Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

I have a love/hate thing with back to school. I love the additional free time, but I hate not seeing my kids for 7 hours.

I love that no one is standing in front of the open refrigerator shouting: “What’s for lunch?” But I hate packing the same things over and over again.

Here are some healthy lunches that your kids will actually eat—perfect for back to school or the last weeks of camp. They’re much better for your child than those premade, over-packaged lunches, but not so healthy that she’ll go, “Ewww.” It does no good to pack your child a veggie burger on whole grain bread if she’s going to toss it in the trash or trade for Doritos instead.

  • Better than Nachos: Send chili in a thermos or microwave-safe container. In separate containers, send baked tortilla chips, shredded cheese and salsa. Your child can layer the chips, cheese and chili. Delicious.
  • Pig on a Stick: Wrap a slice of ham sprinkled with cheese around a soft breadstick. Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and the breadstick crisps up.
  • Healthier Pig on a Stick: Wrap ham around celery sticks, carrot sticks or red pepper slices. Use whipped cream cheese or hummus as the glue.
  • Italian Dips: Send leftover marinara sauce in a container with breadsticks, meatballs on popsicle sticks and string cheese.
  • Mixed Up Sandwiches: Vary the bread to change up a sandwich. Try whole grain waffles with fruit slices and peanut butter or cream cheese (if you’re a peanut-free school), turkey or roast beef wrapped in a whole wheat naan, or banana bread with cream cheese and honey.
  • Cold Potato Dips: Bake an extra potato with dinner. Send to school pre-sliced in long wedges with sour cream (or non-fat Greek yogurt) mixed with a little shredded cheese. Add carrot sticks and celery sticks for more veggie dipping fun.
  • Unassembled Lunch: Send whole-wheat crackers (like Triscuits) with slices of cheese, turkey, rounds of Roma tomatoes and carrot coins. Pack in a plastic container with different compartments.
  • Neater Tacos: Use leftovers from taco night, but substitute a flour tortilla for the crunchy corn kind that won’t survive the lunch box. Use refried beans as the glue to hold it together.
  • Ants in a Snowstorm: Peanut free? Substitute cream cheese for the classic peanut butter, raisin and celery treat.
  • Applesauce Dip: Send skinny slices of whole grain waffle or leftover French toast to dip in applesauce.
  • Sticky Chicken Drumsticks: A kid-pleasing favorite. Send a handi-wipe with these!