Lunch Box Alternatives for Kids All Ages | Patient and Family Education | UC Davis Children Hospital

Lunch box alternatives for kids of all ages

Download Healthy Food Choices for Kids information sheet (PDF)

Lunch bag

Building a Healthy Lunch

A healthy lunch includes a whole grain, protein, fruit, and vegetable. Send your child to school with water or milk to drink with lunch. This will teach him or her to avoid sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks, and soda.

Mix and match these foods for new, healthy lunch combos:

Whole grains

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pita pocket
  • Whole wheat bagel
  • Whole grain crackers


  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hummus
  • Beans


  • Mandarin orange
  • Watermelon
  • Banana
  • Mixed berries
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Nectarine


  • Cucumber slices
  • Broccoli
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Cauliflower
  • Jicama

Here Are 2 Weeks of School Lunches for You to Try!

Week 1

Day 1

  • Tuna salad on whole wheat bread
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Strawberries

Day 2

  • Pita Pizza*
  • Watermelon cubes
  • Broccoli florets

Day 3

  • Cheese quesadilla on whole wheat tortilla
  • Hummus
  • Carrot sticks

Day 4

  • Sun Butter and Banana Bites*
  • Baby carrots
  • String cheese

Day 5

  • Turkey wrap with lettuce, cheese, hummus and shredded carrots on a whole wheat tortilla
  • Greek yogurt with berries

Week 2

Day 6

  • Whole wheat pita pocket sandwich with grilled chicken, cucumbers, lettuce, and Tzatziki sauce
  • Apple slices

Day 7

  • Ham sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Applesauce

Day 8

  • Chicken Pasta Salad*
  • Greek yogurt
  • Berries

Day 9

  • Whole wheat bagel sandwich with cream cheese and sliced turkey
  • Baby carrots
  • Strawberries

Day 10

  • Quinoa salad* with feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and sliced cucumbers
  • Grilled chicken strips
Recipes to Try

Sun Butter & Banana Bites

Whole wheat tortilla + Sunflower seed butter + Banana

Recipe: Lay tortilla flat and spread 1-2 Tablespoons sunflower seed butter across the surface. Place peeled banana on the
tortilla. Wrap the tortilla around the banana. Slice into bite size pieces (like sushi) or eat whole (like a burrito).

Pita Pizza

Whole wheat pita bread + Pizza or pasta sauce + Shredded mozzarella cheese + Your child’s favorite vegetable toppings

Recipe: Cover 1 side of pita bread with 1-2 Tablespoons sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake in oven or toaster oven at 350°F until the cheese melts. Allow pizza to cool before packing.

Fun tip: Try using a whole wheat English muffin or bagel instead of pita bread!

Chicken Pasta Salad

Cooked pasta + Grilled chicken + Broccoli slaw + Cherry tomatoes + Italian Dressing

Recipe: Cut or shred chicken. Mix all ingredients and toss with Italian dressing.

Fun tip: Use different types and shapes of pasta to keep salads fun – try whole wheat bow tie or penne pastas and macaroni noodles. Mix in different vegetables to add more color!

Quinoa Salad

Cooked quinoa + Feta cheese + Cherry tomatoes + Sliced cucumbers + Olive oil + Lemon juice

Recipe: To cook quinoa, follow directions on packaging. Once cooked quinoa is cool, add cheese, vegetables, oil and lemon juice, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Safety Tips

Some children may have allergies and cannot eat or be near certain food items. Check with your child’s school to find out if it is safe to pack peanuts, tree nuts, or nut butters in your child’s lunch.

Pack your child’s lunch with an ice pack to help cold foods stay cold. If the lunch cannot be kept cold, do not pack foods that may become unsafe to eat, like milk, cheese, yogurt, egg, or deli meats.