The kids are back in school and with that comes some serious lunch planning! After all, who gets excited over a soggy sandwich every day of the week? If your school has a great lunch program that doesn’t cost a fortune or you just love prepping for hours each week, great! For everyone else whose kids just refuse to eat on Tuna Salad Surprise day, we’ve got a week’s worth of back to school lunch recipes ready to give you a helping hand!
These healthy school lunch ideas can be made ahead of time or prepped the night before so assembly in the morning is easy. From easy wraps and pinwheels to energy bites and trail mix, we’ve got ideas to fill the most creative lunch box with nutrition and wholesome bites!
While sandwiches are always a great go-to for a last minute fix, they can get boring pretty quickly! Check out these alternatives from puffs to pinwheels to give your little one something to look forward to when they head out with their bento boxes and lunches!
Serves: Makes 36 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup chopped pepperoni slices
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Pizza Spice
- Marinara sauce
- Rinse quinoa in cold water for 2 minutes.
- In a small pot, add water, quinoa, and salt and bring to a boil.
- Cover and reduce to a simmer, then allow to cook for 25 minutes or until water has been absorbed.
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Lightly grease mini muffin tin.
- In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the marinara sauce.
- Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture to each mini muffin cup, then gently compress
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3 minutes.
Serve with marinara sauce for dipping or stick them in an airtight container for the next day! Who doesn’t love pizza for lunch?
Serves: 18-20 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. refined coconut oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cups mushrooms, diced (optional)
- 1 cup Swiss chard leaves, chopped
- 1 cup bell pepper, diced
- 1 -15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1 ¼ cup butternut squash, roasted and mashed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 10 whole wheat tortillas
- 8 oz. cheese, freshly grated
- Fresh salsa or sour cream to serve (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Using a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil for 1-2 minutes
- Add onions, mushrooms and Swiss chard. Sauté for 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened.
- Add the bell peppers and black beans and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper and mix together well.
- Add the roasted and mashed butternut squash and combine with the other vegetables. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- On a flat, clean surface, lay down a whole wheat tortilla and spoon ¼ cup squash/bean mixture evenly on the lower half of the tortilla.
- Top with cheese, then roll the tortilla from the bottom going up.
- Brush each taquito with oil and lay down (tortilla flap side down) on a lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until crispy on the outside.
Once they’re done, allow to cool then store in an airtight container with sides of fresh salsa or sour cream! You can mix up this recipe by changing what you put inside. Go meatless, go with seasonal veggies, or simply fill them with what’s in your fridge!
Serves: Makes 1 serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes
- 2 slices bread of choice
- 2 Tbsp. nut butter
- 2 Tbsp. jam or jelly
- 4 strawberries
- 1 banana
- Thinly slice your strawberries and cut the banana in half. Cut one half into thin slices, and the other into bite-sized ones.
- Spread peanut butter + jelly evenly on both pieces of bread, then cut into 4 small squares or triangles.
- Add a layer of thinly sliced fruit to each, depending on your child’s taste, then complete the mini-sandwiches
- Place one sandwich piece on a wooden skewer, then a strawberry, then bite-sized banana slice. alternating until all sandwich slices and fruit are on your skewer.
You can mix this up by adding different fruits, types of nut butter, or even throwing in some pumpkin seeds if you’re feeling a little adventurous! This classic favorite just tastes better to picky eaters in a different shape sometimes.
Serves: Makes 1 serving
Prep Time: 30 minutes
- 1 Flatout Foldit
- Spreads, such as:
- Peanut butter
- Sun butter
- Reduced-fat cream cheese
- 100% pure fruit jelly
- Optional toppings, such as:
- Sliced kiwis
- Sliced grapes
- Sliced strawberries
- Coconut Flakes
- Thinly sliced almonds
- 2 small blueberries
- 1 small grape
- 2 thinly sliced almonds (or an additional grape, for a nut-free option)
- Place Foldit on work surface and carefully cut a thin, curved section off from each side of the “face,” similar to the shape of an 8
- Open Foldit and spread it thinly with your choice of spreads.
- Add additional, thinly sprinkled toppings of your choice, if desired. Close Foldit.
- To form the hippo’s curved “mouth,” gently press the center of the top Foldit layer toward the middle, to create a small gap
- For the “nostrils,” place a very small dab of whatever spread you’re using on each blueberry, and “glue” them into place near the center of the curved mouth.
