide meals that are as healthy as parents can provide for their own children.

The healthiest lunch at school is the one that a child brings from home.


…but I’m too busy to make lunch every morning

Families today are busier than ever before, which means that parents have some tough decisions to make about where to invest their time.  Providing children with a healthy lunch is a wise investment. Nutrition powers children’s learning.

A healthy lunch will empower your child to make it through the school day alert and ready to learn. Overloading on carbs, fat, salt, and sugar by eating a lunch provided by the school can result in a spike of blood sugar, closely followed by sleepiness.

If you’re too busy to make lunch every morning, consider spending half an hour every Sunday preparing lunches for the coming week. Don’t limit yourself to peanut butter and jelly – try these alternatives to make lunch interesting. Be sure to press as much air as possible out of the plastic bags before zipping, to keep the food fresh.

Veggies and Dip

Cut up a couple stalks of celery, a head of broccoli and a head of cauliflower. Thoroughly moisten and then wring out a handful of paper towels. Put the paper towels in a sealable plastic container, add the broccoli and cauliflower, then put more damp paper towels on top. The cold, damp towels will help keep the vegetables crispy.  Every day, put some of these veggies in a bag along with pre-peeled baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes – whatever vegetables your child will eat.  Serve with a small side dish of low fat salad dressing, peanut butter, or hummus. If you’re really rushed, you can buy a vegetable and dip tray from the supermarket and divide it into five days worth of meals.


Spread a thin layer of low fat Laughing Cow cheese on a whole wheat tortilla. Top with turkey or chicken breast. Roll as tightly as possible, holding in place with toothpicks. Refrigerate until firm, then slice into bite-sized pinwheels. Use flavored cheese for variety. Serve with a piece of fruit.

Flat Sandwiches

Place a piece of low fat meat and cheese between two pieces of whole wheat flat bread. Put in a plastic bag. In a separate zipper bag, put a piece of Romaine lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a damp segment of paper towel. (The paper towel will keep the lettuce fresh all week.) Because the bread is so thin, the meat, cheese, and vegetables provide plenty of moisture, making mayonnaise unnecessary.

Pasta Salad

Boil whole wheat pasta according to package directions. Add in chunks of vegetables and thawed, frozen peas. Try to use as many vegetables as pasta. You can also add a small amount of meat and cheese. Toss with Italian salad dressing.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Boil half a dozen eggs, then cool. Peel and put into a plastic bag with a little salt and pepper. Seal the bag well with as little air as possible. Be sure to send some fruit or vegetables with this.

Making a healthy lunch for your child to take to school doesn’t have to be complicated. Yes, it takes a little time, but by planning ahead, you can do it… and your child can help!  By the way, these are healthy lunch options for adults, too.