51 Back to School Lunch Ideas and Recipes (Plus, 10 Bonus Lunch-Making Tips)
Another school year on the horizon means ten months of lunch making is soon to be added to the daily to-do list. Fear not, we’ve got more than 50 lunch ideas for kids, plus recipes, tips, tricks and strategies to help you survive the school year and keep the kids feeling happy, healthy and – most importantly – full!
These mac and cheese pizza muffins are a make-ahead lunch option that’s guaranteed to be popular with the kids. Feel free to skip the breadcrumb topping if that isn’t to your little ones’ tastes.
Sandwiches get old pretty quickly, but putting pancakes or mini pumpkin waffles in the lunchbox is a refreshing way to serve “bread” for lunch.
A perennial favourite, chia chicken strips are loaded with fibre and protein and sure to keep the kids feeling full all day.
Say olé to school lunches with these Mexican-inspired baked turkey taco triangles.
For your pizza-loving scholars, why not whip up a large Stromboli on the weekend and divide it into portions that can be packed in the school lunch the following week?
A kid-friendly, gluten-free lunchbox favourite, our Turkey and Cheddar Cheese Roll-Ups are super popular not to mention versatile. Feel free to try ham and Swiss or prosciutto and provolone instead.
A fun take on a popular sandwich, our waffle grilled cheese couldn’t be easier to make.
Super-Fast Black Bean Quesadillas are vegetarian, filling and even worthy of the weeknight dinner rotation.
Tri-colour vegetable pasta with broccoli (throw some florets into the pot of pasta 2 minutes before the end of the cook time) and pesto is a hearty homemade meal the kids are sure to be fond of. Tip #1: When vegetables are part of the main attraction and not just the sideshow, they’re usually more easily devoured.
Save some of last night’s supper (Tip #2: leftovers make excellent lunch box fillings) and serve the kids roast chicken on a pretzel bun with shredded lettuce and yellow mustard.
Choose a few items from our suggests Parisian platter lunch and pack them into a bento-style lunch box.
Soups! Make a list of your kids’ favourites and prepare them well in advance of when you need them. (Tip #3: portion them into 250mL mason jars and tuck in the freezer for school lunches)
An easy-to-eat finger food, baked pizza taquitos are so simple to put together a seven-year-old could do it on their own (Tip #4: start delegating lunch-making duty as soon as you can!)
Mini quiche is fuss-free, mess-free and can be customized to include your children’s’ favourite fillings.
Homemade pizza lunchable with pita, pizza or marinara sauce, grated mozzarella, pepperoni, and black olives.
Turkey meatball bites served as is, with rice or in a bun. (Tip #5: meatballs are a great way to get protein into the kids. Feel free to add a grated carrot or zucchini to the meat mixture and don’t hesitate to make a double or triple batch for the freezer).
Mini pita pockets stuffed with tuna salad; egg salad; ham and cheese; bacon, lettuce, and tomato, etc. Think outside the box when it comes to the bread you use to make sandwiches. Anything out of the ordinary will instantly make the meal more fun.
Snacks and Sweets:
Leftover Oatmeal Muffins. Make a big batch of oatmeal on the weekend and use the leftover to make snacks for the lunchbox.
Cocoa Date Truffles look far more decadent than they really are.
Oatmeal Power Balls can be made with sunbutter, wowbutter, peanut butter or almond butter. Use whichever one is acceptable at your school.
Yogurt-covered pretzels and banana chips (Tip #6: Bulk food stores are a great place to purchase small quantities of treats and/or snacks that can be combined to create a custom snack blend for your kids)
Chocolate-covered sunflower seeds are a sweet snack that won’t leave the kids feeling jacked up on sugar.
Making a snack mix of pumpkin seeds, mini chocolate chips and coconut flakes seems indulgent but is actually a healthy snack you can feel good about offering.
Applesauce sprinkled with hemp seeds. Sometimes basic really is best!
Salsa or guacamole (Tip #7: Did you know you can freeze guacamole? Make a large batch and freeze individual portions for packing in the lunchbox. It will also double as an ice pack) with whole grain tortilla chips
Chopped veggies with hummus – a classic that never gets old.
Sliced apple or pear with sunbutter for dipping are perfect for the few months of school when both fruits are ripe and in season
Air-snacks like veggie stick chips or baked cheese puffs are a smart alternative to potato chips and crackers.
Granola and Greek yogurt is filled with fibre and protein and will keep the kids feeling full until the bell rings.
Fruit leather. Easy to make and can be done with a variety of fruits.
Unsweetened fruit sauce pouches are often pitched as being the perfect snack for toddlers, but school-aged kids definitely appreciate the portability and ease with which these can be consumed.
Whole grain fruit-filled snacking bars. These are like those beloved Nutri Grain bar, but healthier and homemade.
Pretzels are another healthy alternative to potato chips and crackers.
Cheese strings. A classic.
Smoothies (Tip #8: pack them frozen and they will thaw over the morning and be drinkable by lunch).
Flavoured coconut water.
Fruits and Vegetables:
Sliced stone fruit, like peaches, plums, and apricots (Tip #9: Make a large container of this at the beginning of the week and portion it out for school lunches as needed).
Lettuce-free salad of chopped carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and baby bocconcini cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and a touch of lemon juice.
Dried mango slices.
Grapes look so much more appealing when served in multicoloured combinations (so both green and red) or with a vibrant fruit like strawberries, which can hold up to the heft of the grape when they are packed together.
Cubed melon trio (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew).
Broccoli florets with ranch dressing.
Mixed berries are great for packing but be sure to put them in a separate container and they will soften, potentially smush (raspberries) and release some juices as they warm up throughout the day.
Sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes.
Pre-packaged seedless olives in snack-size containers are great for kids who don’t mind the briny taste.
Carrot sticks and multi-coloured pepper slices with tzatziki.
Trimmed and steamed green beans sprinkled with sea salt.
- The Ten-Day Back-to-School Lunch Plan (full plans for two weeks!)