It’s that time of year when the kiddos are headed back to school, and that means you’ll have one additional task on your list: School Lunches!

Unless you live in a city or town that embraces organic farm-to-table lunches (yes, that does exist in some areas), the typical school lunch choices usually leave much to be desired when it comes to taste and nutrition.

There is more to life than a boring sandwich in a brown bag.  You won’t have to spend hours in the kitchen and browsing Pinterest for inspiration, only to see the entire lunch you packed come back home with your kids at the end of the day.

And you won’t have to resort to processed packaged lunch-ables and chips either.

The challenge is finding things your kids will actually eat, while at the same time packing some nutrition into their little brains and bodies.

Packing lunches and finding healthy options that your kids will enjoy doesn’t have to be a chore. Read on for some of my favorite lunch ideas and tools to make planning those lunches so much easier!

Oh, and if you don’t have kiddos to make lunches for, these ideas can be adapted for lunch at the office, on the go, or at home.

First, let me share one of my favorite tools!  Bento Boxes make lunchtime fun and prep super simple.  I love these bento-style lunchboxes because they make packing Paxton’s lunch so much easier.

You can use leftovers from dinner the night before and a variety of foods in kid-size servings to cover the phytonutrient spectrum while being pleasing to the eye.  The bento boxes have a spot for everything!

You can find these on Amazon along with other online retailers, and I’ve even seen them in my local grocery store.  They come in all different sizes so you can choose which size works best for your needs.

I prefer the stainless steel option. While they are a bit pricier, they will last for years and I don’t have to worry about the BPA and other hormone-disrupting chemicals found in plastic.

If you opt for a plastic or silicon version, be sure to choose boxes that are BPA free.

As I mentioned before, I love these containers because they allow me to pack a variety of foods, and this picture is the perfect example!  I’ll list some of my favorite ideas below.

You can also use paper cupcake liners in each of the compartments to help contain smaller items or to just make it more fun when your kids open their lunch boxes.

I personally love these boxes, and they are definitely worth the investment.

Here are some no-to-little cooking required (at least in the morning) ideas for filling up those lunch boxes:

Protein Ideas

  • Chicken or steak cut into strips or bite-sized pieces
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Meat and cheese roll-ups, cut into pinwheels
  • Tortilla roll-ups (whole grain or spinach tortilla with favorite filling), cut into pinwheels
  • Ground beef, chicken or pork (use favorite seasonings)
  • Chicken or tuna salad
  • Egg muffins or frittata
  • Meatballs (here is a great recipe)
  • Quinoa is a great vegetarian source of protein. Quinoa as the main dish or veggies mixed in as a salad is a great, filling lunch option.
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Celery sticks with nut butter or sunflower seed butter
  • Cheese sticks/string cheese

Veggies and Fruit

  • Cucumber rounds
  • Baby carrots/carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Jicama sticks
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Celery sticks with nut butter or sunflower seed butter
  • Salad greens with homemade dressing
  • Mashed sweet potato
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges

Healthy Fats

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Homemade dressings with olive oil or avocado oil

Dippers/Extras

  • Nut butter or sunflower seed butter
  • Hummus
  • Homemade ranch dressing
  • Homemade ketchup
  • Guacamole/avocado dip
  • Organic, gluten-free crackers
  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • Kale chips, zucchini chips, carrot chips

Healthier Sweet Treats

  • A few squares of dark chocolate
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Organic fruit snacks/fruit leather
  • Organic dried fruit (no sugar added)
  • Homemade, healthier baked goods

 

Here are some lunch ideas that you could prep and cook in advance – or that could be dinner leftovers to use!

  • Soups and stews
  • Build your own tacos/taco bowls. Just put the taco fillings in the box, and let the kiddos make their own tacos. Lettuce wraps here would be perfect for school or work!
  • Lettuce wraps – these could have grilled chicken, lunch meat, tuna salad, chicken salad, hummus, veggies – the sky is the limit.
  • Burger bowls. Include all your favorite burger fixings without the bun.
  • Kabobs – use your favorite meat and veggies. A few ideas: chicken with zucchini and mushrooms, steak with bell pepper and zucchini, lunch meat and cheese, cherry tomatoes with cucumber and mozzarella, all-veggie or all fruit skewers.
  • Egg roll-ups. Scramble eggs and cook as you would an omelet in a thin layer in the pan. Use “sheet” of the cooked egg as your wrapper for meat, cheese, and veggies.
  • Stir fry with your favorite protein and veggies with rice.
  • Rice, quinoa, roasted/mashed potatoes, roasted veggies all make great lunch sides!
  • Leftover casseroles, meatloaf, etc.

 

Packing a healthy lunch doesn’t have to be stressful.  Planning ahead and having the right tools can make all the difference!

 

Tell us: Will you be packing school or work lunches this week?

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