Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What’s the Best Way to Pack a Healthy School Lunch?


With school starting back, it’s important to pack healthy lunches for your kids. Registered dietitian Rita Smith with Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital says, if you have a plan, it’s not difficult.

A simple rule of thumb is to follow the same planning process you do when putting together dinners. “A lunch needs the same thought process as what you plan for dinner,” said Smith.

First, start with a protein. “The easiest thing is probably a sandwich with a filling of maybe leftover meat from the night before, or some vegetarian approach with a nut butter or hummus or cheese,” said Smith.  “Whatever the children like, and then put it on a whole grain bun, wrap or tortilla.” 

Then, add in a crunchy carbohydrate. “Something like a whole grain cracker, pretzels, even small whole grain cereals in a baggie are great to have like Cheerio’s or Chex mix,” noted Smith. 

Finally, don’t forget the fruits and veggies. “Good choices are small pieces of fruit like small apples and halo oranges, fruits that are cut up and put into a baggie or the light packed canned fruit,” noted Smith.  “For veggies, things like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, or even leftover veggies from the night before are all good options.”  

When it comes to beverages, milk or water are the best options to avoid extra sugar. 

Finally, experts say set yourself up for success by preparing the school lunches on Sunday so you’ll be ready for the week. “Having all your veggies cut up and in baggies for the next three or four days and then doing your grocery shopping for your small pieces of fruit and those are ready to go to pack up also really helps,” noted Smith. 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have questions about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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