Top Fridge-Less Lunch Items To Pack For School


It’s easy to get into a lunchbox rut because most kids don’t have access to refrigerators, and those ice packs make for leaky, wet lunches. But, sandwiches don’t have to be the only thing you send your little one to school with.  Ideally, aim to pack a combination of protein, healthy fat, whole grains and some produce. Fruits and veggies can be left at room temperature all day and don’t require refrigeration. Cheese and hummus are safe within 4 hours, but if much longer, I would suggest an ice pack. Most kids have lunch within that range though.

Here are my top foods that can be added to fridge-free lunches:

1). Salmon or tuna fish pouches – limit tuna fish to 2x per week because of its higher levels of mercury.

2). Veggies – don’t be shy with baby carrots, avocado chunks and sliced peppers!

3). Ants on a log – spread some nut butter and raisins on celery sticks.  For nut free schools, swap the nut butter with sunflower seed butter.

4). Hummus – single serving hummus packages are now readily available

5). Trail mix – in nut free schools, use seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

6). Whole wheat pita chips

7). Apple slices – sprinkle some lemon juice to stop the dreaded browning!

8). String cheese

9). Baked veggie burgers or falafel patties

10). Beans – roasted chickpeas are a hit!

11). Edamame

12). Nut butter packets with fruit– kids love the small, to-go packages

13). Plain popcorn – keep the serving to about 3 cups

14). Good quality beef jerky – made without fillers and artificial ingredients

15). Nutritious pancakes or muffins – look for recipes that use whole grains and protein (like yogurt and/or eggs) without tons of sugar

16). Olives – look for single serving olive packs to take on the go

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About Nicole Silber

Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC is a registered dietitian, board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition and certified lactation counselor. Nicole has worked with hundreds of children and families with chronic medical conditions, food allergies, picky eating, oral-motor and processing disorders, infant nutrition, breastfeeding, gastrointestinal conditions, prematurity, underweight and obesity. She works in private practice in New York City and also serves as Pediatric Nutrition Expert for Beech-Nut baby foods. Prior to her current roles she was a clinical nutritionist at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia and New York University Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center.

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