Stress-Free School Lunches


It’s almost time – back-to-school, schedules, and structure. With all the scrambling for new backpacks and supplies, the thought of packing healthy lunches can be overwhelming. With a bit of planning and foresight though, you can be ready for the new year and take the stress out of school lunches.

Lunch Essentials

First things first, let’s talk lunch containers. The right container can act as a guide to packing a healthy variety of food to get your child through the day. Here are a few good ones:

  1. Compartment lunch containers – a three (or more) compartment lunch container creates an effortless packing experience as you choose a main food item and two sides. We use these from Amazon, but stainless steel is another good option, like this one from Pottery Barn Teen.
  2. Need more compartments? Use silicone muffin cups to add more storage.
  3. Thermos container – a good thermos container allows you to pack either hot or cold items, giving your child a break from the everyday sandwich.

School Lunches

Now on to the fun stuff…lunch and snack ideas. To avoid getting into a rut, have three or four pre-planned standard lunches. Keep it simple by rotating through two or three options each week. When lunches are set in place, meal planning and grocery shopping are much easier. As you plan for the week, throw two or three of the following lunches on your grocery list:

  • Nut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, grapes, and carrot sticks (for a nut-free version, try Sunflower Seed butter and for gluten-free, try Trader Joe’s gluten free bread)
  • Costco Hummus cups, red pepper strips, cucumber slices, and pretzels (for gluten-free, try Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels)
  • Homemade zucchini muffins, mixed berries, and roasted almonds (for a nut-free version, try sunflower seeds or roasted chickpeas)
  • Organic applesauce cup, cheese stick, sliced fruit and crackers (for a gluten-free option, try Trader Joe’s Savory Thins or rice crackers)
  • All-Natural turkey or ham roll-ups, cheese cubes, pickle slices, and apple slices
  • Hard boiled egg, roasted plantain chips, and pear slices

To switch things up a bit, try a hearty meal that will stay cool or warm in a thermos container such as:

  • Greek yogurt with granola, berries, chia or hemp seeds, and a drizzle of honey (for dairy-free, try cashew milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt)
  • Leftover pasta or zoodles with spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Heat quickly in the morning and transfer to the thermos.

School Snacks

Most schools encourage snacks and we know our kids need them to get through the day! You will want to pack something that will satisfy and fill those tummies. A good rule of thumb is to plan snacks that have at least one component of fat, protein, and/or fiber. These three elements balance the blood sugar and guarantee that your child will be able to focus and thrive during the school day. Here are some favorites:

  • Larabars
  • Kids Rx Bars
  • Homemade trail mix: dried cranberries, cocoa nibs, sunflower seeds, and choice of nut (if allowed)
  • Apple slices and a cheese stick
  • All natural Beef Jerky
  • Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips and mashed avocado
  • Frozen organic yogurt tube
  • Snap pea crisps and a hummus cup
  • Organic popcorn mixed with almonds or roasted chickpeas 
  • Homemade smoothie (blend with ice in the morning, pour into a mason jar with a lid and pack with a small ice pack)

These ideas should get you back into the rhythm of packing school lunches. We all want our kids to thrive and healthy eating is one element that will accomplish that goal. You can definitely do this stress-free. You’ve got this, mama. Here’s to a great school year!

What would you add to the list?


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