Back-to-School Meatless Monday: 5 Guidelines to Pack a Healthy Lunch

Since many schools don't have healthy lunch options for kids, make back-to-school the time to kick off a good habit: pack a healthy lunch for work or school.

Unlike foods high in sugar which may curb hunger in the short-term but later, leave you sluggish, fresh fruitsvegetables, and whole grains are packed with important vitamins and minerals that will help students concentrate and give them energy.

With 1 in 3 children in America overweight or obese, teaching our kids how to make smart food choices is a family and national priority. Packing your hijo a nutritious lunch does more than provide fuel for one afternoon, it also teaches the components of a healthy diet.


5 Guidelines for a Healthy Lunch

  1. Make 1/2 of your meal fruits and veggies: The United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate Campaign recommends ½ of your plate should be frutas and verduras. My lunch often includes raw vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers with hummus and a fruit salad of chopped apples, bananas, and oranges. Make a balanced meal by adding a serving of protein and whole grains.
  2. Skip the processed foods: While convenient, packaged foods including chips, cookies, and processed meats often contain extra sodium, fat, and sugars and can be harmful to your health. Replace gummy fruit snacks with sweet strawberries for a nutritious alternative.
  3. Pack healthy options that your kids (or you) will want to eat: If Yunior hates lima beans but loves zucchini, serve the squash! When your lunchbox contains healthy favorites, the good-for-you comida is less likely to be swapped in the lunchroom or replaced with a vending machine treat.
  4. Drink water: That obesity rates have spiked is no surprise if you consider that sugary drinks such as soda and juice are the largest source of calories in the American diet. Stay hydrated and healthy with agua. Enhance the sabor of your H2O by adding fruit or choose a healthy drink like green tea which I recommend in Nutrition: 5 Easy Ways to Add More Water to your Diet.
  5. Properly store your food: Most students will not have access to a refrigerator to store lunches. Use insulated lunch boxes or check out these lunch ideas that do not need to be refrigerated.


Mornings crazy busy? Make lunches and even prep a nutritious breakfast as a part of a night-before routine.

To get kids excited to eat their packed lunch, let them help prepare healthy dishes.

Eating nutritious foods is muy importante to your salud to feel great and develop a healthy and strong body. That's motivation to choose nutritious foods at lunch and every meal.

¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.

The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner FierroA teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What are your favorite foods to pack in your lunch?