These easy school lunch ideas for kids are quick to prepare, healthy, and fun to eat! Plus, they’ll keep the kids going long after the lunch box is empty 😉
It’s that time of year again, friends.
Back. To. School.
Honestly? I’m not ready.
Is anyone really ready?
I mean, sure. Parents everywhere are longing for a little more sanity and a little more schedule with regular bed times and all that.
But there is something so wonderfully relaxed about summer that sometimes it’s hard to imagine diving back in.
This year, our oldest daughter starts Grade 1.
In Kindergarten, she went every other day for full days. The first couple months were a bit of a transition, but she only had 2 or 3 days of school per week (and I only had 2 or 3 lunches to pack all week!), and we could easily recuperate in her days off.
This year, she’ll go every day, plus our 3 year old starts Nursery School (because next year she will be in Kindergarten, even though I’m not ready to admit it!).
So in a couple more weeks we begin 10 long months of lunches 5 days a week, and the biggest struggle is just finding some school lunch ideas that are quick, fun and healthy, that she will actually eat. (As well as finding the time to put them together — we all know how crazy parenthood can get!)
I know that school days take a lot out of her, so I try to make sure that she will eat well and have energy throughout all of her activities.
One way I do this is to include a good source of protein in her lunch every day. These Arla Snack Cheese Bars are one of our favorite ways to get it in! They’re nutritious and made with simple ingredients, so I don’t feel bad about throwing them in her bag.
And honestly? Even though I work from home and technically don’t need to pack a lunch, I’m aiming to make one ahead for myself, too, because it can be hard to take the time to nourish our bodies when there is so much going on. This way, I know that I’ll have the energy I need, too!
*Please note: I know that there are a lot of schools who do not allow nuts or nut butters, but ours does, my girls love them, and they’re full of good things, so I’ve included them here. Be aware of what you are allowed and not allowed to send, and use your best judgement regarding the size and shape of food (in particular, grapes and baby carrots).
My general rule of thumb for school lunch ideas:
- At least one source of protein
- A grain
- A fruit
- A veggie
- A dairy
- A fun treat that I usually let her pick
- A drink — usually just her water bottle, occasionally a real fruit juice box
Using these guidelines makes packing school lunches so much easier for me, especially since I’m single-momming with 3 little this time of year.
Since my husband owns a seasonal business and fall is his busy time, I don’t have a lot of help getting the kids out the door until the snow falls (by November I’m usually praying for a blizzard!).
So the quicker I can get nutritious, delicious lunches (and really, any meal) put together, the better.
I try to vary the fruits and veggies we have on hand each week for variety, and I often ask the girls what they’d like to have for snacking for the week. Sometimes I’m surprised by the veggies they choose! This is an awesome way to get them involved and make them feel like they have a little input over what goes in.
Here are some of our favorite things to include:
School lunch ideas: protein
- Arla Snack Cheese Bars
- sliced pepperoni
- rolled up ham slices
- nuts (our school allows them, but not all do)
- some grains and dairy items are also good sources of protein
- Hard boiled eggs
School lunch ideas: fruit
- Mandarin oranges
- a sliced apple (I slice with my apple slicer and wrap an elastic around to keep it together so it doesn’t go brown!)
- Cherries, pitted
- Strawberries, blueberries or other berries
- Pears (the apple slicer works great for pears, too!)
- Nectarines or peaches
- Grapes, halved lengthwise if the kiddos are young
School lunch ideas: veggies
- baby carrots
- cucumber sticks (easier to dip if your kids like to dunk!)
- cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise if they’re large
- sliced bell peppers
- celery sticks
School lunch ideas: grains
- baked oatmeal cups
- energy bites
- homemade granola bars
- whole grain crackers
- mini naan bread pizzas
- homemade muffins
- cold pasta salad
- PB&J (I had to add it — it’s one of their favourites!)
School lunch ideas: dairy
- Arla Snack Cheese Bars (Gouda or Havarti)
- Yogurt tubes or small tubes
- milk with dry cereal, or to drink (we keep it cool in a thermos)
School lunch ideas: treats
- unsweetened applesauce
- pudding cup
- fruit snacks
- A small pack of candy
- a juice box
*This post is generously sponsored by Arla — thank you for supporting the brands that support The Recipe Rebel!