Lunches & Healthy Eating

At the Cooperative School we work with families and children to create healthy eating habits.  We provide the following resources and ideas for your information. We are always open to your suggestions and ideas as well. Please feel free to share what works for you.


Phrases that HELP and HINDER

Adapted from these resources:

Cold Entrees
•    Rolled slices of deli meats and cheese and crackers
•    Bagel and cream cheese
•    Pasta salad
•    Cereal in a bowl with milk in a thermos
•    Fresh fruit and yogurt or cottage cheese
•    Corn muffin and fruit
•    Roll up sandwich
•    Tuna sandwich
•    Hardboiled eggs
•    Soy butter and honey pocket sandwich
•    Bagel with low fat cream cheese & smoked salmon

Warm cooked entrees sent to school in a thermos:
•    Pasta with sauce and/or meatballs
•    Grilled cheese sandwich
•    Omelet
•    Chicken nuggets, hot dog, hamburger
•    Cheese quesadilla
•    Bean and cheese burrito
•    Pizza slices or pizza bites
•    Rice with vegetables, chicken and/or fish
•    Soup and crackers
•    Last night’s dinner
•    Pancakes or waffles with syrup
•    Polenta with pizza sauce and cheese
•    Oatmeal

bagel, baguette, bread sticks, crackers, English muffin, focaccia, Lavash bread, pita bread, rice cakes, rolls, sandwich bread, tortillas

Spreads & Condiments
soy butter, apple butter, avocado (mashed), banana (mashed), cream cheese , goat cheese, honey, hummus, jam , pesto, pizza sauce
roasted red pepper spread, apple butter

cheese, chicken, chicken salad, egg salad, hard boiled egg, hot dogs, shrimp salad, sliced cucumber, smoked salmon, tuna salad
vegetarian breakfast sausages

Fruits (Dried and Fresh)

apples, apricots, Asian pears, avocado, bananas, blueberries, cherries, cranberries (dried), dates, figs, mango, papaya, pears, prunes, raisins, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, melon, nectarines, orange sections, peaches, pineapple, plums, raspberries, tomatoes


bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, green beans, green salad, shelling peas, snap peas, edamame beans

apple crisp, applesauce, baked chips with salsa, dried fruit, fruit bar, homemade cookies, notes from home, tortilla chips, small cookie.

Foods not allowed in school:

Please note – Children under the age of 4 are not allowed to be served hot dogs, carrots, grapes, popcorn or pretzels per the NAEYC criteria.  

Please do not send candy, soda, Fruit Rollups, or any other gummy treats. They are not good for teeth and often become the focus of the meal. We try daily to serve nutritious snacks and to teach children about proteins, fruits, vegetables, and foods that help you grow stronger and smarter.

Safe Food Ideas for Children Under 4:

 Fruit & Vegetables

  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Apples
  • Oranges/clementine
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Mangoes
  • Applesauce
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Pickles
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Raisins


  • Vanilla Wafers (golden, mini)
  • Elf Grahams (honey, cinnamon)
  • Scooby Doo Graham Crackers
  • Wheatables (original, honey wheat)
  • Club Crackers
  • Town House Classic Crackers
  • Toasted Crackers (Wheat, Butter crisp)
  • Wheat Thins


  • Cheese Nips
  • Teddy Grahams (Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip, Honey, Chocolate)
  • Nilla Wafers
  • Barnum Animal Crackers
  • Honey Maid Graham Crackers – Chocolate, Cinnamon, Honey
  • Triscuits
  • Wheat Thins
  • Premium Saltines
  • Better Cheddars
  • Ritz Crackers (not Ritz Bits)
  • Ritz Chips (original, cheddar)
  • Belvita Crunchy biscuits (no soft baked biscuits)


  • Nabisco Oreo (blue pack only)
  • Nabisco Oreo Golden (yellow package)
  • Rice Crispy Treats (pre packaged)
  • Enjoy Life chewy bars (not mixed berry bars)
  • Lorna Doones
  • Keebler Vanilla
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish
  • Nutra-Grain Bars (apple, cherry, raspberry, blueberry)
  • Cascadian Farms
    • Chocolate chip bars
    • Harvest berry bars
    • Oatmeal raisin bars
    • Vanilla chip bars


