Do you need healthy lunch ideas to pack for school? If you are struggling to find easy and healthy lunch ideas, this post is for you. I have collected some of our favorite recipes, tips and organization ideas.
If you’re a parent, you likely hear the dreaded “I’m starving, I need food!” from your kids all day long. Whether at home, on their way out the door for school, or at school itself, this hunger is a problem that can usually be solved in under five minutes with a healthy meal such as one of these healthy lunch ideas to pack for school.
Healthy Lunch Ideas To Pack For School
Back-to-school time means back to packing school lunches!
Whether you’re about to pack your first-ever school lunch or have been packing lunches for years, it can be a challenge… and a source of frustration.
Especially if you’re navigating food preferences or allergies, time constraints, and/or healthy eating!
It’s time to simplify your lunchbox routine while developing an arsenal of healthy food choices your family will actually eat and enjoy!
Healthy School Lunch Ideas
The best healthy lunches start with the highest-quality ingredients that your budget will allow.
And if there’s one category of food that should get priority with quality control, it’s fats.
Opt for the highest-quality fats you can. That means reach for pastured butter, raw cheddar, sustainably-produced bacon, and nitrate/nitrite-free cured meats.
The reason is because environmental pollutants and other toxins are stored in fatty tissue. Always go organic and even pastured and grass-fed for those foods!
Other areas to focus on organic is the “Dirty Dozen” list from the Environmental Working Group. Strawberries, apples, grapes and tomatoes are on the dirty dozen, as are peaches and pears. You can check out their complete list here and take a look at their “Clean Fifteen” list while you’re at it.
So what are good foods to take to school for lunch?
Below is a list of 45 healthy school lunch ideas that kids will love!
In short, there are 8 hot thermos lunch ideas and 7 non-sandwich ideas so you potentially already have 15 days of fun lunch options for your kiddos. Combine that with some bento box lunches and you have a month’s worth of healthy school lunches at your disposal.
Hot Lunch Ideas
These lunch box ideas will most likely require the use of a thermos. Amazon has a huge selection of thermoses at different sizes to accommodate everyone in the family. Some of them even come with portable spoons attached to either the side or on the cap.
Other great ideas to keep foods warm are to use glass containers (if school permitted and safe with child) and wrap towels or foil-wrap it.
For dry foods such as chicken nuggets, wrap them in parchment paper, then seal in a foil packet tightly.
(Note: I’ve found that chicken nuggets can get soggy in a thermos so my choice would be to use the parchment paper/foil option).
- Instant Pot Tomato Soup
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Turkey Chili
- Easy, Creamy Dairy-Free Macaroni and Cheese
- Paleo Chicken Fried Rice
- Paleo Egg Roll in a Bowl
- 5-Ingredient Paleo Chicken Nuggets
- Carrot Mint Bisque with Fresh Ginger and Bone Broth
- Veggie-Packed Sloppy Joes
Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas
Let’s face it… sandwiches are so yesterday.
Thankfully, between Pinterest and Google, we can find myriad of ways to feed our children nourishing foods. And no need to compromise when it comes to school lunches!
Muffins don’t have to be for breakfast only.
In fact, savory muffins are a great option for easy lunch box meal for your kiddo. They make a terrific lunch that kids will love.
How could you go wrong with corndog muffin or veggie bites? Packed with protein, nutrition, and fun for the kids!
These are also great to shake things up a bit and skip the thermos. Variety for you as you prepare these foods and variety for your kids as they open their lunchbox!
- Healthy Egg Muffins
- Paleo Sausage Cheese Balls
- Homemade Corndog Muffins
- Paleo Savory Zucchini Muffins
- Pizza Einkorn Muffins
- Mini Beef Meatballs
- Grain-Free Savory Chicken & Veggie Bites
Quick And Easy Lunches
The ideas below are mostly for bento-style lunches. They are convenient for kid’s lunchboxes because they are usually very quick and easy to put together.
Bento is a single portion, home-packed meal (or take-out) with roots in Japanese cuisine. The trend quickly picked up because it’s so easy to pack a variety of foods in one container.
