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Nutrition Breaks and the Balanced School Day

If your child’s school is on the balanced school day, you may be wondering how to pack their lunches. Children on the balanced school day need to eat the same amounts of food as children on the traditional school day schedule. The only thing that changes is the timing of the meals/snacks.


How is the balanced school day different?

The balanced school day includes three – 100 minute blocks of teaching time, separated by two 40-45-minute nutrition/activity breaks.

Organizing meals for the balanced school day

  • Ask your child how they would like their meals organized.
  • Options for nutrition breaks:
    • Break # 1 – snacks; Break # 2 – lunch
    • Break # 1 – mini lunch; Break # 2 – mini lunch
  • Be sure to also check- in with your child to see if they are getting the right amount of food each day. If food is coming home at the end of the day, you may want to send less food or try smaller portions. If your child tells you they are hungry you could try to increase the amount of food. Check in often as appetites and food preferences change!

Nutrition is important to perform well at school!

Eat Well Plate

Balanced School Day Lunch Packing Tips

Your child can help with planning lunch menu ideas for the school week. They can also help with grocery shopping and with age-appropriate tasks when making lunches.

  • Follow the proportions of the Eat Well Plate when planning meals and snacks.

Fill half of the lunch box with vegetables and fruit, ¼ whole grain foods and ¼ protein foods. Be sure the portions you pack match your child’s appetite. For examples of foods to pack see the Balanced School Day Factsheet.

  • Be aware

Be sure to include healthy familiar foods that your child enjoys!

  • Pack for easy access

Use containers that are easy to open. Send foods that are easy to eat, like peeled orange sections.

  • Divide the meals/snacks

Pack the lunch in a thermal lunch bag and divide the bag into two sections – “Break 1” and “Break 2”. Use a piece of cardboard to separate the lunches. Or use a thermal lunch container with two compartments.

  • Include a healthy drink for each break

Include healthy drinks like water, white milk or unsweetened fortified soy beverage or unsweetened plant based beverages (e.g., almond, oat).

  • Keep lunches safe

Keep hot foods hot by using a thermos and keep cold food cold by using ice packs and insulated lunch bags.

Date of creation: January 21, 2013
Last modified on: November 12, 2021