Back-to-School Lunch Box Ideas

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As a parent of three children, I have started to count down the days till school starts. Like most parents, back-to-school time is a happy, yet stressful, time. From back-to-school shopping to open house, the race is on. If shopping for a new lunch bag or items to fill lunch bags is on your to-do list, then this article is right on time.

Many children today love to pack their own lunch for school rather than eat in the cafeteria, but as parents, we have to monitor what our children are packing in their lunch bags. Every year as I go in and out of schools in Robeson County, I often stop by the cafeteria to see what students are eating and if they are really paying attention to what I’m teaching them about MyPlate. To my surprise, I find a lot of children bringing lunches from home that are high in fat and sugar. Foods that are not allowed to be served in schools should also be restricted from lunch bags.

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs for public schools require that schools increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free/low-fat milk in school meals. When packing your child’s lunch and snacks, the same guidelines should be followed. Make a lunch bag checklist using the MyPlate five food groups (grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and protein), and check off each one as you pack your child’s lunch. Remember, what you put into your child is what you get out. For example, if you pack a lunch box full of sugary snacks and soda, don’t be surprised if your child has some behavior issues. If you pack fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, studies show children perform better in school and are better athletes.

Yes, junk food can be appealing for a variety of reasons including convenience, price, and taste. Children, however, do not understand the health consequences, but we, as parents, know the risk like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic illness. Let’s make the right choices for our children’s health; their lives depend on it. Here are a few healthy lunch box ideas for you to try with your children:

Nacho Bar


  • 1/3 cup shredded chicken
  • ¼ cup refried beans
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 1 ounce shredded cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole
  • tortilla chips


Use individual containers with lids for the wet ingredients. Place everything inside the lunch box. Make sure there is enough space for the nachos to be built.

Salsa Chicken Pinwheels


  • ½ cup shredded chicken
  • 3 tablespoons salsa
  • Romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup refried beans
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole
  • 1 ounce shredded cheese
  • 4 (6-inch) flour tortillas


Combine salsa and shredded chicken in a small bowl. Spread refried beans onto tortillas. Top with lettuce, shredded cheese, guacamole, and salsa chicken; wrap tightly. Cut each wrap into 6 to 10 pinwheels depending on the size of the wrap.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Kabobs


  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon jelly
  • 2 slices bread
  • fresh fruit, like grapes


Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like you normally would; don’t overfill or it will make a mess when you cut it. Cut the crust off, if desired, then quarter the sandwich. Place quarters onto the skewer along with the fruit. Can be served with a veggie kabob and fruit and cheese kabob.

For more information, please contact Tamika McLean, Youth Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Associate with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at

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