Back to school lunch planning? Turn to MyPlate

Most US children attend school for at least six hours every day and consume half of their calories there so it’s important for kids to practice healthy habits at school. It may seem like summer is only half over, but many schools start back up again in early August. Yep, it’s time to start thinking about healthy school lunches. Luckily, we have some tools for you to use.

Girls playing outside with hula hoops

Sometimes we know we should pack a healthy lunch for our kids but struggle to define what healthy really means. There’s a tool to help and lots of resources that go with it: MyPlate.

MyPlate illustration

In 2011, the USDA created the MyPlate structure, a balance of five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. The plate-shaped graphic is meant to show how an average plate should be portioned out for proper nutrition during meals. The USDA has a list for each of the food groups (fruitsvegetablesgrainsprotein, and dairy) in case you have questions about what fits where. You can see that fully half of the plate is consumed by fruits and vegetables, which can be easy to include in a lunchbox. Before school gets going and your family’s schedule gets too crazy, take some time to sample fruits and vegetables with your kids so you can make choices for their lunch that you know they’ll eat. Sometimes kids have to try something over and over before they develop a taste for it, so don’t give up if they don’t take to cucumber slices on asparagus spears on the first try. Keep trying!

Fruit kebabs with yogurt

Make their healthy food even more appealing by cutting sandwiches into fun shapes or creating designs out of fruits and vegetables. And be sure not to ruin a healthy lunch with a sugary drink – stick to water or milk.

Girl drinks water from a glass

Our friends at the American Heart Association have some more great tips here. And WebMD has some good suggestions for swapping in healthier versions of common foods. Visit our Resource Hub for additional materials like this and this.

A healthy lunch full of fruits and vegetables