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Healthy and Unhealthy Lunch Options

Lauryn Rather

School lunches; everyone has had one at some point or another. Our schools are always telling us to make good choices in what we eat. To count our calories and make sure we are getting the nutrients we need. However, when it comes to what's in the school cafeteria, some of the foods provided aren't always the healthiest. I put this list to show what kinds of food to avoid in the cafeteria, and which ones are a good option for your lunch.

The average school lunch in America costs about $2.60

The average school breakfast in America costs about $1.51

A Single serving is usually what a lunch lady/man gives you, a single package, or single piece.

Unhealthy Options:

10. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk, despite being a source of dairy, has about as much sugar as soda with it's chocolate flavoring.

9. Salisbury Steak

Salisbury steaks, or "mystery meat" as some people like to refer to it as, is treated with gamma rays, sucking a lot of the nutritional value out of this meal.

8. Cheeseburgers

An obvious addition to the list, these are full of saturated fat in the meat, and even more fat from the cheese.

7. White Flour Cheese Quesadillas

It's just cheese and a flour tortilla; as simple as you can get with school meals. However, one of these can have as many calories as 3 or 4 slices of white bread, and is packed with sodium and fat from the cheese.

6. Scrambled Eggs with Cheese

The added cheese provides more fat for the eggs. About 60% or more of the calories in one serving is from fat.

5. Pepperoni Pizza

A cafeteria favorite. One slice can have more than 6 grams of saturated fat. That, in addition to the fat in the pepperoni makes for a very unhealthy and fattening meal.

4. Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is full of sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat from being fried, plus the fat already in the chicken.

3. Cheese Sandwich.

Just one sandwich has about 800 mg of sodium and 7.1 g of saturated fat, mostly from the cheese.

2. Beef and Cheese Nachos

A serving of this lunchroom classic can have a whopping 24 g of fat and 1500 g of sodium, which is almost the daily recommendation in just one serving.

1. Ham, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit

These small biscuits have about 1720 mg of sodium in one serving and have more than 300 calories and 5 g of fat (more than an egg mcmuffin from McDonald's)

What Happens if You Have Too Much...


Too much fat can lead to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and/or artery blockage.


If one has to much sodium, he/she may experience high blood pressure, the body holding in water, dehydration, kidney stones, stroke, and/or heart failure.


High blood sugar, high blood pressure, cavities, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and even a sugar addition may be the results of having too much.

Healthy Options

10. Pasta

Pasta is a great fill-up for active or sporty people and contains 21.1 g carbohydrate.

9. Fruit Cup

These contain a variety of great fruits and only 10 g of sugar.

8. Honey Nut Cheerios

A great breakfast cereal with 29.1 g carbohydrate and 2.6 g of fiber to be a positive start to the day!

7. Bun

Getting a bun on the side with your lunch can provide you with 15% of your daily Iron intake and 34 g carbohydrate.

6. Lettuce Cup

A cup full of lettuce at the side of your meal is only 8 calories, but can give you a good amount of your daily intake of greens.

5. Baby Carrots

Though they only have 4 calories per serving, carrots are good for one's eyes, so to maintain healthy eyes, try taking a serving with your meal.

4. Skim Milk

Skim milk is full of calcium (300 mg) and potassium (410 mg).

3. Orange

Good for both breakfast and lunch, a single orange is a very strong source of Vitamin C!

2. Hard Boiled Egg

One of these eggs contains 6 g of protein, 11% of your daily Vitamin D, and 10% of your daily B-12 intake.

1. Raisin Bran

Raisin Bran, though not super popular with kids, is very good for them. It contains 55% of your daily Vitamin B-6 and 41% of your daily Vitamin B-12!

Why is This Important...


Calcium helps you maintain healthy bones and teeth, keeps your blood from clotting, helps with your heart beat, muscle functions, and releasing of hormones.


Potassium assists with the functioning of cells, tissues, and organs, and helps with conducting electricity.


Carbs provide your body with energy and fiber.


Fiber helps with disease prevention and maintains digestive health.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C forms skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, scar tissue, heals wounds, and defends the body from infections.


Iron is used to transport Oxygen throughout the body and in cell growth.

Vitamin B-12:

Vitamin B-12 feeds cells, protects your heart, improves your mood, provides you with energy, and maintain's the brain's health (prevents alzheimers and dementia).

Vitamin B-6:

Vitamin B-6 is what absorbs the Vitamin B-12, provides you with energy, controls amino acid in the body, and is used to make neurotransmitters.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D absorbs Calcium, promotes bone growth, fights of sicknesses, and assists with brain development.

Fruit: (Oranges, Apples, Bananas, etc.)

* Too Much: High blood sugar, weight gain

* Just Right: Reduced risk of kidney stones, forming red blood cells, decreases bone loss, provides vital nutrients

* Too Little: Increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke, scurvey

Vegetables: (Carrots, Celery, Spinach, etc.)

* Too Much: Physical discomfort

* Just Right: Great sources of nutrients, reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes

* Too Little: Increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke

Dairy: (Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, etc.)

* Too Much: Aging, Digestive issues, Cancer risk

* Just Right: Essential nutrients and minerals, healthy bones

* Too Little: Loss of bone mass, lack of calcium, increased risk of osteoporosis 

Grains: (Bread, Oats, Cereal, etc.)

* Too Much: High blood sugar, poor nutrient absorption  

* Just Right: Reduced risk of deadly disease, provided nutrients (fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.)

* Too Little: Fatigue, Constipation

Protein: (Poultry, Nuts, Red Meat, etc.)

* Too Much: Weight gain, stimulation of cancer cells, stress on kidneys

*Just Right: Building and repairing tissues, making bodily chemicals, building skin, blood, muscles, and cartridge.

*Too Little: Loss of muscle mass, frailty, little energy

The 5 Food Groups

Fruits: Fruit Cup, Orange

Vegetables: Lettuce Cup, Baby Carrots

Grains: Bun, Raisin Bran, Pasta, Honey Nut Cheerios, White Flour Cheese Quesadillas,  Ham Egg and Cheese Biscuit

Dairy: Skim Milk, Chocolate Milk, White Flour Cheese Quesadillas, Scrambled Eggs with Cheese,  Ham Egg and Cheese Biscuit

Protein: Hard Boiled Egg, Fried Chicken, Scrambled Eggs with Cheese, Ham Egg and Cheese Biscuit

None of the Above: Beef and Cheese Nachos, Cheeseburgers, Pepperoni Pizza, Salisbury Steak

Dear Reader

Thanks so much for taking the time to look through this simple booklet! I hope I was able to be as accurate as possible, however, due to copyright reasons, a majority of the food pictures I gathered were just of a food, not it's school cafeteria version as I couldn't find any under labeled for free use. Thanks for your understanding!