Healthy Lunch Menu Ideas For Schools

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Having to invent healthy lunch menu ideas for schools is a pretty thankless job at times. It can become very dull when you have to try and come up with new lunch menus every week. They don’t seem to change, and you get tired of the same old thing. This is often the case with lunch menus, but you can always break the mould by changing it up a bit.

Healthy Lunch Menu Ideas For Schools

Appendix MSample Menus

This appendix contains four weeks of sample menus for breakfast and lunch for elementary, middle, and high school and a prototype of a menu checking tool developed by the committee. In some cases in the menus that follow, food descriptions are more limited than they should be when planning actual menus. The committee did not have access to a complete, up-to-date nutrient data base that covers all the many food products available for use in school meals, and these products differ somewhat among school districts. See discussion of limitations of the nutrient analyses in under “Criterion 1” in Chapter 9. The food items used in the menus were derived from the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment study database and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies.

LIST OF TABLES

  • Table M-1 Sample Breakfast Menus: Elementary School
  • Table M-2 Sample Breakfast Menus: Middle School
  • Table M-3 Sample Breakfast Menus: High School
  • Table M-4 Sample Lunch Menus: Elementary School
  • Table M-5 Sample Lunch Menus: Middle School
  • Table M-6 Sample Lunch Menus: High School
  • Table M-7 Menu Checking Tool Prototype
TABLE M-1. Sample Breakfast Menus: Elementary School.

TABLE M-1

Sample Breakfast Menus: Elementary School.

TABLE M-2. Sample Breakfast Menus: Middle School.

TABLE M-2

Sample Breakfast Menus: Middle School.

TABLE M-3. Sample Breakfast Menus: High School.

TABLE M-3

Sample Breakfast Menus: High School.

TABLE M-4. Sample Lunch Menus: Elementary School.

TABLE M-4

Sample Lunch Menus: Elementary School.

TABLE M-5. Sample Lunch Menus: Middle School.

TABLE M-5

Sample Lunch Menus: Middle School.

TABLE M-6. Sample Lunch Menus: High School.

TABLE M-6

Sample Lunch Menus: High School.

TABLE M-7. Menu Checking Tool Prototype.

TABLE M-7

Menu Checking Tool Prototype.

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PURPOSE OF THE SAMPLE MENUS

The sample menus that appear in this appendix are meant to illustrate how the recommended standards for meal planning may be translated into menus in a variety of circumstances. They are not intended to serve as cycle menus. Sample menus were planned using the recommended standards for meal planning (Table S-2). Additional elements that were considered included the following:

  • Customer appeal and preferences
    • Color and appearance on the line
    • Variety in flavors and food textures
    • Combinations that go well together
    • Examples of selections that may reflect
      • Region of country
      • Demographics (age of students, ethnic background, religious considerations)
  • Cost
  • Examples that may be suitable for food service operations that differ in
    • Organizational structure (kitchen and cafeteria)
    • Equipment
    • Staff
    • School environment—serving and eating space and time

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE SAMPLE MENUS

c
Cup
g
Grams
LC
Low-calorie
LF
Low-fat
LS
Low-sodium
oz
Ounce
RC
Reduced-calorie
RF
Reduced-fat
T
Tablespoon
WG
Whole grain
WW
Whole wheat

Menu Planning Ideas and Samples

Meals are required to meet nutrition standards. As part of the changes required by congressional reauthorization of the program in 2010, National School Lunch Program nutrition standards were updated to more closely match the Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Within their cost constraints, school food service programs face continuing challenges to provide healthy and appealing meals that encourage student participation.

In response to concerns about the role of the school meal environment in children’s diets and other issues, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established updated nutrition standards for school meals and for non-U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) foods (often called “competitive foods”) sold at schools participating in USDA’s school meal programs. The legislation authorized an additional 7-cent payment for each lunch meal when schools demonstrated that they were serving meals that meet the new standards.

To assist program sponsors with planning and offering a variety of nutritious foods that are age and program appropriate, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness is providing this webpage to assist menu planners with resources and ideas to improve menu service and meal planning.

After School Snack

Breakfast

Lunch

Lunch Specialty Menu Plan Samples

Lunch Ideas for Kids at Home or for School

Creative Options for the Pickiest of Eaters to the More Adventurous

Kids have their own ideas about what makes a great lunch, which can be a challenge for parents who want them to eat healthy. If you’re looking for nutritious ideas that children will actually enjoy and finish, try these recipes that are sure to win approval from the short set. From pizza pockets and veggie fried rice to macaroni muffins and hummus wraps, these dishes go way beyond the typical ham and cheese sandwich. Not only will the tasty options please even the pickiest of young eaters, but many are also suitable for kids eating vegan, gluten free, egg free, or dairy free.

Many of these recipes are also quick to put together and make a great packed or on-the-go lunch for adults, too.