Kids love bento boxes because it gives them control over what is packed. It is especially helpful for children with sensory issues or those who are bothered when their “food touches each other.”
Some of these does require a little bit more prep time but typically all these are quick to put together during busy mornings. These bento boxes are fun for even the kids to put together the night before.
Additional foods that can be added to bento boxes that are not on this list include a variety of fresh fruits and veggies: grapes, strawberries, apple wedges, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot sticks, etc. Be sure to add in a small container of healthy dip or hummus if your kids love to dip their veggies in.
I’ve also added raw cheddar and nitrate-free salami or pepperoni to my kid’s bento boxes.
- Healthy Homemade Lunchables
- Homemade Lunch Meat
- Allergy-Free Homemade Vegetable Dip
- Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Bars
- Gluten-Free Cheddar Cheese Crackers
- Zucchini Chips
- Easy Roasted Broccolini
- Healthy Homemade Nut Free Granola Bars
- Creamy & Easy Homemade Ranch
- Easy Whole Wheat Einkorn Cheddar Crackers
- Green Plantain Crackers
- Easy Homemade Pickle Chips
- Healthy Gluten-Free Pasta Salad Recipe
- Mayo-Free Tuna Salad
- Healthy Potato Salad with Probiotics
This is the category for sweets. Of course, you can always throw in a handful of grapes and call it good. But for inspiration, this section has some really fun yet healthy sweets for your kids’ lunch boxes. These can easily be thrown into the bento box as well.
The good thing about most of these recipes are that even though they are considered a dessert in your school lunchbox, they are still packed with nutrition. For example, the gummies and gelatin-type desserts require grass-fed gelatin, which is a great source of amino acids!
The last four items will need a small container to hold them. I love 4-ounce jelly jars but if you have to avoid glass, there are many options available online!
- Homemade Grapefruit Gummies
- Egg-Free Paleo Brownies
- Homemade “Jello” Dessert
- Mango & Cream Gummies
- Silky Smooth Dairy-Free Bean Fudge
- Maple Apple Cinnamon No-Bake Treats
- Carrot Raisin No-Bake Treats
- Melon Gummies
- Flourless Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars
- Pumpkin Leather
- Peach Fruit Leather
- Instant Pot Lemon Pudding Cups
- No-Jello Chocolate Pudding Cups
- Instant Pot Rice Pudding
- Instant Pot 3-Minute Applesauce
Other Helpful Articles for Healthy School Lunch Ideas
From dilly carrot sticks to water kefir to homemade string cheese, these super easy ideas will help you pack a variety of nutritious fermented foods in your child’s lunchbox — without adding lots of prep time!
Here are 10 practical tips to help you pack delicious lunches all week long, without the stress. These tips will help you to plan and organize the lunch-making routine, and make sure that the packed lunch is actually eaten!
Stuck for ideas? Need some tips for choosing the best lunchbox or containers? Want to know how to get the kids involved or to create a lunchbox menu plan? This post has you covered! 2-week menu plan included to help you get started!
How To Pack Gluten-Free Lunches
Do you need to make your lunches gluten-free? Here are lots of ideas for thinking beyond the sandwich, as well as tips for keeping lunches gluten-free while complying with nut-free policies.
DIY Reusable Food Wrap
Whether you are trying to cut down on plastic, or are just looking for alternative ideas for keeping food fresh, you can easily make your own reusable food wrap and you can even turn your wrap into homemade snack bags!
MY GUIDE TO HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS
The search for new, healthy lunchbox ideas seems never-ending. You want foods that are quick and easy, yet you also want to ensure your child is getting the correct balance of nutrients. Here, I want to help you by giving you some of my all-time favourite lunchbox ideas within each food group. It is important to understand the health benefits of each group, and then have some foolproof, tasty recipes in each category to rely on. Once you have this knowledge, and you are doing some simple meal prep, then you can enjoy the mornings without the daily stress. Let this guide provide you with some inspiration!