  • Cheeze-its
  • Big Cheeze-It


  • Doritos (any flavor)
  • Cheetos
  • LAYS
  • Ruffles
  • Tostitos
  • Sun Chips (Original, Sour Cream, Cheddar, Flavored)
  • Fritos
  • LAYS BBQ, Plain

Using Leftovers
Packing leftovers in your child’s lunch can save you time and energy, and kids love them. When you’re deciding what to cook for dinner, think about how you might incorporate leftovers into a lunch for the following day. Make a few extra servings for dinner and set them aside for the next day’s lunch. While you’re doing the after dinner kitchen clean up, place the Laptop Lunches on the counter. As you’re putting away the food, pack some of the extras in the Laptop Lunches and refrigerate overnight. If you’re worried that it might seem less appealing the following day, consider packing it for lunch two days later, provided the food will remain fresh for an extra day. Here are a few ideas for making it work:
•    If you make chicken breasts, prepare an extra serving and slice it for sandwiches the next day instead of purchasing deli lunchmeat.
•    If you’re making a salad for dinner, slice some extra vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, and celery, or make an extra undressed salad directly in the Laptop Lunch. (Make extra dressing and pour it into the dip container.)
•    While you’re making dinner, boil a few eggs. Pack the eggs whole, make deviled eggs, or use them in egg salad.
•    Make extra pasta, couscous, or rice and make side salads for lunch by cutting up vegetables and adding salad dressing.
•    Grill extra vegetables and use them in sandwiches.
•    Make an extra baked potato and pack it with nutritious toppings.

How to help them eat what you give them:
•    Think positively. If your child sees you enjoying making the lunch, he will be more likely to anticipate it happily.
•    Involve your child. Children of all ages can help with menu planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Children who feel they have had a part preparing the meal will be more likely to eat it.
•    Introduce a variety of foods. Offer a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Offer a few teaspoons of each at every dinner. When he starts wanting more than two bites, expand your offerings to include more foods. As your child grows, increase serving sizes.
•    Offer the same food prepared in different ways. Offer foods alone and prepared in combination with other ingredients. Cut foods in different ways. Try carrot sticks one day and carrot coins another.
•    Don’t give up. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children will not accept a new food until it has been offered at least ten times. Continue to offer new foods until your child considers them familiar.
•    Introduce foods one bite or several bites at a time. Some children become overwhelmed by large quantities of food in their lunchbox. Others will feel more successful if they can finish a small quantity of food you have provided, so keep portions small.
•    Explain that our tastes change as we grow up and what we didn’t like last week we may like this week. Explain, too, that eating a variety of food builds stronger, happier bodies. Remember that children’s food preferences change frequently. What they don’t like on Wednesday might be a great hit on Friday or vice versa.
•    Give your child some choices within the boundaries you establish. For example, instead of asking, “What do you want for lunch?” ask “Would you like a turkey sandwich, or a quesadilla?”
•    Allow your children to choose a special food from time to time and let them eat it guilt free. Teach your children the difference between everyday foods and occasional foods. In time, they will start making healthy choices on their own.
•    Consider making a list of foods that your child likes to eat for lunch and update it regularly with input from your child. You may find that she prefers romaine lettuce to red leaf lettuce. By making this simple change, she might start eating salads more regularly. Providing a dip for carrot and celery sticks might make eating them more fun.
•    Avoid food rewards. Neither dessert nor candy should be used as a punishment or enticement. Rather, you must establish and enforce rules for when and how many treats will be consumed.

How to cut down on lunchtime waste
It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. Please consider reducing the amount of lunchtime waste your family generates. Think about what you can do to cut down on waste.
•    Pack a cloth napkin instead of a paper napkin.
•    Pack stainless-steel utensils instead of using disposable plastics.
•    Pack a reusable drink container instead of disposable juice boxes, juice pouches, cans, and plastic bottles.
•    Pack lunch items in reusable containers. Bento boxes work well because they allow for an appealing horizontal presentation. Avoid using plastic wraps, plastic bags, wax-paper bags, and aluminum foil.
•    Avoid purchasing pre-packaged items. Buy foods in larger containers and leave them at home for recycling.
•    Pack lunches in a lunch box or backpack instead of relying on paper or plastic bags.