healthy mealshealthy meals

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids Going Back-to-School

Kids heading back to school? Here are a few healthy and wholesome lunch ideas that you can pack for your kids!

Kids Heading Back-to-School?

Getting back into the groove of busy school schedules can bring an array of different emotions! Shopping for school supplies, new outfits, and planning lunches can be exciting and a bit overwhelming. Preparing your kids for school each morning becomes a routine and planning healthy meals for lunches or snacks can become difficult.

Healthy Ideas for Back-to-School Kids Lunches

When planning healthy lunches for your kids, it’s important to think about packing a choice of protein for a balanced diet. A few healthy protein options to consider are turkey, chicken, beef, pork loin, or fish. Each of these proteins is lean and assists in building muscle growth. If you’d like to opt for a plant-based protein, a few great options to consider are tofu, chia seeds, quinoa, or lentils.


Benefits of Traditional Protein for Kids:

  • Turkey is low in fat and rich in protein. This is a good option for your kids if you’re looking for a lean meat. Turkey also supplies a good source of minerals and vitamin B.
  • Chicken, specifically breast or skinless cuts, can have nearly 30 grams of protein per every 3.5 ounces. White meat chicken offers the leanest meat and is lower in fat than dark meat chicken.
    • Chicken is easily kid-friendly and versatile as it can be cooked and prepared in a wide array of options. A few healthy recipe ideas include homemade chicken nuggets, casseroles, lettuce wraps, chicken burgers, or salads.
  • Beef, especially lean ground beef, can be an excellent choice for kid’s lunches. Lean beef typically has less than 10 grams of fat. Healthy lunch ideas incorporating lean beef options would be sliced sirloin, tenderloin, or eye of round roast.
    • Ground beef is versatile and easy to incorporate into kid-friendly recipes that the whole family can enjoy. A few ideas include ground beef tacos, casseroles, and pasta dishes.
  • Pork loin is a lean and often inexpensive protein option. Usually, this cut of meat has less than 10 grams of fat and is the leanest cut of pork. This is a great option for kid’s lunches as it’s a source of vitamin B and zinc.
  • Fish, especially white-fleshed fish, is extremely lean and an excellent protein choice as this type of fish contains less than 3 grams of fat and up to 25 grams of protein per serving. Examples of white-fleshed fish are cod, haddock, grouper, halibut, tilapia, and bass.


Benefits of Plant-Based Protein for Kids:

  • Tofu is a great option for plant-based protein as each 4 oz serving has about 15 grams of protein. Tofu is also adaptable for kids as it can easily absorb the taste of their favorite sauces or spices.
    • If you’re looking to introduce your kids to a similar texture to traditional meat, firm or extra firm tofu is a great option.
  • Chia Seeds are a wholesome choice of plant-based protein for kids as they have 3.5 grams of protein per two tablespoons.
    • One of the best ways to incorporate chia seeds for kids is chia seed pudding. This pudding is often made with plant-based milk, and maple syrup, and topped with your choice of fruit. An alternative idea for no added sugar could be banana chia seed pudding which incorporates a ripe banana with chia seeds.
  • Quinoa is considered a complete protein as it has 9 essential amino acids and offers 8 grams of protein per cup.
    • Quinoa can appeal to kids by being incorporated into patties, quinoa fried rice, or a fritter.
  • Lentils are packed with a ton of protein, offering about 18 grams of protein per cup. Lentils are an excellent option for plant-based protein and can be versatile and kid-friendly.


When thinking about lunches for your kids, meal prepping is a good option to avoid rushing in the morning to throw something together. To help with meal prepping one of these proteins for your kids, try asking about their favorite colors and choose corresponding containers to make them feel excited about their lunch. A bento-style container is also helpful to pack everything together and prevent foods from touching.

Healthy Snack Ideas Your Kids Can Bring With Them

A different approach to packing healthy back-to-school lunches is to incorporate your kids when planning their meals throughout the week. You can do this by preparing juice boxes, grab-and-go fruit, healthy pre-packaged chips, granola bars, or sweets such as yogurt to be readily available.

By preparing a group of parent-approved options for your kids, they’ll be able to grab what they like and pack their lunch box each morning directly from the fridge or pantry. This option increases a sense of responsibility, independence, and creativity in kids.

Learn More About Healthy Living with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati

Packing healthy lunches for your kids heading back to school can be easy! If you’d like to learn more about keeping up with healthy eating or easy food swaps for healthier eating, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati is here to support you and your family with living and feeling your best.

YMCA of Greater Cincinnati