By Adrian Sparrow
NeuLine Health

Whether packing a lunch for yourself or kids going off to school, creating a healthy, filling meal isn’t always easy. When it comes to packing a healthy lunch five days a week, variety is critical. The US Department of Agriculture recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables while including whole grains, varied protein sources, and dairy. You want to avoid empty calories and processed foods that inevitably leave you and your kids feeling sluggish.

There are plenty of things to consider when packing lunch: What cooking resources will you or the kids have access to? What nutritious foods can you pack that will keep for several hours? What sort of storage do you have available? What if you’re in a rush? 

Here are a few easy-to-pack ideas for each group: 

Grains– Crackers, pretzels, whole-grain bread, rice, quinoa, granola, muffins, oatmeal

Fruit– Blueberries, strawberries, apple, banana, grapes, peeled orange

Veggies– broccoli florets, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, cucumber, peas

Protein– nut and seed butter, beans, deli meats, hard-boiled eggs

Dairy– Cheese, yogurt, milk, soy milk


When there’s not much time to pack lunch, stick with whole produce, leftovers, and easy-to-grab packaged snacks (with little or no added sugars) such as cheese sticks, granola bars, and applesauce.

Below are some sample lunch combinations that you and the kids are sure to enjoy: 

Baby carrots


Turkey, cheese, and lettuce on whole-grain bread (or rolled up with whole-grain tortillas)


Broccoli florets

Strawberry slices

Waffle and sunflower butter on the side

Low-fat milk carton



Celery sticks

Peanut butter (or almond butter for a peanut-free zone) 

Raisins (Make ants on a log for the kids!)

Pita chips

Cucumber slices


Mozzarella stick

Orange (peeled)

Arugula with white beans, feta, diced avocado, and sliced tomatoes (with dressing on the side) 

Dried cherries

Whole-wheat pretzels


  1. Mashed avocado, tomato slices, and grilled chicken strips on whole-wheat bread

Cheddar cheese cubes


Chopped vegetables (such as tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli) 


Greek yogurt


Kale with shredded carrots and tuna (in case of a small office or classroom, use chicken to avoid smelling fishy!)

Yogurt-based dressing