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Packing Back-to-School Lunches

Here are some ideas to help your child eat healthier lunches during the school year.

Nashville, Ark. – School has officially started and for many parents it requires preparing lunches. While you are packing low-fat, healthy foods for your child, the one sitting next to them at the lunch table, may have an overabundance of cream-filled, sugar-sprinkled foods that are not quite as healthy.

Encouraging you child to eat what you packed can be a challenge. However, it is not an impossible task.

How to Get your Child to Eat a Healthy Lunch

Get your children involved in the kitchen!
  • Involve them in the planning process. Children are more likely to eat a healthy lunch if they are engaged in planning and preparation. Work with them to find items they like. Encourage them to choose healthy options and discuss why these foods are good for proper growth and learning.
  • Variety is important. Avoid getting packing the same foods every day. Mix it up and try new foods, but keep a few tried and true options available.
  • Shop for kid-friendly pre-packed food at the grocery store. Manufacturers have developed kid-friendly foods that are nutritious. Many foods are now packaged in individual serving sizes that make it fun to eat. Try to stick with fresh fruits and vegetable packs. You can also individually pack foods yourself to save money!
  • Try something different. Satisfying lunches can include turkey and cheese with spinach leaves, or tuna salad in a whole wheat pita pocket. Try peanut butter and banana slices on raisin bread for an “almost-dessert” meal.
  • Don't forget snacks. Great crunchy, salty snacks include pretzels, popcorn, cereal or trail mix. You can purchase these individually packaged or make your own at home. Another option is dried fruit chips.
  • Add pizzazz! Arrange carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and other veggies in a small container. Add a little ranch dressing as a dip. 
  • Be creative! Use cookie cutters to cut out sandwich breads. Younger children will love this idea.
  • Add sweetness with fruit. Purchase single-serve applesauce or other fruit. You can also prepare your own single servings, which will again save money.

Of course, lunchrooms serve great lunches too! Be sure to get a copy of the menu so your child can plan to eat some lunches in the cafeteria. There may be some days where your child will be happy to eat off the line.

Lunches don’t have to be boring! For more information on preparing healthy lunches or for additional nutrition information, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

Here is a recipe to use for packing that great school lunch. Remember to add an ice pack or a frozen bottle of water to keep foods safe. This recipe would also make a great meal for your family.

Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap

  • ¼ cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli, shredded
  • 1 ½ cups fresh carrots, peeled, shredded
  • ¼ cup canned crushed pineapple, in 100% juice, drained
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked diced chicken
  • 6 whole-wheat tortillas, 10”
  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, poppy seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder for the dressing. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Combine broccoli, carrots, pineapple, and spinach in a large bowl. Stir in dressing and chicken. Mix well. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
  3. For each wrap, place 2/3 cup filling on tortilla. Roll up burrito style. Cut diagonally in half. Serves 6.

Note: For lunches, consider sending the filling in a separate container. The child can then spread on the tortilla before eating.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories – 308, Fat – 6 g, Sodium – 408 mg, Carbohydrates – 42 g, protein – 24 g.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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