Healthy School Lunch Ideas

I just updated my waffle recipe which, after making them for my kids “first day of school, special breakfast”, I realized was not so special. Why? Because, though I got the recipe right in the details of my post and I said I used baking powder, when I wrote the recipe at the end of the post, I accidentally typed baking soda, which I followed  yesterday when I made them, and it made them taste quite bitter and gross. We ended up throwing the entire batch away after a couple people tried them. So I apologize if you did the same thing that I did and just skipped down to the bottom of the recipe and made a waffle that was not edible. I’ve updated that recipe now and you can find it here, and I promise it’ll taste much better this time.

Yesterday, was in fact, my kids first day of school and we have four of our five children in the elementary this year from Kindergarten up to Sixth grade. We loved our long summer that we were able to have because of our out-of-state move and I’m already missing having them around all day.

I don’t load my kids lunch account with money and let them buy everyday, but rather we pack lunches from home and then they have the option to buy once a week, though my sixth grader told me she’s decided she’s not going to buy the entire year because the lunches are gross. We’ll see how that goes, because I know last year they liked having a “day off” when they didn’t have to make lunch. If she follows through, perhaps I’ll offer to give her a ‘day off’ by making her lunch one day each week.

My goal for this post is to give you some healthy, real food lunch ideas, things we’ve done and liked, for some added lunch inspiration :). We try and prep lunches the night before so mornings are less rushed, but I’d say that only actually happens half the time, and the other half the time they just throw together a sandwich and grab an apple and run out the door, so we have some room for improvement. Here are some of the things we like to pack in our lunches:

Apple slices I do the morning of so they don’t turn brown. We’ve tried the orange and lemon juice thing but my kids don’t love that flavor and we find that they still usually turn a little brown. Triscuits are a great whole grain cracker with very minimal ingredients, especially the plain triscuits. Grapes are always a favorite fruit to pack. When we pack cheese, hard boiled eggs or something else that is usually refrigerated, I’ll throw a couple ice packs into their lunch sacks as well.

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Homemade snacks are always fun to bring as well. The kids love when we have muffins or granola bars they can pack. Here’s a banana muffin recipe we love in addition to the honey oat one above. I love that we can freeze the muffins and pull one out in the morning and stick it in their lunch container, and by lunch time, it’s defrosted and ready to eat. I usually freeze our muffins in a big tupperware container but you could also use a freezer gallon ziploc bag.

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Leftovers are great, like this leftover pasta salad and the whole grain crescent roll. Homemade trail mixes are great as well; in the one below we have almonds, cashews and raisins. Sometimes when we’re packing a lunch that requires ice packs, I’ll do a couple of cold foods, so along with the pasta salad we also have hard boiled eggs. If I just had pasta salad, I’d probably stick it in a thermos and that’d work great, too.

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Another homemade favorite the kids like to bring for lunch are taquitos and pizza. I don’t warm those up, they just put them in their lunch sack and eat them at room temperature.

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Here we have another homemade trail mix, triscuits, cheese cubes, cantaloupe and cucumber slices.

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Ants on a log is another yummy and nutritious food to add…we have peanut-free tables at our school but if you didn’t, then this might not be a possibility for you.

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Here we have a grilled cheese sandwich, peach slices, carrot slices, popcorn and cantaloupe.

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Peanut Butter and a ‘fruit only’ Jelly on whole wheat bread, carrots with a little Newman’s Own Ranch dressing, popcorn, peaches, and cheese cubes with a toothpick (for some reason, cheese cubes taste better when eaten with a toothpick, or so the children tell me)

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5 year old Jane found a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cut this shape out of her Peanut Butter and Honey sandwich all on her own :). She actually won’t have school lunches for another year, until she’s in first grade, but she likes to pack lunches for picnics on occasion.

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Here we have granola in a dish with a lid, just big enough to pour milk over top once they’re at school, the milk is in a thermos and we have peach slices on the side. If you forget a spoon for the granola and milk, most cafeterias should  have plastic or silverware they can use.  We also do a lot of soups, chili, and spaghetti in thermos containers when the weather cools.

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I hope this post has inspired you with some ideas for nutritious and creative lunches you can pack at home. Have a great week!

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