Start the school year right with these creative and healthy back-to-school meals.

Lunchbox Food Divided Yellow Background
Credit: Linda Xiao

Pinwheel Sandwiches

Half a roll-up is the perfect size sandwich for a child. Try these two kid-friendly combos.

Veggie Wrap

1 8" spinach-flavored flour tortilla

2 Tbs. whipped cream cheese

1 small carrot, shredded

2 Tbs. raisins

Spread tortilla with cream cheese, leaving 1/2" border. Top cream cheese with carrot and raisins. Roll up sandwich, cut in half, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Turkey Wrap

1 8" whole-wheat flour tortilla

2 tsp. apple butter

3 slices low-fat turkey roll

2 slices American cheese

1 large lettuce leaf

Spread tortilla with apple butter, leaving 1/2" border. Top with turkey, cheese, and lettuce. Roll up sandwich, cut in half, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

3 Shake-Up Salads

Layer salad in a plastic container that your child can shake up when she's ready to eat. Here are three combos we like.

Mandarin Chicken

1/4 cup drained mandarin oranges

1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken breast

1/3 cup steamed broccoli

1/4 cup chow mein noodles


1/4 cup pizza sauce

1 cup cooked elbow macaroni

1/3 cup defrosted frozen peas and carrots

1/4 cup diced mozzarella cheese

Tasty Taco

1/4 cup salsa

1/3 cup rinsed black beans

3/4 cup chopped lettuce

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup baked tortilla chips, broken

Alternatives to the Ordinary Lunch

Down on the Farm

Your toddler or preschooler will love eating an animal-shaped sandwich. Make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, then cut out a cow, pig, or duck shape with a cookie cutter. Pack in a lunch box along with some low-sugar cereal mix and small containers of applesauce and milk.

Brown-Bag Bonanza

On extra-busy mornings, you can throw lunch together in a flash using prepackaged products you've already got in your kitchen: 2 Babybel cheeses, some whole-grain crackers, a mini fruit cup, a baby banana, and a small container of orange juice.

Ham-and-Cheese Hot Dog

Plain old ham and cheese is much more fun to eat when it's in the shape of a hot dog. Stack 3 slices of low-fat ham. Place a cheese stick on the edge of the ham slices and roll up. Place in a hot-dog bun, and add a little mustard, if desired. To round out the meal, include fruit, some pretzels, and milk.

Do-It-Yourself Lunch

Here's a healthy alternative to a sandwich: a smorgasbord of finger foods that your child can put together any way he wants. We packed 3 mini whole-wheat pitas, 2 sesame bread sticks, some baby carrots, 1/3 cup hummus in a small resealable container, 1 white and 1 yellow cheese stick (cubed), and seedless red and green grapes.

Sandwich Switcheroo

Are your kids tired of the same old sandwich? Try one of these instead.

Instead of PB&J, make Peanut butter with apples

Instead of Turkey with mayo, make Turkey with French Dressing

Instead of Tuna salad with celery, make Chicken salad with grapes

Instead of Bologna, make Chicken hot dog

No-Mess Desserts

Treat your child to one of these dip combinations—no spoon required.

  • Banana and chocolate-pudding cup
  • Vanilla wafers and applesauce cup
  • Chocolate graham crackers and strawberry yogurt

Parents Magazine