Back to School Lunch Ideas

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Last year, I had this beautiful plan of meal planning and prepping during the school week.  The goal – to provide as many nutritious and yummy meals as I possibly could for the family.  By May, I gave in to grilled cheese and mac and cheese being on the weekly rotation too often.  I did have a great run of healthy meals most of the year though which empowers me to write another Back to School blog post. 
Sanaya, my oldest, is going into the first grade and to an actual elementary school for the first time.  I’m not counting preschool.  I’ve talked to her about packing school lunches and she is excited – for now.  The idea is to meal plan on the weekend for the week, then the night before, pack her lunch.  We’ve come up with a list so far for the first week.

Before I show you our list, I also want to share some Dos and Don’ts of packing a great school lunch!


  • Make it something your child likes and will eat.  Face it, after going through the effort of meal planning and packing, do you really want that lunch uneaten back?
  • Make it environmentally friendly.  I love to use these compartmentalized bento boxes.  For the hot foods, I love using a thermos that is easy for the kids to open and eat out of.  And don’t forget they are going to need utensils too.  I love this set because it comes in a case for them to keep rather than lose.
  • Pack portions that you know your child will eat.  Yes we will worry about our children eating without us being there.  No they will not starve.  As they run around and are active at school, combined with peer pressure seeing other kids eat, your child will also.  I promise.  But, you still have to send a realistic amount.
  • Get an ice pack for your lunch box.  Either make sure yours comes with one or buy a separate one.  You really don’t want your child to eat dairy or deli meats warm.  That’s pretty much the same as inviting bacteria for a party.  Insulated lunch bags such as this one are a must to also help keep foods temperature regulated.
  • Add a cute note in their lunch bags, especially the first few weeks so they know you are thinking of them.  Either hand write a simple, “I LOVE YOU” or try one of these in their bags.


  • Don’t pack anything stinky like fish sticks, eggs, or onions.  Trust me, besides running away their friends, you are going to spend a lot of time getting that stink out of their lunch bags.
  • Don’t send in ALLERGENS!  So many kids have allergies.  Please be mindful.  Most schools are nut free so I get it your go to PBJ sandwich may not be an option.  You can easily sub it out for Sun Butter and Jelly or make a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.  (Check out the options below that are non-sandwich too! )
  • Don’t pack messy foods, especially if your child is a messy eater.  Hint: spaghetti or foods with red sauce, or even mustard
  • Don’t pack food items that your child will need help opening.  The teacher may not get to your child right away and by the time he/she does, your child may not have much time left to eat lunch.

Now that we have the dos and don’ts down, let’s talk food options.

Roasted Veggie & Cheese Quesadilla

Deli Meat and Cheese Kabobs
Colored Bell Pepper slices

Pasta Salad
Granola Bar

Turkey and Cheese Wraps
Baby Carrots
Grape Tomatoes
Ranch Dressing

Pineapple Fried Rice
Rainbow Fruit Kabob
Roasted Chickpeas

(Deconstructed Middle Eastern Protein Bowl)
Avocado Tomato Salad
Roasted Cauliflower
Watermelon Chunks

Quinoa Fiesta Bowl (recipe to come soon)
Roasted Chickpeas 
Mixed Berries
String Cheese

Notice there is not any hummus on the options list.  That is because my child is currently going through a hummus strike.  Hummus is a great protein option combined with pita bread or crudites so feel free to add them to your list.

I hope this list and the dos and don’ts help you prepare better for the upcoming school year.  I’ll probably not make it through the end of the school year but I’m hoping a strong start will last me a long time.

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I'm Sapna, a foodie, blogger, wife, mom of two beautiful girls, and lover of spices.  I have a background in Nutrition and Dietetics, which I use to incorporate healthy options into all of my recipes.  I love traveling to new places, trying new food, and in turn, creating them in my kitchen to relive the magic. When I'm not in the kitchen, I love curling up with a good book, playing with my munchkins, running, hanging out with friends, and gardening.

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