Vegan Hummus Avocado Wrap

Vegan Hummus Avocado Wrap

Use ripe avocado or even leftover guacamole, and protein-rich hummus to make these vegan hummus avocado wraps. Add some sprouts or salad greens for crunch, but if sending to school, leave out the tomato to avoid sogginess. Plain hummus is delicious here, but a flavored variety, like roasted red pepper, will also work nicely.

Vegan Asian Rice Salad

Cold Asian Rice Salad

A healthy vegan Asian rice salad with plenty of vegetables is a fabulous way to give vegan kids a boost of energy at lunchtime. Brown rice is full of protein and fiber,1 and kids love the crunchy texture and sweet and sour flavors of the dressing. Carrots, snow peas, celery, bell pepper, and green onion make this rice salad bright and colorful, but feel free to swap any out for your kids’ favorites

Kid-Friendly Energy Bites

Kid-Friendly Energy Bites

Skip the store-bought, highly-processed, sugar-loaded confections and make your own kid-friendly energy bites at home instead! With just a handful of wholesome ingredients (and a bit of chocolate), these energy bites can be mixed up in a matter of minutes. The peanut butter provides a boost of protein while the oatmeal offers some fiber, meaning these energy bites will leave your little one feeling full and satisfied through the rest of the day.

Cheesy Meatball Bombs

Meatball Bombs

These cheesy meatball bombs that start with packaged biscuit dough explode with flavor. Filled with the Italian favorites of meatballs, tomato sauce, and Parmesan cheese, your kids will think they’ve won the lottery. When using leftover meatballs or pre-made frozen, this recipe comes together quickly. Serve these meatball bombs with some marinara on the side for dipping

The Ultimate Avocado Toast

avocado toasts on a plate

Kids love creamy avocado, and this easy toast recipe is a hit. The ultimate avocado toast can be served simply as is or layered with slices of crispy bacon to make a great open-faced lunch sandwich. If packing up for school, you may want to add another piece of toasted bread on top to avoid messy travel and eating.

Easy Meatloaf Muffins

Meatloaf Muffins

Give kids a comforting, home-style lunch with this recipe for cute easy meatloaf muffins that are made from a classic meatloaf mixture baked in muffin tins. The ketchup topping is sure to be a draw for the little ones, and the fact that they can eat their lunch with their hands makes it fun.

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

A thermos full of chicken noodle soup is the next best thing to a hug from mom. Make this tasty soup on the weekend and freeze it in individual portions for heating and packing into a thermos for school lunches any day of the week. This recipe is the real deal, starting with chicken pieces, but also includes some chicken broth (along with water) for an extra boost of rich flavor.

Pasta Salad With Chicken and Spinach

Pasta Salad With Chicken and Spinach

Send yours to school with this packed pasta salad full of chicken, spinach, tomatoes, and other crunchy veggies. Use cooked leftover chicken, canned chicken, or rotisserie chicken for this tasty salad recipe. The recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to change some of the ingredients to suit your child’s taste.

Pepperoni Pizza Sliders

Pepperoni Pizza Sliders

Your kids will cheer when they sit down to these pepperoni pizza sliders, which layer ingredients from a pepperoni pie onto slider buns to create mini-pizza sandwiches. They can easily be made ahead and then baked and pulled apart for lunchtime. The combination of cheese, sauce, and pepperoni, with a garlic butter brushed on the roll, also makes for the perfect after-school snack.

Salmon and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Salmon and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Cream cheese and smoked salmon have traditionally been a favorite topping for bagels, but this combination can also make a wonderful filling for finger sandwiches. This recipe is a quick and easy addition to a light lunch for your more adventurous eater. Place the tea sandwiches in a cold bag with an ice pack to keep them chilled until it’s time to eat.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Old-Fashioned Vegetable Beef Soup

Cook up a big pot of this warming vegetable beef soup on the weekend for thermos lunches. The recipe is packed with potatoes, green beans, carrots, celery, and onion, but you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand, such as corn or zucchini. The recipe freezes well so divide the soup into portions, freeze, thaw, and heat for quick lunch prep.

Vegetable Lasagna

Low-Fat Vegan Eggplant Lasagna

Make a nutritious vegetable lasagna on the weekend and freeze it in individual portions for easy weekday meals. Prep by heating a piece in the microwave and wrapping it in aluminum foil before placing it in insulated lunch bags and lunchboxes. This recipe is ideal for hiding veggies—those finicky kids of yours won’t even know they’ve had a healthy lunch.

Honeyed Fruit Salad

Honeyed Fruit Salad

For those hot days when kids often crave a lighter lunch, this sweetened honeyed fruit salad with honey, lemon, and just a little sugar does the trick (eliminate the white wine). Use whatever fruit is in season being sure to include your kids’ favorites. Pack it into a plastic or glass container and add some cheese cubes and crackers to their lunch bags as a delicious snack.

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