- For the “eyes,” cut a grape in half and dab each cut side with a little spread, “gluing” each eye into place near the top of the hippo, as you did with the blueberry “nostrils.”
- Press each almond into place as “ears” at the very top of the head, above the eyes. Cutting a tiny slit in the Foldit first will make this easier. Alternately, for a nut-free option, you can use a sliced grape instead of almonds, securing the grape “ears” in place with a little dab of spread, if needed.
Hippos to the rescue! What’s possibly more fun than a hippo peeking up from between your favorite snacks?? They’ll love trying different fillings to craft their very own creations. An art project and a meal, all in one. How’s that for multi-tasking?
Sweets + Sides
With the main course out of the way, it’s time to think up some delicious snacks and sides to slip into those lunchboxes, too! Of course, sliced fruit, veggies, and pre-packaged snacks are always on the list but it’s always good to have a few extra-special recipes on-hand.
Serves: Makes 4 serving
Prep Time: 30 minutes
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- A pinch of cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
- Line baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper
- Cut the apples crosswise into thin rounds.
- Toss the apple slices in a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, sprinkle a little cinnamon over top and toss to coat.
- Lay the apples in a single layer on the parchment covered baking sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour then remove them from the oven.
- Carefully flip over apple chips, then return them to the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
- Remove the apple chips from the oven and let cool completely. Store in a sealed container.
With fall nearly here, you had to know these would be on the list! They’re much lower in sodium and unhealthy fats while packing a powerful healthy punch with vitamins and minerals. They almost taste like they should be bad for you but, especially when compared to most pre-packaged snacks, they’re not! You’ve just got to love it when food tastes good AND is actually healthy for you too.
Serves: Makes 3.5 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
- 1 can chickpeas
- ½ can pumpkin
- ½ cup tahini
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ tsp. salt
- Drain the chickpeas, setting liquid aside
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender until ingredients are incorporated.
- Add just enough of the reserved chickpea water to form a loose creamy paste.
- Taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Serve with veggies sticks or pita, or store overnight in airtight container.
On top of being incredibly flavorful, this homemade hummus is also healthy! There’s lots of protein from the chickpeas and tahini, plus the added vitamins and antioxidants from the pumpkin. How does that stack up against a Ranch cup?
Serves: Makes 12 muffins
Prep Time: 50 minutes
- 1.5 cups shredded zucchini
- 1 cup mashed banana (about 2 small bananas)
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tsp. baking soda
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1.5 cups flour
- 1 cup quick cook oats
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter
- Chocolate chips, nuts, or raisins, to taste
- Smash bananas into zucchini to equal 2 1/2 cups, (there should be a few lumps of banana).
- Mix in sugar and eggs, then melted butter
- In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
- Slowly stir dry mixture into wet mixture until incorporated.
- Mix in additional toppings if desired
- Fill buttered and floured muffin cups 3/4 full
- Bake on 350 oven for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes clean.
- Let rest for 2 minutes.
- Remove from pan to cooling racks.
These filling muffins are a perfect addition to kids lunches. With oatmeal, banana, and zucchini they are nutritious and delicious without all of the sugar of store-bought options!
Serves: Makes 12-18 cookies
Prep Time: 25 minutes
- 1 cup mashed banana
- 2 cups oatmeal
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix all ingredients until moist.
- Drop by tablespoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet.
- Flatten to desired thickness and shape, as cookies WILL NOT spread.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Remove to wire rack to cool.
Here you’ve got another great alternative to sugary, processed cookies you find at the store! You can even add in some coconut or a tablespoon of cocoa nibs or cocoa powder to make it extra special for your little ones to discover come lunchtime.
Serves: Makes 16 bites
Prep Time: 20 minutes
- 1.5 c. oatmeal
- ⅓ c. almonds, chopped
- ½ c. nut butter
- ¼ c. honey
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- ⅓ c. dried blueberries, roughly chopped
- ⅓ c. dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped
- Bake oatmeal and almonds for 8-10 minutes at 350°, stirring after 5 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool.
- In a medium bowl, combine the baked mix with nut butter, honey, chia seeds, blueberries and chocolate chips.
- Form into 1.5″ balls and refrigerate.
These guys store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to one week or freezer for up to 3 months! Perfect for a last minute bite between school and soccer or a nice complement to a healthy lunch. The choice is yours!
What do you think of these healthy back to school lunch ideas?