Back to school breakfast and lunch ideas

Published 5:33 pm Friday, August 30, 2019

Written by Heather Eads

As kids head back to school, remember that breakfast and lunch are both equally important in your child’s overall health and performance. Studies show that many kids do not eat breakfast in the morning. Eating breakfast can help your child focus and concentrate more during the school day. It also provides important nutrients for their growth and development. While packing a lunch that is nutritious and pleasing can be a challenge, setting routines and providing healthy options will set your child up for success. Try some of these tips this school year.

Aim to provide a balanced breakfast. A balanced breakfast contains carbohydrates, preferably a whole grain, protein and a fruit or vegetable. Eating whole grain carbohydrates with protein can provide more sustained energy and fullness throughout the morning. Remember, meal planning and preparation can help encourage healthy eating behaviors and make busy school mornings less stressful. Try to carve out time over the weekend to plan breakfast for the upcoming week. You may need to prepare the night before, or wake up 15 minutes earlier to have time for breakfast, but the benefits are well worth it. Try these easy breakfast ideas:

  • Instant oatmeal made with low-fat milk instead of water. Add cinnamon, dried or fresh fruit and chopped nuts.
  • Egg on a whole-wheat English muffin, bread or pita. Add a slice of cheese or tomato.
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies and serve with 100% whole-wheat toast and fruit.
  • Try a breakfast burrito with eggs, black beans and salsa in a whole-wheat wrap.
  • Low-fat yogurt with fresh or dried fruit and nuts. Make a parfait with fresh berries and crunchy cereal.
  • 100% whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced banana.
  • Small bowl of whole grain unsweetened cereal with low fat milk and side of fruit.
  • Toaster waffle or pancake topped with peanut butter or nut butter and apple slices.

Your child may eat lunch at home, lunch prepared by their school or a packed lunch box. If your child is eating lunch prepared by their school, take a look at their meal choices ahead of time. Talk about all the options and circle what he or she may like. Discuss balanced meals with your child and importance of eating from all the food groups.
If your child is eating a packed lunch box, be sure to include him or her in the process. Ask your child what he or she would like in their lunch. Aim to provide lunches that have a protein, grain, fruit and vegetable. Calcium-rich foods or beverages are also important! These include milk, cheese, yogurt and ready-to-eat pudding. Good sources of calcium also include broccoli, oranges, greens and almonds.
It can be helpful to make a list of what foods your child likes from each food group. Use this to make a checklist that helps you and your child select foods for their lunches. It is common for children to be picky eaters, so you may need to provide similar (or the same) foods every day in their lunch to help them through this time.

Some healthy lunch options include:

  • Protein: turkey, chicken, ham, cheese, yogurt (also a source of dairy), hummus, hard boiled eggs, tuna or chicken salad, peanut butter, nuts and seeds or beans.
  • Grains: 100% whole wheat bread, tortilla or pita bread; pasta, crackers, low-sugar granola bars, popcorn or ready-to-eat unsweetened cereal.
  • Fruits: apples, oranges, banana, berries, pineapple, watermelon, pears, unsweetened applesauce or peaches.
  • Vegetables: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber slices, broccoli or a salad.

Meal planning and preparation can make the school week easier for you! Use your checklist to make a grocery list. Let them choose food items at the grocery store. When a child gets to choose, they are more likely to eat it. Try to prepare foods ahead of time by cutting fruits and vegetables, and place items in bags or reusable containers. A designated drawer or space in your refrigerator for lunch items can make it easy to grab lunch foods and beverages.

Heather Eads, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. She can be reached at or 252-948-4937.