Building Back to School Basics: Lunch and Snacks

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Congrats parents/caregivers, you made it through summer break! As you fill those backpacks full of paper, pencils, and highlighters, let’s also think about how to fill those lunchboxes. Packing a lunch box can sometimes be stressful, a last-minute thought, or a “grab whatever as we rush out the door” task. No more stress or rushing! There is a great resource available to help parents/caregivers make good nutrition, an easy choice. USDA MyPlate can help you visualize and create healthy, balanced meals when learning to incorporate all parts of the plate: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy. A healthy diet is important at every life stage to provide enough nutrition to support the brain and body. Those little brains are hard at work in the classroom and we want to make sure they are properly fueled throughout the day.

NC State University nutrition expert, Catherine Hill, RDN, LDN, provides a short guide for kitchen staples to keep on hand to help create MyPlate lunches and snacks:

Foods for the Fridge:

  • Vegetables: Carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, edamame
  • Fruit: fresh fruit (tangerines, berries, melon), fruit cups in 100% juice, unsweetened applesauce cups or pouches
  • Protein: Hummus, boiled eggs, low-sodium deli-meat
  • Dairy: Cheese sticks, cheese slices, yogurt, milk cartons

Foods for Pantry:

  • Whole grain starches: whole-grain bread, wheat tortillas, wheat English muffins, popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, whole-grain cereal, rice cakes
  • Nuts or seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter
    • Check with your child’s school to see if nut products are allowed.
  • Fun treats: trail mix, dark chocolate, fruit leather (limited added sugar

Rainbow Pita Pockets

Yield: 2 servings


1 whole grain Pita Pocket

Cherry Tomatoes

Sliced low-sodium Deli Meat

Shredded Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese


Hummus or lite Ranch


  1. Wash and pat dry produce.
  2. Cut a few tomatoes lengthwise, and grab a couple of pieces of lettuce.
  3. Cut pita bread in half and open it to form a pocket.
  4. Take a spoonful of hummus or ranch and spread it on the inside on one side.
  5. Stuff the inside with deli meat, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce.

N.C. Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on nutrition, health, food preservation, and food safety in Lee County please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ashley Szilvay at 919-775-5624.