The largest and most filling aspect of your child’s lunch box, this food group is made up of starchy foods such as breads and pastas. As with everything on your lunch plan, using a variety of foods is more beneficial so be wary of not using the same bread or pasta every single time. Pitas, wraps, spaghetti – there are so many yummy options to pack. Another top tip for maximising the health benefits is to use whole-grain carbohydrates. These are packed with fibre, which makes them healthier than their white counterparts. If your child is reluctant to eat wholegrain foods, a great compromise is to use the method of half and half. For example, in a pasta dish make sure that half is wholegrain and half is white. Therefore, your little one is becoming familiar with the wholegrain taste and texture, without being overwhelmed by a purely wholegrain meal. Here are some of my favourites carbohydrates to pack:
No child can resist this deliciously creamy sauce. A warm, filling treat, this classic not only gets a great reaction at the dinner table, but causes excitement at school too! Despite its reputation as a seriously heavy meal, my version is much lighter and is packed with cheesy goodness and nutritious veggies.
Quick and Easy Quesadillas
This a lovely twist on the school sandwich. Children love wraps and finger food, so this crispy tortilla will go down a storm. It is a firm favourite in my home, and it only takes a mere twenty minutes to make! Serve it the night before and keep some aside to pack the next morning.
Pasta with Pesto
Meals don’t come much simpler to make than pasta with pesto. I cannot recommend having delicious, homemade pesto available enough. Simply cook some pasta and swirl in your child’s favourite pesto for a tasty and nutritious lunch in a pinch. Pesto is also a great way of getting greens into your child, such as kale, without them even noticing.
Protein is so important for children, as its essential for their muscle, bone and skin. Not to mention that it fuels them up with the energy they need to tackle the school day. When we think about protein, often our mind immediately goes to heavy foods like red meat. However, protein can come from so many sources. Cheeses, yogurts, nut butters – these are all great options! Here are some of my favourites.
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, and these omelette fingers are a great way of getting them into lunchbox. By cutting them into fun finger shapes, your little one will find eating this a much more fun and interactive experience.
Peanut Butter Cookies
What child doesn’t love biscuits? These treats only contain three ingredients – peanut butter, honey and egg. Nut Butters are a fantastic way of upping your child’s protein intake, and most children adore the taste. The biscuit form will definitely entice your little one, and this will be a go-to favourite in no time.
Ginger and Plum Yogurt
Yogurt is many a mum’s preferred snack to pack in a lunchbox. However, there can be an unfortunate amount of hidden sugars in fruit yogurts. The best solution, in my opinion, is to make your own using natural yogurt. This recipe is so simple to make, and the plum and the ginger make for a very tasty combination. Pack some granola for your child to add so that a simple snack turns into a sensory experience.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
It is so important that your child gets enough portions of fruit and vegetables. However, this can also be the area where children can start to be most fussy. The texture, the colour – many aspects of produce can put a child off. It is vital that they eventually learn that these foods are actually not scary at all. Even simple things like changing the shape of the vegetables or adding a dip can make the experience more fun and less frightening. For example, carrots do not seem as daunting when cut into sticks and paired with hummus as an interactive snack. Here are some fantastic recipes to familiarise them with fruit and veg and hopefully help them to overcome any pickiness.
The majority of children are crazy for crisps, so this format can be a really beneficial way to get them used to vegetables. Just make sure the veggies are cut extremely thin to avoid sogginess and to mimic the crunchy texture of their favourite potato crisps.
Mini Cheesy Vegetable Scones
Sometimes the best way to up the veggie intake of a fussy eater is to sneak them into other snacks. These scones are just the thing. The gorgeously cheesy taste will entice them to try, and the carrot and courgette will not overpower the flavour. A truly yummy treat packed with nutrients and health benefits.
Homemade Chicken Soup
Soups that are filled to the brim with vegetables are the perfect way to up a child’s nutrient intake. It allows you to control the texture, so you can blend until no lumps are found. This particular soup is packed with amazingly healthy foods, like celery and carrot.
I hope that this list has inspired you when packing a balanced lunch box! There are so many yummy ideas that can be tried, all it requires is a little bit of organisation and meal prep.
The Mummy Cooks Lunch Set contains twenty pots in four different sizes, everything you need to get you through the school week!