School Lunch or Brown Bag: Obvious Choice?

Many people believe that sending a school lunch is always the healthier alternative. Is it? School lunch has been under heavy scrutiny for good reason. However, I have done many diet recalls on children and have seen my share of issues with lunches brought from home as well.

Therefore, I put together the tips below and a chart at the end of this article that get you to think objectively about your child buying vs. bringing a lunch to school.

Addressing The Issues: Brown Bag & School Lunch

If your child is brown bagging:

  • Commit to providing food variety for your child. Even if you believe the same lunch you make is considered healthy, don’t make that same lunch every day. Sit down with your child and discuss menu options that they can get excited about eating. When kids are invited to be part of the planning process, they will feel more inclined to eat the foods you provide. I absolutely love Catherine McCord’s super creative lunch ideas that also make healthy foods fun to eat. Check out her quick video to inspire you on Weelicious.
  • Include a fruit and veggie in your child’s lunch every day. And for vegetables, branch out from carrots! Make a side salad, veggie kabob or even make fun faces out of veggies and provide a nice dip such as hummus for dipping.
  • Concentrate on quality carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, rices and noodles. Low-fat chips are fine sometimes, but try not to use that as the staple carbohydrate in your child’s lunch.
  • Make sure portions are right for your child. Some healthy bagged lunches do not provide enough calories to get your child through the day. On the other hand, too many “healthy” sweets might push your child over the calorie limit recommended for a child’s lunch.
  • Include a low-fat dairy everyday – either a low-fat yogurt, milk or cheese. For those with milk allergy (rare), consider soy products as a good alternative.

If your child is buying a school lunch:

  • Review the school menus with your child. Empower them to make healthy choices on their own. That includes, for example, making the choice not to have ice cream every day. Allow the cafeteria experience to be part of the education experience!
  • Encourage your child to eat the healthier meal items first to maximize their nutritional intake. Remind them that there is a limited amount of time to eat, and that their lunch will help them power out the rest of their day.
  • Become involved in your child’s school lunch menu. Contact their school nutrition department and discuss any concerns you have with them directly.

Comparison Chart: School Lunch vs Brown Bag

The biggest thing I want to highlight is to get involved in the changes happening with school lunches everywhere. Schools get so many negative comments about their food, so when you see an improvement, let them know. Positive changes are slowly occuring, which is certainly something to be celebrated. I am inspired by the changes being made in my city – Dallas, Texas. They have taken out many high calorie/low nutrient foods out and have added quality foods in their place. And now, a new initiative is on the horizon where Dallas Independent School District will be collaborating with Registered Dietitians from the Dallas Dietetic Association to educate freshman students on nutrition. These are the wonderfully positive things that are happening in my area. What about yours? Encourage positive change by recommending practical solutions that your school district can implement. Help to be part of the solution – for the sake of our children!

About the Author

Angela Lemond, RD, CSP, LD is a mother of two precious children. She also is a devoted wife, entrepreneur and a woman striving to live the healthy life. As a Registered and Licensed Dietitian that is Board Certified as a Specialist in Pediatrics, she knows that knowledge is one it out is another! Angela shares her tips for mothers and families on Follow her as she learns the tricks of the trade combining knowledge with living it out.


5 Responses to “School Lunch or Brown Bag: Obvious Choice?”

  1. Rosie Reeves Rosie says:

    Our school currently doesn’t even have a cafeteria! On the bright side, I don’t have to argue with them about why they can’t buy pizza every day!

  2. Manda says:

    I always just pack my kids a brown bag lunch. I just feel that it saves money and also, they probably don’t have to wait in a long line in order to get their lunch since it’s already packed and ready for them to eat.

  3. My school’s lunches are actually healthier than what my son eats but if I try to get him to eat there he just won’t eat so we’re still working on what to send with him. He can’t have dairy and sandwiches get soggy so it’s a work in progress.

  4. Mommy Dietitian Angela Lemond says:


    Have you tried to go over the school menus with your son and work out some choices together? Empowering kids to make healthy choices so they can run faster or allow their brains to work better are great motivators for them. Also, sandwiches can be saved by using some good cold insulation. I like the reusable ice mats at The Container Store to keep foods nice and fresh for home made lunches. You can check them out at:

    Happy Eating!

    Mommy Dietitian

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