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Packing a Healthy Lunchbox

Healthy lunch box

The Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate was created as a fun and easy guide to encourage children to eat well and keep moving. The plate’s guidelines emphasize variety and quality in food choices. The formula is simple: fill half your plate (or lunch box) with colorful fruits or vegetables (aim for two to three different types), one-quarter with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with healthy proteins. Healthy fats and a small amount of dairy (if desired) round out a tasty meal that will fuel an active, healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Eating plate


  1. Choose any 1 fresh fruit. For example: grapes, apple slices or rings, any melon chunks (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), any berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), or banana slices.
  2. Choose any 2 vegetablesFor example: carrot coins or sticks, cucumber, broccoli, bell pepper strips, asparagus spears, summer squash ribbons, or grape tomatoes.
  3. Choose any 1 healthy protein. For example: Beans, edamame, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, hummus, veggie burger, roasted turkey or chicken slices, or a hardboiled egg.
  4. Choose any 1 whole grainFor example: whole grain pasta, bread, and crackers, brown ricequinoasteel-cut oats, and other minimally-processed whole grains.
  5. Incorporating dairy (if desired)For example: unflavored milk, plain Greek yogurt, small amounts of cheese like cottage cheese, and string cheese. For dairy-free options, try soy milk and soy yogurt, which contain similar amounts of calcium, protein, and vitamin D as dairy milk.


  • Kabobs: Cut fruits, vegetables, and proteins into cubes or small balls and insert onto a skewer with rounded or blunt edges.
  • Bento boxes: Lunchboxes that contain several small divided containers are great for portion control, keeping foods separate (if kids prefer foods not touching), and encouraging a variety of foods.
  • Themes:
    • Mexican = beans and brown rice, whole grain tortilla chips, homemade guacamole or salsa made with diced tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro.
    • Chinese = chicken strips and broccoli florets served with brown rice and low-sodium soy dipping sauce.
    • Pizza = whole grain pita or crackers, grape tomatoes, and bell peppers, mozzarella string cheese, chicken slices.
    • Green = edamame, cucumber coins, butter lettuce rolled in a spinach wrap spread with mashed ripe avocado. Sprinkle sunflower seeds or nuts for extra crunch and nutrients.
    • Eat a Rainbow = red grape tomatoes, orange hummus, yellow cheese, green cucumbers and bell peppers, blueberries, purple grapes.
  • Shapes: Cut sandwiches into triangles or smaller squares, or use cookie cutters. Mini cookie cutters can transform apples, watermelon, or cantaloupe into juicy heart or star shapes. A vegetable peeler makes elegant ribbons of any firm long vegetable. Carefully use a knife to cut sticks of carrot or bell pepper.

Go for Water

Don’t forget to pack a water bottle for refilling throughout the school day. Water is not only the best choice, but a necessary one. It restores fluids lost through everyday tasks of breathing, sweating, and even digesting meals. It keeps the body’s temperature normal on hot days and carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells. It is also free of calories, sugar, and caffeine, and other additives found in sugary drinks. Beyond plain water, flavored and unsweetened seltzer or fruit-infused waters are also great healthy beverage choices.


Healthy Living Guide


Super Snacks

Snacks are meant to fill the gap between meals, not become a whole meal in itself. Keep snacks small. An easy rule of thumb for a satisfying snack is to pair a protein-rich food with a carb-rich food. Including a healthy fat will quiet hunger pangs even more. Depending on the child’s age and activity level, they may need one or two snacks a day.


  • ¼ cup nuts, 1 cup shredded mini whole wheat squares (with no added sugar)
  • Apple slices, ½ cup chickpeas roasted in olive oil and spices [get the recipe]
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds or nuts, ¼ cup dried apricots, cherries, or raisins (with no added sugar)
  • String cheese, 1 cup of grapes
  • ½ cup blueberries or strawberries, 5 ounces of plain Greek yogurt
  • Peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter spread on a small 100% whole-wheat pita
  • Carrot sticks or sliced veggies, hummus

For more tasty snack and meal recipes, visit the Food, Fun & Family Recipe Packet created by the Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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