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Healthy and Fun Recipes for Back-to-School Season

Even if it feels like yesterday that your kids were celebrating their summertime freedom, back-to-school season is here. Along with checking shopping lists, stocking up on books and supplies, and preparing to get reacquainted with early wakeup calls, you may be pondering how to support your child’s brain power through school lunches and snacks that are as tasty as they are nutritionally balanced.

Healthy meals that account for key nutrients (think calcium, iron, zinc and certain vitamins) and foods including veggies and fruit have been linked to higher grades and a lower likelihood for students to be late to or absent from school. In addition, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that breakfast is particularly foundational for student cognition, well-thought afternoon options can also help alertness, attention to detail and problem-solving skills run on all cylinders throughout the school day. In a recent article examining how nutrition and test performance go hand-in-hand, Sean Patrick Corcoran of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development told The Atlantic, “Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class, and retain more information.”

To assist you in creating a school lunch menu your kids will love (and that will be super-simple for you to make), members of the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego Clinical Nutrition team are sharing a few of their favorite, health-conscious recipes ideal for students on the go.

Black Bean-Quinoa Buddha Bowl: Emily Bhattacharjee, MS, RD


  • 2 16-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 2 2/3cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • 3/4 cup pico de gallo
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Optional toppings: cucumber, corn kernels, bell peppers, olives


  • Divide beans and quinoa into four travel containers.
  • Stir hummus and lime juice together in a small bowl; thin with water to desired consistency.
  • Drizzle the hummus dressing evenly over the four containers of beans and quinoa.
  • Top with avocado, pico de gallo, cilantro, and any other toppings of your choice!

Recipe adapted from www.emeals.com

Broccoli Pesto: Angela Fish, RD


  • 1 cup cooked broccoli (can be cooked from frozen)
  • 6 ounces orecchiette or other short pasta (prepared according to box instructions)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Add broccoli, parmesan, basil, oil, and lemon juice to a food processor. Process until smooth.
  • Toss cooked pasta with pesto and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve in bento box with a side of fruit and handful of dark chocolate chips for something sweet!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Turkey Pinwheels: Dora Kram, RD

Main ingredients

  • 2 large flour tortillas
  • 4 6-ounce slices turkey
  • 3 slices Colby Jack cheese
  • Romaine lettuce

Cream cheese spread ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion


  • Mix cream cheese spread ingredients together and spread over the entire surface of the two tortillas using a spatula.
  • Layer on turkey, cheese and lettuce (as well as anything else you want to add in, such as cucumber slices).
  • Roll the tortilla up into a tight log, and place toothpicks down the center in approximately 1-inch intervals.
  • Cut between each toothpick and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from www.eazypeazymealz.com

Peachy Sun Butter Pita Pockets: Aarti Sachdeva, MS, RD


  • 2 medium whole wheat pita pockets
  • 1/4 cup all-natural sun butter
  • 1/2 apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 banana, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fresh peach, thinly sliced


  • Cut pitas in half to make four pockets and warm on the griddle for about 30 seconds to make them more flexible.
  • Carefully open each pocket and spread a thin layer of sun butter on the inside walls.
  • Fill with a combination of apple, banana and peach slices. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from www.cachampionsforchange.cdph.ca.gov

Veggie Tortilla Roll-Ups: Aarti Sachdeva, MS, RD

Main ingredients

  • 4 7-inch whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (red, green, orange, yellow or a mixture)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced, canned green chilies
  • 1/4 cup sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped mango (optional)

Dip ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  • Mix all dip ingredients together in a blender or food processor
  • Mix together all vegetables with the prepared dip
  • Divide the mixture into four equal parts on each tortilla
  • Roll up tightly to enclose filling and serve