Diane May Nutrition Blog

Tips for School Lunches

September 7th, 2015

Its that time of year again when kids go back to school with lunch boxes in hand.  Parents face many challenges when sending their children off to school with those brown bag lunches.  Its tough to find the time to put together those school meals, making sure your kids get the proper nutrition they need and making something tasty enough for your kids to actually eat that packed meal! School lunch is a huge opportunity to provide your child with the calories, protein, fiber and fat they need. Its also a great way to sneak in those vitamins and nutrients they may not be getting at other meals. The same rules that apply for you, apply to your kids meals-switch that white processed bread and pasta for whole grain, stick to lean protein sources and avoid packaged goods where you can.  Here are some tips to help make those school lunches a little easier to plan and implement.

  • Try and prepare ahead of time as much as possible. The more you do ahead, the less rushed you will feel in putting together meals. Buy precut vegetables and snack pack items that can easily be packed and consumed.
  • Always choose complex carbohydrates.  If your kids like cereal for lunch, make sure it has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar (Cheerios and oatmeal are always great choices). Use 100% whole grain bread for sandwiches and avoid snack foods like potato chips and pretzels.
  • Ditch the juice and fruit roll ups! Pack water to keep kids hydrated and have your child eat their fruit. Pack at least one fruit every day.  They will consume less sugar and increase their fiber intake. If they like fruit cut up, you can pre slice an apple and keep it together with a rubber band-the fruit wont turn brown and mushy and its a great snack or buy pre made fruit salad.
  • Include those veggies. Baby carrots, celery sticks, cut up pepper, sliced cucumber….any veggie they like.  Include hummus or ranch dressing for dipping to keep it fun.
  • Always provide a lean protein source.  Whether its grilled chicken, water packed tuna, hard boiled egg, edemame, non fat dairy, peanut butter or whatever you know your child enjoys, always include some source of healthy protein.
  • Build those bones.  Low fat/non fat dairy is always a great choice to include in meals.  Non fat greek yogurt, string cheese, snack packs of cottage cheese are just a few good portable choices.
  • Provide snacks.  Snack packs of almonds, quality snack bars with as few ingredients as possible, such as KIND or Larabar, another serving of fruit, are good choices to pack for kids to eat throughout the day when they get hungry.

Get creative and include your child in their school lunch choices. The more you can incorporate your child into their food selections, the less struggles you will have! School lunches are a great way to give your child the leg up they need for growth, brain function and development.


Mini Grilled Chicken Club

School Lunch and Nutrition


  • 1 small zucchini, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grill
  • 4 chicken cutlets (3/4 pound total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 small sandwich rolls, cut into thirds crosswise
  • 1 small tomato, cut into 8 thin slices



1. Combine zucchini, garlic, basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor; process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl.

2. Preheat a lightly oiled grill over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; grill until golden and cooked through (about 4-5 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board; slice in half. Toast cut sides of rolls on grill until golden on one side (about 1 minute).

3. Top bottoms of rolls with half of chicken and pesto; top with middle piece of roll. Layer rolls with remaining half of ingredients and tomato slices. Top with remaining part of roll. Serve.


Prep: 15 minutes; Cook: 5 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes.

  • Yield: Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Nutritional Information

Calories per serving:


Fat per serving:


Saturated fat per serving:


Monounsaturated fat per serving:


Polyunsaturated fat per serving:


Protein per serving:


Carbohydrates per serving:


Fiber per serving:


Cholesterol per serving:


Iron per serving:


Sodium per serving:


Calcium per serving: