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Healthy School Lunches

As the back-to-school season unfolds and your family eases back into daily routines, the familiar task of planning school lunches takes center stage once more. Traditional cafeteria options may leave the appetite uninspired, making this the perfect moment to explore the world of make-ahead lunches. The good news? It doesn't have to be a complex endeavor. In fact, numerous healthy school lunch options can be effortlessly assembled the night before using everyday household ingredients you likely already have within arm's reach.

Here are some fresh school lunch ideas that not only cater to the heartiest of student appetites but also provide the vital energy needed for a productive day at school.

Pasta Salad

Have leftovers? It’s easy to create a chilled pasta salad from last night’s dinner ingredients. Extra credit: Use whole-wheat pasta to add a touch of extra fiber. This healthier alternative to traditional pasta will also keep your child fuller longer.

Here’s some inspiration for your next pasta salad:

  • Whole-wheat pasta

  • Italian dressing

  • Cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)

  • Broccoli (fresh or frozen)

  • Green beans (fresh or frozen)

  • Peas (fresh or frozen)

  • Black olives

Recipe source: Strong4Life | Dignity Health makes no claim of copyright ownership of above content.

Homemade Lunch Kit

Who doesn’t love pre-packaged meals? Kids are drawn to their tasty ingredients and colorful packaging, and parents love the convenience. However, they are usually laden with processed ingredients, excessive sodium, and preservatives. The good news is that pre-packaged meals are easy to make.

Extra credit: Invite your children to make pre-packaged meals with you. They can build it with their favorite ingredients, and you can teach them about nutrition and the importance of selecting ingredients for their health benefits.

Here are a few ideas to get your pre-packaged meal started:

  • Low-sodium turkey or chicken
  • Cheese (including cottage cheese)
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Cooked green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • Apple slices, orange wedges, or grapes
  • Carrot sticks
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Nut or seed butter* (*Please note: Like other ingredients in home-prepared snacks and lunches, please follow the school’s rules or restrictions on including nut butters due to the risks they may pose for those with food allergies)

Recipe source: Strong4Life | Dignity Health makes no claim of copyright ownership of above content.

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad serves as an excellent protein source, playing a crucial role in promoting the growth and maintenance of muscles, bones, and tissues. When complemented with whole-grain bread, it transforms into a balanced meal, providing a combination of energy-boosting carbohydrates and a medley of essential proteins and vegetables.

Here are a few tasty (and healthy) chicken salad ingredients to consider:

  • Grilled, baked, or rotisserie chicken
  • Diced celery
  • Diced onions or shallots
  • Grapes, halved
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, or others)
  • Mayonnaise and/or mustard (yellow or dijon)

We hope these healthy school lunch ideas leave you feeling inspired—and hungry! Proper nutrition sets the foundation for a healthy school year.

Expert Care for All Ages

If you have additional questions about your child’s health and wellness needs, consider discussing them with a pediatrician. Use our online Find A Doctor tool to locate a children’s health expert near you.

Dignity Health–Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, CA is home to the Lauren Small Children’s Center, offering excellence in pediatric care—from birth to adolescence. Learn more about our services here: