School Lunchtime, Box It Up

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The bell is ringing and that means it is “Back to School” time! What better time to get your students (and yourself) on the healthy track by rethinking the lunch routine. The small box trend is still a great way to pack up a school lunch. By using small airtight containers for different food items, food is kept separate from each other, making it safer. Using the separate containers also aids in retaining flavor. This idea is not just for school lunches they are great for office lunches as well.

Here are some samples of some fun school lunches; of course the fruits and veggies can easily be switched out for your favorites.

Pretzel Kabobs


  • Ham, turkey, and cheese rolled up together, sliced, and skewered with pretzel sticks
  • ½ cup mandarin oranges
  • ½ cup shelled edamame
  • 1 container (4 ounces) fat-free chocolate pudding

Fun Pick Up Food


  • String cheese and a handful of whole-wheat crackers
  • 1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons light raspberry dressing
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • Slice of sweet bread



  • 1 cup bean salad
  • ½ cup melon wedges
  • Handful of whole-grain tortilla chips with 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 8 cubes of reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Bagel Style PB&J


  • Peanut butter and jelly on a whole wheat mini bagel
  • ¾ cup cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons low-fat Caesar dressing
  • ½ cup pineapple chunks (no sugar added of course, fresh is best)
  • 4 mini cookies


  • Mix and match from each of these category ideas for a wide variety of lunches all week.


  • Apples slices or chunks (dip in pineapple or lemon juice to prevent browning)
  • Berries — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Melon chunks — watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe
  • Dried fruit — raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, banana chips, etc.
  • Canned peaches or pears — drain and rinse with water to remove excess sugar.
  • Applesauce
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Orange or clementine wedges


  • Carrot sticks
  • Red, green or yellow bell pepper strips
  • Cucumber slices
  • Celery sticks
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Steamed green beans
  • Broccoli and cauliflower spears
  • Edamame


  • Leftover meat from dinner cut into chunks — you can send almost anything: roast chicken, pork roast, chicken legs and taco filling are just a few
  • Chicken or turkey sausage with BBQ sauce or catsup for dipping
  • Deli meats — turkey, ham, salami
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter “sandwiches” made with crackers or graham crackers
  • Quesadillas
  • Mini-burritos
  • Mini-pizzas — top mini-pitas with sauce, cheese and turkey pepperoni
  • Hard boiled eggs


  • Whole grain crackers
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Mini-muffins
  • Goldfish crackers, cheddar bunnies or other snack crackers
  • Pretzel thins
  • Bagel chips
  • Mini-rice cakes or rice crackers
  • Leftover pasta — toss with some chopped veggies and vinaigrette or a little olive oil, garlic salt and Parmesan.
  • Granola bars
  • Banana bread, zucchini bread, or other quick breads
  • Cereal bars
  • Dry cereal
  • Mini-bagels
  • Pita bread — best to toast these so they don’t get soggy. Mini pitas are fun or you can cut a big one into wedges.


  • Yogurt
  • Cheese cubes
  • Cheese slices
  • Cottage cheese
  • String cheese, Laughing Cow, Babybel or other small single-serving cheeses

Turkey Wraps


  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed and patted dry
  • ¾ pound sliced turkey breast
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 Kirby cucumbers, cut into spears
  • ½ cup store-bought pesto


  • In the center of each tortilla, layer some lettuce, turkey, tomato, and cucumber. Spread the pesto over the top and roll like a burrito.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 275, Fat 8 g, Cholesterol 41 mg, Sodium 711 mg, Carbohydrate 26 g, Fiber 4 g, Sugars 4 g, Protein 24 g.

Take-to-School Taco Bar


  • 4 thin slices roast beef (about 3 ounces)
  • 4 (6-inch) soft flour tortillas
  • ⅓ cup shredded Cheddar, Monterey jack or “Mexican blend” cheese
  • ¼ cup Quickie Guacamole, recipe follows, or store-bought fresh guacamole
  • ¼ cup Speedy Salsa, recipe follows, or store-bought fresh salsa
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
  • Mini bottle hot sauce
  • Multi-compartment lunch box

Speedy Salsa:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), halved
  • ¼ small red onion or white, halved
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or fresh mint leaves, optional

Quickie Guacamole:

  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, halved and seeded
  • 1 lime, halved
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup diced tomatoes, mango, or quartered seedless grapes, optional


  • Fold 1 slice roast beef inside each of 2 soft tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Pack in the biggest compartment of the lunch box. Pack other compartments with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and other favorite toppings. Seal and send off to school.

Serves 2-4.

  • Speedy Salsa:  Grate tomatoes on the largest holes of a box grater into a bowl all the way down to the skins. Discard the skins. Grate the onion into the tomato. Stir in olive oil. Season with salt, to taste. Serve with cilantro leaves on the side, or stirred in, if desired.
  • Quickie Guacamole: Scoop the flesh from the shell with a spoon into a medium bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over the avocado and stir to coat evenly. Add the salt. Use a fork to stir and mash into a chunky guacamole. Stir in tomatoes or fruit, if desired.



  • 2 to 3 cups filling: leftover cooked vegetables, shredded meat, crumbled tofu, cooked beans, fresh or frozen corn, cooked rice or grains, or any other leftovers
  • 2 teaspoons butter or vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 large (9-inch to 10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese: cheddar, Monterey jack, or any favorite melting cheese
  • Pack with: Avocado slices or guacamole, jicama sticks, pineapple chunks, pumpkin seeds, or tortilla chips


  1. Prepare the filling: Pick a few of the suggested filling ingredients above, enough to make 2 to 3 cups of total filling. If combining leftovers, warm them briefly in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat. If using raw ingredients, cook before making quesadillas. Transfer the filling to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
  2.  Melt ½ teaspoon butter or oil in the skillet; the key to a crispy quesadilla is less fat in the pan, not more. Too much fat will make your quesadilla soggy instead of crispy. Use just enough to coat the bottom of your skillet — about ½ teaspoon of butter or oil. Warm it in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
  3.  Add the tortilla and top with cheese. Lay one tortilla in the skillet and sprinkle all over with ½ cup of cheese.
  4. Add the filling: Spread roughly ½ cup of filling in a single layer over just half the tortilla. Don’t use too much or the filling will fall out as you try to eat it. Spreading the filling over half makes the quesadilla easier to fold, and adding it as the cheese melts gives the filling time to warm if it has cooled.
  5. Watch for the cheese to melt. Once the cheese starts to melt, begin lifting a corner of the tortilla and checking the underside. When the cheese has completely melted and you see golden-brown spots on the underside of the tortilla, the quesadilla is ready. Using the spatula fold the quesadilla in half sandwiching the filling.
  6. Slide the quesadilla to a cutting board, and if serving immediately, slice into wedges. If preparing several quesadillas for a crowd, slide the un-cut quesadillas onto a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven and then slice into wedges just before serving.
  7. Wipe the pan clean, melt another dab of butter, and continue cooking quesadillas as described above.