Classic tin containers. Insulated canvas totes. Brown paper bags. While your kid may be concentrating on the style of their lunch box, as a parent you’re more concerned on what’s inside, as you’re doing the school lunch packing. Sometimes it can be tricky planning a healthy school lunch, especially knowing the luxury of a refrigerator to keep it cool isn’t an option. So, how to keep a school lunch healthy without refrigeration is today’s topic!

Michelle Rodriguez, chef and owner of Traverse City catering company Amor Comida, recommends packing a thermos with homemade soup. Pair it with a side of crackers or fresh bread and an apple, and you have yourself a healthy school lunch.

Here she shares with us her favorite broccoli cheese soup recipe.

Back to School Broccoli Cheese Soup


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or Ghee
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Note: this recipe can also be made gluten free, using a flour substitute)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme (whole is fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 head of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and let cook for another two to three minutes. Make a roux by whisking in the flour and cook until golden (about three minutes, and keep it moving so it doesn’t burn).
  2. Whisk in the half-and-half until smooth, adding small amounts at a time. Add the chicken broth, thyme, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered until thickened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Discard the bay leaves and thyme. Add the carrots and broccoli to the broth mixture and simmer until tender. Add the cheese and simmer for another few minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or using an immersion blender until smooth.
  5. Pour into a thermos, and serve with a side of crackers or fresh bread. Don’t forget to send a special note!

Written by Courtney Jerome.

Healthy After-School Snack Recipes from Local Dietician

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski