In just a few short weeks (or days, as in my case), the kiddos will be hopping on busses and tagging along with friends and heading into classrooms all over the country.  Assuredly, this seasonal rite of passage brings shouts of joy from parents around, but we aren’t quite there yet.  While you’re out back-to-school shopping for pens and paper and those Kleenex boxes, be sure to stock up on smart lunch options for your kids.  Check out the links below, as well as the meal ideas provided:

Five Bento Box Lunches for kids — from Cooking Light

The nutritional information for all these lunches is provided, as well as buying information for the neat lunch gear shown.  Each lunch features one recipe and suggested side items, like fruit, crackers or a treat.

22 Healthy Lunch Ideas — from Cooking Light

From sandwiches, soups, pastas to parfaits, this site has it all.

Lunch Ideas for Preschoolers — from LIVESTRONG

Healthy School Lunches — from Parents

Tips to remember:

-involve your child in lunch-packing; they should have a little input (apple or orange?) based on your pre-selected healthy choices

-letting your child pick out their new lunch box, water bottle and ice pack can go a long way to get them excited about eating right during the school year

-pack it up the night before!  spending ten minutes the night prior will be a lifesaver in the morning

-be sure to include an ice pack if any of your child’s lunch items need to be kept cold

-skip the juice or soda at lunch; stick to water

Don’t forget breakfast!  Their little bodies have gone into ‘fasting mode’ after having not eaten or drinking since dinner the night before; start their morning with a glass of water (perhaps while brushing their teeth) and be sure they get a sensible meal before running out the door.

See below for quick, balanced meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and snacks:


1 slice whole wheat toast/waffle

1 tbsp natural peanut butter

½ banana

1 cup (8 oz.) 1% milk or soymilk (regular or vanilla)


½ cup plain lowfat yogurt

drizzle honey

½ cup berries

¼ cup granola


1 cup cereal (10g sugar or less per serving)

½ cup 1% milk or soymilk (regular or vanilla)

1 banana


open-faced breakfast sandwich (1 slice wheat toast, 1 cooked egg, 1 slice cheese, sliced meat)

1 piece fruit


¼ cup instant oats cooked with ½ cup water

add: ½ mashed ripe banana, splash milk, drizzle maple syrup

1 orange

1 cup (8 oz.) 1% milk or soymilk (regular or vanilla)


1 container (6 oz) yogurt (flavored)

1 slice whole wheat cinnamon raisin toast with 1 tsp butter/jam

1 cup 100% orange juice


1 cheese stick

1 small apple

1 serving crackers/granola bar (ex. Belvita)



½ sandwich: 1 slice whole wheat bread, meat and cheese

½ cup pretzels

1 piece fruit



½ sandwich: 1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and jelly

½ cup cheese crackers

1 piece fruit



½ cup lowfat cottage cheese

½ cup pineapple chunks or peaches

1 caramel-flavored rice cake



1 cup soup in thermos

½ cup crackers

1 piece fruit



1 salad: spinach, ½ cup beans (black or white), 2 tbsp cheese, and additional veggie toppings

2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

1 serving crackers/croutons

1 piece fruit



¼ cup hummus

1 cup assorted cut-up veggies to dip

½ cup applesauce (natural, no sweeteners added)

1 caramel rice cake



 After-School Snack:


1 rice cake with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter



celery ‘ants on a log’ with 2 tbsp natural peanut butter and raisins


1 apple

1 cheese stick


1 packaged ‘bar’ (Clif Kidz, Luna, or other granola-type bar)

1 piece fruit


2 cups slightly seasoned popcorn

1 piece fruit

½ cup 1% milk/soymilk


Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician.  She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related.  An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy.  Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive!  You can find her at