My kiddo is about to begin preschool. I can’t believe it. Seriously, where has time gone. One thing I keep thinking about is what can I send her to school, and how do other parents pack lunches that are able to either stay warm or not spoil until lunch time, and also give their kids some options besides PB&J. That is what prompted me to create this post on easy back to school lunches. Hopefully these ideas will help you mix it up when you’re packing food for your kids to take to school!
Things to keep in mind about packing lunches are how balanced your child’s meal is, how long they have to eat, their age, and do they have somewhere to reheat food. Most kids won’t have access to a microwave and a fridge so finding lunches that can be eaten cold are important as well as things that will taste good and keep your kid’s attention. One thing that has had some hype are the nut butter and banana sushi rolls – fun way to get some protein and fruit in with whole grains. Below I’ve listed a number of fun ideas for school lunches.
1. Smoothie, Whole Grain Crackers, Sliced Cheese
Find yourself an insulated bottle and prepare your child a smoothie to drink for lunch. My kiddo loves strawberry banana with spinach. If you use coconut water you can make it a little sweeter without adding a bunch of added sugar. Also adding things like flaxseed, nut butters or nuts, and chia seeds bulk it up and don’t change the flavor much. Here’s an idea of a good green smoothie recipe.
2. Nut/Seed Butter Banana Sandwich
One of the things my kid will come back to time and time again are peanut butter sandwiches. Level it up by adding banana slices, or even sliced figs, or strawberries and almond butter. One of my favorite packable lunches is a whole grain sandwich with a nut butter and either fruit or even homemade jam (most recently I’ve made fig jam with fresh figs, lemon juice, and a bit of sugar). Add in some sliced carrots or cucumber and hummus for a very filling meal.
3. Bentgo Box Variations
While I don’t actually own a bentgo box we do own a knock off that my daughter LOVES. She will eat a lot more variety if it’s packed in that lunch box. I usually put some sort of nut (pecans, almonds, cashews, walnuts, or even a mix) in one spot, some sliced veggies like carrots or cucumbers, sliced fruits like apples or strawberries, cheese slices or hummus, and then a treat like That’s It mini bars (they’re a great deal at Costco) or mini boxes of raisins. Other good add ins are apple chips, crackers, veggie straws, goldfish, fruit leather, trail mix, grapes, bell pepper, melon, oranges, edamame, teddy grahams, celery, mini muffins, granola bars, these copycat Larabars, and about anything else you can imagine.
4. Sandwich Sushi
Take your kids favorite sandwich and make it into sushi rolls by either rolling a piece of bread flat or using a tortilla. Add peanut butter or other type of spread along with a banana. Roll it up and cut into bite size pieces. This is a fun way to switch up your kids usual meal without adding too much stress on yourself. You can throw peanut butter and jelly in a bread piece and roll it up, or do a banana roll up for more of a ‘meaty’ roll up. Add some cut up veggies, fruit, and you have a quick packed lunch!
5. Hard Boiled Eggs, Fruit, Veggies, and Crackers
If your kid is into eggs (mine are definitely NOT) then you can do a hard boiled egg or two with some fruit, veggies, crackers, and hummus for a filling protein-packed meal! pre-peel the eggs for your little kids. 🙂
6. Homemade Pizza Lunchable
These were my favorite as a kid. Get a little pack of mini naan, marinara sauce (in a silicone muffin tin or small air-tight container, shredded cheese, and if your kid likes other toppings (pepperoni, olives, pineapple, etc). They can make their own at school! Pro tip – throw in a spoon and knife to spread the pizza sauce.
7. Charcuterie Board in a Box
If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll eat food they wouldn’t normally eat if it looks pretty. Use a larger container like a pyrex and stack crackers, fruit, veggies, dip (guac, hummus, dressing), nuts, meats and cheeses with some style and it’s sure to be a hit!
8. Bean and Cheese Burrito
This one you might want to find an insulated bag for, but you can pack a premade bean and cheese burrito with some fruit and veggies for your little one. We make bean and cheese burritos or quesadillas often, and you can premake burritos and freeze for ease!
9. Healthy Muffins
There are a ton of ways to make healthy muffins! Throw some grated zucchini, pumpkin, grated carrots, or nut butters for a healthy take on a childhood favorite. Here’s one of my daughter’s favorite muffins. Pack one or two with some fruit, vegetables, and hummus or guac for a filling favorite.
10. BYO Yogurt Parfait
Pack your kid a bowl with a yogurt (we make our own but plain yogurt is the safest to reduce added sugar), some granola or chopped nuts and seeds, and chopped fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries so they can make their own yogurt parfait at school. Add some pretzels or crackers and hummus on the side. If your kid can’t do dairy, try something similar with coconut pudding, like this recipe.
11. Cucumber and Hummus Roll Up
Spread hummus on a tortilla and add cucumber sticks. Roll it up and leave as a wrap, or slice into pieces for a ‘sushi’ effect. Add some fruit and cheese on the side.
This can be flexible but my kid is obsessed with cream cheese. I like a good bagel with mashed avocado and some everything but the bagel seasoning but a bagel with spread is a great lunch. You can do peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese and lox, avocado, hummus, or even make a sandwich with meat and cheese. Add a side of fruit and veggies and you have a great lunch.
Pack some tortilla chips along with black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and cubed avocado. You can throw in shredded chicken or beef if you eat meat and let your kids make their own nachos at school. Add a cookie or side of fruit to round it out.
14. Apple Nachos
Another easy back to school lunch that is a favorite is apple nachos. Thinly slice apples (or use dried apples), and top with nut or seed butter, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, hemp seeds, or whatever other toppings you can think of! Add carrots, crackers, and hummus for a full meal.
15. Pasta Salad
For slightly older kids or less picky kids, a pasta salad is a great meal that can be eaten cold. Pack that with fruit like grapes or blueberries.
16. Breakfast For Lunch Pancakes
Pack pancakes premade with a side of syrup and berries to top. Cut them into strips for younger kids to use as dippers! Check out an easy vegan pancake recipe here. Other good options are Kodiak Cakes.
16. Breakfast for Lunch French Toast
Similar to prep for pancakes you can also do french toast for breakfast. Get adventurous and pack stuffed french toast!
You can do so many variations with these ideas of easy back to school lunches, so don’t feel restricted. It’s easy to fall victim of routine and feel stuck with packed lunches so here are a few ideas that can help provide some ideas for your little ones! Let me know what your little one’s favorites are in the comments below.
Happy back to school for all you busy families out there. I hope this easy back to school lunches post helps you provide some variation to your child’s lunchbox. 🙂