School lunches around the world

By Brandie Piper

Published Aug. 15, 2015 on

School lunches around the world are as diverse as the school children who eat them. Many students in the United States are already heading back to class, while kids in Vietnam will start the first week of September.

A nutritious school lunch is an important part of the day for students. Good nutrition at lunchtime can help prevent childhood obesity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in some places it’s the only nutritious meal a child will get that day.

Here’s a look at typical school lunches around the world.

North America

  • Milk
  • Sandwich, such as peanut butter and jelly or lunch meat
  • Fruit, such as an apple or orange
  • Vegetable, such as baby carrots


  • Milk
  • Steamed rice
  • Tofu
  • A green vegetable such as morning glory, cabbage, or green mustard
  • Protein, such as eggs and either pork or beef


  • Milk, water, or juice
  • Steamed rice
  • Thai green papaya salad with tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, chile, and green beans
  • Clear soup with vegetables, minced pork and bean curd
  • Fruit, such as banana, sweet corn, watermelon or melon
  • Steamed sweet corn cake for dessert


  • Water, juice, or a soft drink
  • Sandwich, such as ham and cheese or chicken with vegetables
  • Pasta or empanadas are sometimes included or sausage with mashed potatoes
  • Fruit, such as bananas, apples, strawberries, or mandarin
  • Sweet yogurts are also sometimes included as a dessert


  • Milk
  • Sandwich or quesadilla
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables, such as cucumber or jicama


  • Soup
  • Rice or noodles
  • Meat and vegetable stir-fry
  • Steamed bread/bun/or dumpling
  • Vegetable or fruit salads are usually an optionally appetizer


  • Rice with black or pinto beans
  • Grilled meat
  • Salad with tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots
  • Fruit, such as a banana or an apple
  • Water, juice, or soft drink
  • Sweet jelly for dessert

Looking for some school lunch ideas? Check out this recipe for fish pastries, which make good leftovers for a school lunch.

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