By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Looking for school lunch ideas for kids? You're in the right place with these back-to-school recipes, including school lunch box ideas, easy lunch ideas for school, and vegetarian school lunch ideas!
Backpacks are stuffed, and classes are in full swing with a return to school...even if that means you're home-schooling your kids via virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic and an upswing in COVID-19 cases in the United States. Or maybe your kids are going to in-person school, while keeping their social distance.
Now it's time for you to really shine, even while packing lunches! Back-to-school season is very different for each of us, but one thing remains the same: You have to eat. Having a few go-to recipes on hand can mean a world of difference during crunch time.
I'm going to delve into all things regarding back-to-school lunches, including a whole bunch of plant-based recipes, plus gluten-free ideas, too, in this blog post. Even if you don't have kids, you'll find these meal-prep ideas helpful. What will you be feeding your troops? Perhaps mac and cheese and pasta salad? Or how about a healthy pizza recipe?
Time-Saving Tips for When the Kids Go Back to School
I don’t know about you, but this time of year is really, really busy. It’s back-to-school season—and while I don’t have kids, work gets busier this time of year, and I’ve even felt compelled to do a lot of house cleaning. It also seems like the season to schedule every single doctor’s appointment!
No matter why you’re busy this time of year, all of us could appreciate some easy meals for this busy season, right? That’s why I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite dietitian-approved school lunch ideas—plus a few of my best time-saving tips for the kitchen.
Let’s start with those great ideas for time-saving tips, which will undoubtedly help your mental health, too.
Plan Out Your Meals
Yup, if you know what you’re putting on the table, you’ll be more likely to have all the ingredients on hand and speed up meal prep time.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Whether that means making extras and repurposing those leftovers for the next night—or making extra chicken breast one night and using the extras in an all-new recipe the next night, that’s up to you.
Enlist Little Helpers
Trying to keep the kids occupied while you make meals? Bring them into the kitchen. Younger kids can help with things like washing fruits and vegetables, and older kids can sharpen math skills by helping you measure.
The Best School Lunch Ideas for Kids
Without further ado, here are ideas for healthy lunches from myself and my registered dietitian colleagues!
Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili from Megan Byrd
No-Bake Healthy Energy Bars from my own kitchen
White Bean Pizza from my own kitchen
Quinoa Pizza Bites from Sarah Schlichter
Grilled Turkey Avocado Sandwich from Brittany Poulson
Healthy Vegetable Fried Rice from my own kitchen
Chicken Fajita Tacos from Colleen Christensen
Healthy Fruit Pizza from my own kitchen
Vegan Power Bowl from my own kitchen
More Ideas for the Best School Lunches
Want more healthy school lunch ideas? Use these:
Healthy Freezer Meals
Frozen meals are the ultimate weeknight meal hack, but they aren't always so good for you. Luckily you can easily make your own meals, freeze 'em, then reheat at a moment's notice for a healthy, no-fuss dish! I use this trick often for lunches, dinners, and even snacks! I recently shared one of my fave freezer recipes in this Aaptiv.com article.
Healthy InstantPot Recipes
Healthy Sandwich Recipes
Sammies are super easy to make in just quick, convenient, and packable—perfect for back-to-school season. I share simple ways to make your lunchbox a little bit healthier in my blog post! Then get even more ideas for healthy meals to make.
Healthy, Quickie Recipes
You're going to need lots of quick and easy meal ideas once the kids go back to school. Get inspired with my favorite speedy recipes in this post and in my article for NBCNews.com. Think beyond peanut butter and jelly, and create a healthy meal in less time than it takes to figure out an algebra problem! Looking for more healthy meals to make?
Healthy Takeout Orders
Ordering takeout doesn't have to put a wrench in your healthy eating plans. I asked experts to share their healthiest menu picks in this EverydayHealth.com article. When you're in a time pinch, you can also try boxed meals such as Hello Fresh vegetarian recipes.
This blog post was updated in August 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Jessica Spiro, RD, owner of Jessica Spiro Nutrition
- Megan Byrd, RD, nutrition blogger at The Oregon Dietitian
- Shahzadi Devje, RD, nutrition blogger at Desi~licious RD
- Klara Knezevic, RD, CLT, co-author of Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide
- Dana Magee, RD, CLT, co-author of Nourished
- Shannon Garcia, RD, food blogger at Kiss in the Kitchen
- Allison Schaaf, MS, RD, founder of Prep Dish
- Sarah Schlichter, RD, nutrition blogger at Bucket List Tummy
- Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, food blogger at It’s a Veg World After All
- Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, nutrition blogger at fANNEtastic Food
- Ginger Hultin, RD, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep
- Brittany Poulson, RD, author of The Healthy Family Cookbook
- Crystal Karges, RD, owner of Crystal Karges Nutrition
- Liz Weiss, RD, co-author of No Whine with Dinner
- Alena Menko, RD, owner of Alenka Menko Nutrition and Wellness
- Colleen Christensen, RD, owner of Colleen Christensen Nutrition
- Toby Amidor, RD, author of The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook
- Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of Expect the Best
- Jenny Shea Rawn, RD, food blogger at My Cape Cod Kitchen
- Leanne Ray, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at Leanne Ray
- Kara Holton, RD, food blogger at The Cheesy RD
- Jenna Braddock, RD, co-author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better
- Grace Shea, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at First Bites Nutrition
- Kara Lydon, RD, blogger at The Foodie Dietitian
- Lindsay Schoenfeld, RDN, nutrition blogger at To Taste
- Kelli Shallal, RD, author of Meal Prep for Weight Loss
- Sharon Palmer, RD, author of Plant-Powered for Life
- Expert Meal-Prep Tips for People With Diabetes, Aaptiv.com
- 13 Healthy 10-Minute Meals Registered Dietitians Love, Self.com
- 11 Healthy Meals You Can Make in Under 15 Minutes, NBCNews.com
- The Best Diabetes-Friendly Takeout Orders When You Don't Want to Cook, EverydayHealth.com
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I'd love to hear from you! What are your go-to easy lunch ideas for school and your best school lunches? What are your tips on how to pack school lunch for when kids back to school? What are you putting in your kids' lunch box while remote learning is taking place?