Healthy Packed Lunches For High School


What I learned the hard way, is that healthy packed school lunches for high school is hard to do. And it can get expensive. But I have found a few tips and tricks along the way to make it easier (and hopefully less expensive). These are a few things that have worked for me.

What you pack in your child’s lunch box each day can affect their academic performance and overall health. Do you know what’s best to pack? Most kids are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, some aren’t eating any at all. This can lead to malnutrition, or a lack of vital vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Pack your kids healthy lunches with these nutritious tips.

Healthy Packed Lunches For High School

School packed lunch inspiration

It might be difficult to come up with nutritious and exciting lunch fillings every day, especially if you can’t picture your youngster gleefully walking to school with a package of sprouting mung beans and you’re not giving in to the crisp and chocolate demands. Here are some quick, easy, and delectable suggestions to breathe fresh life into the dreaded lunchbox. Don’t underestimate the power of novelty.

Healthy and happy

According to NHS choices a balanced lunchbox should contain:

  • Starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes or pasta
  • Protein foods like meat, fish, eggs or beans
  • A dairy item, like cheese or yogurt
  • Vegetables or salad and a portion of fruits.

Try something new

Cheese and pickle is not to be knocked, but if your kids are tired with the same old sandwich fillings then why not try something new?

Omelette in a bun

For the perfect lunchtime mashup your kids will love, combine two lunchtime favorites. These filling omelette rolls can be served warm for a quick dinner or wrapped for a filling lunch with vegetables the following day. For a delectable mouthful, stuff the omelettes with spinach, crumbled feta, and juicy cherry tomatoes. If you’d like, you could add more lettuce, and older kids might also enjoy a little salsa or pickle.

You’re a star sarnies 

Create six bread stars from the wholemeal bread using a star-shaped cutter (freeze the off-cuts to make breadcrumbs). Spread the cream cheese mixture onto both sides of the stars after incorporating the red pesto. If creating the sandwich the night before, close it, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator.

Green club sandwich

Sandwiches are simply more thrilling when the bread is double-decked. But, it also provides you permission to include extra worthwhile material. Due to the high energy content of this green club sandwich, children should feel more awake throughout double math. The sandwich filler suggestions from Lesley Water are also a fantastic way to increase diversity by getting inventive with basic ingredients.

Super salad wraps

Salad wraps and strawberries in colourful lunchboxes

With these really delectable and vibrant salad wraps, you can encourage your kids to eat their vegetables. Several crunchy vegetables have been added for texture, and hummus and cheddar cheese offer flavor. You might also include chicken, tuna, or an egg.

For more tasty tortillas, try our carrot & hummus roll-ups or chicken roll-ups.

Cheese and apple 

Mix their favourite grated hard cheese with grated apple, chopped spring onions, a squeeze of lemon and a little mayonnaise. Delicious with wholemeal bread or rolls.

Creamy smoked mackerel

Skin and flake smoked mackerel fillets, then mix with a little mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Spread onto thick wholemeal bread and top with crisp lettuce leaves.

Marmite, cheese and cucumber

Try Marmite, grated cheddar and sliced cucumber in a crusty baguette or ciabatta roll. They’ll either love it or hate it.

Sandwich swap

Want to bin the sandwich altogether? There are plenty of carby options that kids should love and that can help add a bit of variety into your child’s diet.

Pasta perfection

Pasta salad in a lunchbox with extra ingredients in bowls

Add some color to their lunchboxes with a lovely, creamy pasta salad with pesto. Add cooked vegetables, such as peas, green beans, and courgettes, as well as a variety of proteins, to make it your own. Depending on your dietary preferences, chicken, ham, shrimp, a hard-boiled egg, or cheese are all suitable choices.

If you’re looking for additional pasta recipe ideas, try this flavorful BLT pasta salad for a lighter take on the traditional British sarnie or prepare a quick Mediterranean-style tortellini dish with pesto and broccoli.

Healthy bites

Coronation chicken with grains and salad in a pink lunchbox

Make this quick coronation chicken salad for something a little lighter but still flavorful and substantial. To save time, pre-cooked roast chicken pieces and a grain pudding are used in this delectably creamy recipe.

In the summer, our two-bean tuna salad and chicken taco salad are also fantastic. If you’re concerned about keeping your child’s lunchbox cool, consider freezing an extra bottle of water overnight to act as a cooler. This will also provide them with a tasty afternoon beverage.

Feasts in a flask

Chicken soup in a bowl and lunchbox with spoons

If your children want a warm, comfortable meal, prepare them some wonderful soup, a veg-packed stew, or perhaps some meatballs in the Swedish tradition. To bring them to school, place them in a thermos flask with a wide neck. On frigid winter days, they’ll be the envy of the class with these incredibly delightful meals…

Crisp and chocolate swaps

Making a healthy lunch for your child starts with avoiding items that are rich in sugar and salt. Just substituting items like unsalted almonds, dried fruit, bits of cheese, or a low-sugar yogurt for foods like crisps, sweet biscuits, and chocolate bars is a significant start in the right direction. Yet, if you’re feeling inventive, we have many of fun suggestions for kid-pleasing lunchbox snacks.

