110 Easy + Healthy School Lunch Ideas
During a recent Facebook Live about wellness reboots, I talked about an intentional eating practice I kicked off after Easter—a day where I rather unceremoniously binged myself sick on chocolate mini eggs. I have been meaning to write about this intentional eating practice, but in a nutshell, my goal was not to be super restrictive in the manner of a Whole 30 type diet, but instead to set intentions about what I actually wanted to eat and what would feel nourishing to my body in order to avoid bored/grumpy/stressed/mindless consumption. I was shocked to find that it wasn’t difficult to go 7 weeks (!) without dessert, alcohol, bread, and junk food snacks and I’m now in a space where—similar to how I have revised my social media consumption—treats are just that...something I turn to when I want to celebrate something or am in a happy space, not something I turn to out of stress or boredom. It’s been a truly awesome shift emotionally, and an added bonus is that I fit into my pants again!
Not surprisingly, I also think a lot about Laurel and Violet’s food consumption; again, not in a super controlling way, but with the mindset of, “I want to fuel these two sweet, active, growing bodies with good stuff because we are so lucky to have access to fresh food!” Also, the school year is fast approaching, which means we need to think more concretely about school lunches and snacks. This got me thinking about top foods to fuel kids through the school day, and also about a really awesome organization called Revolution Foods. Let me tell you about them first!
About Revolution Foods
I shared about Revolution Foods back in in the spring, but here are some key things to know about them:
- Revolution Foods believes that everyone deserves access to real, high quality food. They are on a mission to transform the way America eats and create lifelong healthy eaters by providing access to healthy, affordable meals to students and families throughout the country. All Revolution Foods meals meet the highest clean label standards; they use fresh local produce, high-quality proteins, rBST-free dairy products, and no high fructose corn syrup ever.
- Revolution Foods serves over 2.5 million freshly prepared, healthy meals (spanning breakfast, lunch, snacks, and supper) to students in schools and community organizations nationwide on a weekly basis, including right here in Boston! The company has served over 5.3 million meals across 84 campuses in Boston.
- Revolution Foods delivers kid-inspired, chef-crafted food tailored to the cuisines, tastes, and textures of the communities they serve. Some local favorites here in Boston include bean and cheese pupusas, sweet potato-crusted fish sandwiches, and chicken drumsticks with rice and veggies. YUM.
- Revolution Foods’ experience shows—and recent studies also support—that nutritious foods create improved health and academic outcomes.
- Revolution Foods aims to make a community impact. Beyond the lunch line, Revolution Foods brings nutrition curriculum, cooking classes, gardening lessons and other educational events—such as monthly vegetable tastings for students and families—to students in partnership with community partners from Boston and beyond, including FoodCorps and Cooking Matters.
Isn’t Revolution Foods amazing? And related to thinking about how to best fuel Laurel and Violet’s growing bodies—and avoid inevitable lunch making ruts—while I was looking at Revolution Foods’ sample menus I found lots of inspiration to innovate beyond our typical packed lunch fare. Because here’s the thing: we totally get into lunch making ruts! I mean, you guys, between Laurel and Violet never buying school lunch, we have made close to 2,000 school lunches so far! But variety—especially healthy variety—is really important. Case in point, Revolution Foods recently surveyed 1,800 students and parents. Among their findings, here are a few things jumped out at me. First, a majority of parents (80%) and students (60%) agreed that balanced nutrition, including a selection of lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, was the most important part of school meals. Second, when asked what each group considered as an ideal school meal, the majority of parents (45%) and students (30%) selected “bento-style meals with a variety of finger foods, including meat, cheese, fruit, veggies, pretzels, etc.” over unhealthier options like burgers and fries (“fresh ingredients” was the second most popular option). And third, an overwhelming majority of parents (88%) and students (66%) both felt that healthier school meals would help them do better in school.
As a result, #MyNewGoal for this coming school year is to avoid lunch making ruts and increase the healthy variety so lunch is different every day of the week! To help me (and you!) do this, I developed a list of easy and healthy school lunch ideas, based on both our family favorites + using Revolution Foods’ sample menus as inspiration. Here are a few key notes on how this list will likely differ from a lot of school lunch lists out there:
- Beverages. I always just send Laurel and Violet to school with water; plain and simple hydration = good.
- Fruit snacks. A lot of people pack gummy fruit type snacks (e.g., raisins, fruit leather, fruit snacks) but as much as my kids love them, these types of snacks aren’t great for the teeth (my kids have tight, cavity-prone teeth). So I opt instead for fresh fruit and save the gummy snacks for when they are home and can brush their teeth afterwards.
- Dessert. I don’t send dessert at lunchtime. My kids have plenty of access to sweet treats; they don’t need it during the school day too!
So handy, right? Save this graphic to your phone and pull it up when you’re at the grocery or at home trying to figure out what to toss in the kids’ lunches! And don’t forget to enlist your kids to help you on the school lunch assembly line. Because #lifeskills.
Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Revolution Foods. All thoughts and opinions about Revolution Foods’ work and lunch ideas for kids are, of course, my own.