5 Foods to Pack in a Summer Camp Lunchbox

A child heading off to summer camp is a rite of passage — both for kids and their parents. Days filled with arts and crafts, swimming, sports, and indoor and outdoor games are a great way to keep a child mentally and physically active while taking a break from the grind of a school year. What a parent packs in a lunchbox can affect behavior and energy level.

Here are five items to include in your camper's lunch.


If your camper refuses plain old H20, try adding pieces of fruit to their water bottle. Lemons, oranges and berries give water a little extra burst of flavor.


Include protein-filled snacks such as hummus with carrots and bell peppers, nut-and-seed mixes or hard-boiled eggs. Or, try nut butter sandwiches, cheese and low-sodium turkey sandwiches, grilled chicken wraps or soft bean tacos.

Fruit and Vegetable

For ease of transportation consider squeezable applesauce pouches or whole fruits and vegetables that travel well such as bananas (use a felt marker to write a fun message or joke on the peel), apples, oranges, prepackaged baby carrots or edamame. If time permits, cut up that summer produce such as watermelon, grapes, berries, red peppers and cucumbers, and divide them into smaller containers for an easy grab-and-go snack.

Low-Fat Dairy

Keep those growing teeth and bones strong during the summer by adding calcium- and protein-rich foods such as reduced-fat cheese sticks, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk boxes and cottage cheese.

Ice Pack

With high temperatures and inconsistent access to refrigeration, planning ahead to keep lunches at a safe temperature will help decrease the chance of food poisoning.

…and What Not to Pack

Avoid adding sugary or prepackaged snacks, sodas and energy drinks. If you feel that your camper needs a bagged snack, consider small individual bags of pretzels, crackers or popcorn. If your child likes sweet foods over savory, consider dried fruit snacks, raisins, granola bars or homemade trail mix.

Although the summer vacation seems like a great time to relax when it comes to nutrition, many children gain weight, become more sedentary and lose interest in healthy eating during the summer months. A healthy camp lunchbox is a great way for parents to say, "Have fun and stay healthy this summer!"

Brandi Thompson on Facebook
Brandi Thompson
Brandi Thompson, RD, LDN, is a registered and licensed dietitian and a mom of two young children. She is also the ambassador of Boca Raton's Food Revolution Day and a consultant for Broward County's TOUCH grant for preschools. Read her blog, ABCD Eat Right, and follow her Dietitian's Husband Unrefined journey on Facebook.