Fruity sundae

Summer fruits and yoghurt in a lunchbox

A sweet and fruity treat for kids needing a boost at lunchtime – yogurt swirled with mashed strawberries and topped with berries.

What to include in your lunchbox

Bento box with sushi rolls and edamame beans

Girls, especially, are at risk of being low in this mineral, so include plenty of iron-rich choices like lean meat, dark green leafy veg, dried fruit like apricots, as well as chickpeas, lentils and beans.

Growing kids need this mineral, especially as teens, so include good sources like lean beef, eggs, legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, Brazil nuts and almonds (taking into consideration your child’s school guidelines about nuts) as well as seeds including pumpkin and sesame.

Omega-3 fatty acids
These all-important fatty acids keep the brain well-oiled and help to establish healthy, balanced hormones. Try oily varieties of fish including salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and mackerel. Alternatively, for vegans and vegetarians look to chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts (depending on school guidelines about nuts).

Teens love snacking so pack handy nibbles like homemade popcorn flavoured with chilli or paprika instead of salt or sugar. Visit our healthy snack recipe collection for more ideas.

What to avoid in your lunchbox

Empty calories
Swap the likes of fizzy drinks and squash for yogurt-based smoothies, 100% fruit juice or plain water.

Read our guide for more kids’ smoothie recipes.

Strawberry smoothie in a glass with fruit and bowls in the background

A note about school food policies

Check with your teenager’s school in case there are any foods they discourage or restrict – for example, nuts to safeguard students with nut allergies.

Try these simple and balanced lunch ideas for teens 

But teens also need nutritious food to support this growth; in particular protein, calcium and healthy fats. A packed lunch should be one that is quick to make, easy to eat and balanced – providing a range of nutrition.

If you have active teenagers they’ll need even more food, ideally of the healthier snack variety.

Some teens are keen to take the lead on prepping their own lunch, while others still see it as a job for the parents. Let’s start with ideas for the latter!

    • Sandwiches, wraps, bagels or rolls are an obvious choice – try different fillings through the week – roast chicken or cheese salad, tuna and sweetcorn, hummus and grated crated, mozzarella, tomato and basil, chicken and avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese. Variety in our diet helps us to eat a wider range of nutrients than if we stick to the same few choices.
    • Salads can also work well and may be seen as a more ‘grown up’ option but make sure there are some carbohydrate sources to munch on e.g. breadsticks or crackers and you could include some cheese (e.g. feta, mozzarella, goat’s or cheddar depending on their preference) to up their calcium intake.
    • Warm food can also help to mix things up a little especially during the cooler months – think pasta, noodles or chili with rice.
    • Veg & fruit – teens in general don’t eat enough veg and fruit and they are so important to our overall health. Add anything they like to eat and that is quick to prepare e.g. apples, satsumas, grapes, kiwis, chopped melon, pineapple (this can be from a tin rather than fresh), cucumber, tomatoes, mini sweetcorn, carrots, edamame beans or peas still in their pods.
    • Snacks – breadsticks, granola bars, oatcakes, energy balls, hard-boiled eggs, crackers, tortilla chips, cheese chunks. Ideally prioritise these healthier options over crisps, biscuits, cakes and chocolate. While they are tasty, they don’t contain as many nutrients as those healthier types of snacks. Don’t restrict these types of food, one portion a day is considered part of a ‘balanced’ diet.

High protein school lunch ideas | Cookie Dough Yogurt at Dashing Dish

High protein school lunch ideas | Peanut Butter Granola at Grain Changer

The Apple Nachos we found at Oh Joy are a favorite among our children. We can get the extra protein we need by topping the sliced fruit with granola, coconut, and nut or seed butter. But for lunch, I advise putting an extra slice of apple on top to keep everything together, making these into apple sandwiches. To ensure that there isn’t a big mess, put everything in a plastic bag after that. Spiced Edamame from Dizzy, Busy, and Hungry is a delicious way to enhance your edamame game. For a nutritious, energizing lunch that their instructors will enjoy, we would bring this along with some lunch meat and cheese. Also, you can utilize the recipe and substitute your children’s preferred ingredients if they don’t like spiciness. Although the peanut butter granola we discovered at Grain Changer feels like dessert, it contains plenty of protein to keep your kids active and alert all day. Add hard boiled eggs or Greek-style yogurt to it to produce a breakfast-for-lunch dish that is filled with protein.

With this high protein, high fiber Chocolate Pudding recipe from Ancestral Nutrition, you can transform your protein shake into a tasty pudding that’s perfect for a lunchbox snack. Also, our kids will believe that we gave them dessert to take to school, so everyone wins.

How amazing is it that this Cookie Dough Yogurt “dessert” recipe from Dashing Dish contains only 8g of sugar and 26g of protein? This is a fantastic snack for a lunchbox. In fact, I might start by making enough for a week and then watch to see how long it actually lasts. Yum.

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