With the Kids

Helping Kids Eat Healthier at School

Guest Post by Andrea Garen of Meals Matter.

Children who eat nutritious foods do better in school, but coming up with healthy back-to-school lunch ideas that children will actually eat can be a challenge for many parents. The key is to balance nutrition with your children’s personal taste by getting them involved in the back-to-school lunch preparation process to reduce food waste.

boy backpack

A nutritionally-balanced lunch combines nutrient-rich foods from several food groups, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products and lean meats.  Including such foods means they’ll be more likely to get the energy and nutrition they need to learn and be healthy. Here’s a few places to find great tips and ideas.

When your children are involved in the planning process they’ll be more likely to eat what is prepared. From picking which sandwich and fruit they bring from home to buying plain or chocolate milk from the school cafeteria, children do better when they help select and prepare their meals.  It’s a simple and effective way to reduce food waste.

school girl lunch

If you’re too busy to prepare lunch you may want to take advantage of your school’s cafeteria. The school lunch is another nutritious and economical option for families. Take a look at the school lunch menu with your child and decide which days your child would like to eat the school meal. Remember, getting their input is always important when you want them to actually eat the meal.

Andrea Garen, M.A., R.D., Project Manager with Dairy Council of California, a sponsor for Meals Matter. She’s shares great tips and tricks for how to help our kids eat a healthier lunch at school.


  1. I teach 3 yr olds and I was thinking about this today. I noticed at lunch time today that of the 12 kids in my class, there were only 2 whose parents had packed either a fruit or a vegetable for lunch. It’s kind of appalling to me. Trying not to be judgmental, but good gravy! Maybe I need to print out this post and post on my door. :)

  2. My kid is a great eater. The problem I’m having is all the other kids look on in disgust as she eats beans and vegetables. There’s a huge social component to sharing lunch time together.

  3. Great tips! I am always looking for new ideas for home lunches. Unfortunately, our school does not have good, nutritious choices for lunch, so I feel like home lunch is our only option until more can be done to improve school lunch there.

  4. I agree. Giving children a sense of power and independence helps them make better choices. Even with my two- year-old we give her options on what to eat sometimes. You can have a banana or yogurt for breakfast.

    I think it’s important to point out that you don’t want to leave these questions open ended. If you do they are more likely to choose sweets and other junk foods. Giving them a few options lets them make the decision for themselves, but keeps the junk out of the equation.

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