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Healthy Packed Lunches for Back to School

By Staff | Aug 28, 2015

Are you worried about making healthy and delicious packed lunches for kids this school year? During the school year many parents will struggle to find healthy foods their children will to take school for lunch. However, shopping smart and trying new ideas can help parents send kids back to school with lunches that are good for them and taste great. Check out the following tips to help make school lunches nutritious and fun.

Tips for Healthy Packed Lunches:

Focus on fruits and veggies – Incorporating fruits and vegetables into lunches can be easy. Packing whole fruits, like an apple or a bunch of grapes, is easy and delicious. Individual containers of applesauce, pears, peaches or pineapples also make a tasty treat. Vegetables are another healthy addition to a lunch. Sliced zucchini and cucumbers, red and green pepper strips, broccoli, carrots, celery, and cauliflower are raw vegetables that are easy to pack. Try adding a low-fat salad dressing or hummus as a dip.

Spice up fruit – Spice up fruits by packing dip for them. Low-fat yogurt or pudding is great with strawberries and melons. Try different fruits with different textures so children do not

get bored. Intermix crunchy apples with juicy oranges. Making fruit salad is a great way to make fruit fun. Mix together sweet fruits like apples, bananas and pears with acidic fruits like oranges and pineapples. Kids can try different fruit combinations, and the acidic juices will help prevent the fruit from turning brown.

Whole grain goodness – Use whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice. Whole-grain cereal is also a fun alternative to potato chips for a snack. If children still want chips, pick ones that are whole grain, baked or possibly both.

Food labels are your friend – When buying canned or individual containers of fruit, make sure it has no added sugar and is packed in its own juice or water. Read labels to make sure

products are made with whole grains. Just because bread is brown doesn’t mean its whole grain. Check the ingredients list to make sure the first ingredient is brown rice, bulgur, whole-grain corn, whole wheat, oatmeal, whole oats, whole rye, or wild rice. Also check the Nutrition Facts label for the percent Daily Value (%DV) of fiber because foods with more fiber are more likely to be whole grain.

Choose 100% juice – Buy juices with little added sugar or sweeteners. Avoid juices that have sugars or caloric sweeteners listed as their first ingredient. Many juices are only 10 or 20 percent juice and contain a lot of unnecessary sugars. Check juice box labels and try to buy products that are 100 percent juice.

Calcium counts – Make lunches healthier by adding low-fat dairy or calcium-rich foods. About 85-90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys. The best ways to get calcium are dairy products such as milk, yogurt, sliced cheese, cottage cheese, and string cheese as well as calcium-fortified foods such as some juices and cereals.

By Lisa Franzen-Castle, PhD, RD Extension Nutrition Specialist

University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension


4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

4 large flour tortillas

1 head romaine lettuce, tough ribs removed

8 ounces thinly sliced deli roast beef

4 ounces Cheddar, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and horseradish. Spread evenly over each tortilla. Layer the tortillas with the lettuce, roast beef and Cheddar and roll it.

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