Back to School: Preparing Healthy Lunches

By Guest Author: David Novak, Contributing Editor for Healthline



Whether you’re packing your own lunch or one for every child in the house, there are real challenges when thinking about your midday meal.  You certainly want healthy options that keep you full enough to stay away from the candy and soda machines come mid-afternoon.

There’s also a real need to prepare those lunches ahead of time so you’re not racing in the morning to figure out what is tasty and nutritious.  Finally, how can you consistently prepare tasty lunches day after day?  After all, if it doesn’t taste good, drive-throughs and vending machines start to look pretty good after a while.

Yes, it can be difficult to eat healthy all the time, especially during lunchtime when McDonalds and Burger King are calling your name.  A lot of folks miss one of the best times to sneak in healthy foods, and the noon meal happens to be the most optimal time to eat healthy.  Why?  Because lunch fuels you for the other half of the day, a time when many are sluggish and fatigued.  And secondly, lunch gives you plenty of time to digest that food throughout the day and before you hit the sack so you’re food is not sitting in your stomach during the night.

Components of a Healthy Lunch

The most important part of a healthy lunch is to include a few key components:

  • At least one to two servings of vegetables and fruits
  • A serving of protein
  • A source of dairy
  • A serving of complex carbohydrates.

Try to find creative and different ways to mix varieties of these foods together to keep things interesting, and make them more tantalizing to your taste buds. Just eating an apple or banana isn’t likely to do a lot of good for the long haul.  You want to get to a point where you’re actually looking forward to what you’ve prepared for lunchtime, and you’re ready to dig in every time.

Try These Combos

Try fruit salads, or even green salads with cut up fresh veggies and seeds, with a little dressing.

Although protein is important, skip the grocery store lunchmeat.  It’s processed and contains a bunch of preservatives, salt and sugar that aren’t exactly great for you. Rather as a protein dish, use leftovers from dinner if there are any, like meatloaf, or hard boiled eggs, or even a peanut butter sandwich. And there are a whole host of other protein ideas as well. Cashew, almond and sunflower butters are all carried by most grocery stores these days, and they are protein-rich and delicious.

A pasta salad with meat or tuna and fresh fruits or veggies is also a great idea to keep things interesting.  Dump a little yogurt in there, and you’ve satisfied all of the groups recommended to include in your lunch: fruit and veggies, protein, dairy and complex carbs.  Chicken goes well with apples, grapes, celery and walnuts, for instance.  For leftover beef, try tomatoes, celery, corn and onions; for tuna, consider carrots, onions, celery and red bell peppers; and so on.

Just Remember….

Sometimes the schedules get too tight, or planning meals feels like too much. Or maybe, during your planning, you could prepare for an unhealthy lunch.  It’s not recommended that you go completely military with your lunch choices.  Instead, choose mostly healthy foods and allow yourself something sweet now and then to break the monotony.  Finding good food opportunities and healthy lunches can be something we over analyze or under analyze. So, you really need to find a happy medium.  Most people love to eat and socialize. Sometimes, we need to combine the two in the healthiest way possible.

Click here for more healthy lunch ideas.

About the Author

David Novak

David Novak

David Novak is an international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit




Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.

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