Tips for packing a healthy school lunch


submitted by: Danielle Labonté RD, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

Children spend about 40% of their waking hours at school, so the meals and snacks they eat there are a major source of the energy and nutrients they need to grow, learn, play and develop. Most schools have a meal or snack program that is available for all students; talk to your child’s teacher or principal to learn more about what is offered at your school.

When packing a school lunch, try to pack at least 3 of the 4 food groups. A homemade pizza using a mini whole grain pita, pasta sauce, cooked chicken breast, peppers and cheese includes a choice from each food group: Vegetables and Fruit, Meat & Alternatives, Grains, and Milk & Alternatives. Try to avoid packing processed and pre-packaged foods like dry noodle or soup mixes, canned pastas, processed meats and pre-packaged sandwiches or lunch “kits”. These foods are often lower in important vitamins, minerals and nutrients like fibre and higher in added sugar, salt and fat.

For drinks, white milk, unsweetened, fortified soy beverage and plain water are the best choices for everyone. Juices, flavoured milks and fortified soy beverages (e.g., chocolate), energy drinks and sports drinks are high in sugar that kids do not need. Even 100% fruit juice or “no sugar added” fruit juices have a lot of natural sugar. Energy drinks should not be offered as they are high in caffeine and other ingredients that are not safe for children.
For more ideas on packing a school lunch, check out our “What’s For Lunch?” resources by typing in the search bar at, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or call 1-800-660-5853.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here