Back to School: Tips for Packing a Healthier Lunchbox

School lunch

It’s probably an understatement to say that a kid’s ideal lunch is a little different than their parent’s.

But you won’t get anywhere if one side insists on Chips Ahoy and the other hard-lines at carrot sticks. There are some ways to compromise that result in a lunchbox with a healthier spread.

Nyree Dardarian is an assistant clinical professor of Nutrition Sciences at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions and has some kids of her own. As such, she knows some of the battles — and how to send kids to school with a reasonably healthy but tasty lunch.

Kids Say: Peanut butter and nutella sandwich on Wonderbread

Parents Say: Peanut butter and banana on a whole grain bagel

Nutella may be marketed as a healthy alternative, but try for something that doesn’t really need the marketing. Bananas are a good source of vitamins, particularly B6, as well as other nutrients, like manganese and potassium.

And get in a quality, high-fiber concentrate. A whole grain bagel is a good option.

Kids Say: Potato chips

Parents Say: Baked chips

Baked chips taste just as good as regular potato chips and have much fewer calories and less fat. Beware of veggie straws: They are almost 50 percent fat, similar to regular potato chips.

Try to avoid popcorn, too. It’s tough on the teeth for lunch, especially if your kid has braces.

Kids say: Brownies

Parents Say: Bite-size brownies

Brownies are not a no-no, but try to keep it bite-sized.

Kids Say: Fruit Snacks

Parents Say: Orange slices, grapes, or frozen Go-gurt

Fruit snacks are a little too sticky for school — again, think braces — and raisins are, too. But orange slices and grapes off the stem are clean to eat and hold up well in a lunchbox.

Calcium is the nutrient most often missing from the lunchbox, so a frozen Go-gurt will work, especially since they usually stay pretty frozen until lunchtime.

Kids Say: Capri-sun

Parents Say: Water

Dehydration throughout the day will lead to poorer concentration. Even if you decide to pack milk to get that calcium in (try to stick to low-fat varieties), add a small water bottle.

Media interested in speaking to Dardarian should contact Frank Otto at 215.571.4244 or

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