Back-To-School Lunch Ideas

Back-to-school Lunch Ideas

· The actual amount of time for eating lunch at most schools is only 15 to 20 minutes and is filled with distractions. Because of this it is important to make sure the lunch foods you pack are easy to eat, packed in easily opened packages and do not require peeling or special tools. Making foods age-appropriate is crucial to getting young people to eat what you pack.

· Small children may not eat very much at one sitting so think about making quantities and items smaller. Small foods are not only easier for children to handle, but they are more fun to eat, for people of all ages.

· If your child wants the same thing every day, go ahead and pack it, as long as the overall meal is nutritious and you are sure your child eats it. Kids do not like a lot of change in what they eat. It usually takes 10 – 12 introductions to a new food before a child is willing to taste it so do not give up.

· Food safety is vitally important. Freeze juice boxes (100% juice), small water bottles or small gel packs and place in the bag. The juice and water will keep other foods cool and will thaw by lunchtime. Use an insulated thermos for hot (140° or higher) or cold (40° or cooler) food. For best results rinse out a thermos with very hot water to heat it before adding hot items or rinse it out with ice water to chill the thermos before adding cold items.

o Keeping food cold or hot slows bacterial growth and is essential for food safety.

o Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the ‘Danger Zone” – the temperature between 40° – 140° F.

o Keep perishable foods refrigerated until time to leave home.

o Use an insulated bag, if possible, rather than a paper bags. It is so much better for keeping food cold.

o FOOD SAFETY ALERT! Perishable food transported without and ice source will stay safe only 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F). Check it out at or call 1-888-MPHotline.

Ideas for a no hassle, healthy and fun lunchbox:

· Stick to a formula such as 1) main dish 2) vegetable and 3) something sweet (see table below).

· Make a list – sit down with you children and write out the items in the above categories they would like to have in their lunches. Keep it updated as their likes and dislikes change.

· Make a note of healthy alternatives to things that are NOT healthy at all. Store it where it is handy so you can pack a lunch without thinking.

· Keep stock of lunch items – set aside one area of your dry storage and one are of your refrigerator just for lunch-box items – make sure kids know it’s off limits during non-school hours – and keep it stocked.

· Portions size is important – for grade school lunches, use this as a general guideline:

o Two to three ounces of meat or cheese

o One or two slices of bread or ½ cup cooked grain or rice

o One whole fruit or ½ cup prepared fruit or 6 oz 100% fruit juice

o One cup vegetable raw or ½ cup vegetable cooked

o One cup milk or 4 oz other dairy product

· Include something fun like a package of Smarties with a note about how smart your child is, a sticker, cookies wrapped in plastic wrap with a ribbon or sandwiches cut into different shapes.

· Pack lunch-size leftovers ahead of time. Pack leftovers in sizes just right for lunch and store in pantry, refrigerator or freezer for future use. Double up - when you make healthy items for lunch make extras and pack them up right away into lunch box size containers – keep them in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Main Dish
Vegetable or Side
Something Sweet

Sandwich/Roll ups
Vegetables with hummus, peanut butter or applesauce
Peanut butter and all fruit spread with whole grain crackers

Pizza in a blanket
Fruit cup
Fruit with flavored yogurt

Mini salad

Mini Quiches
Pasta salad with low fat dressings
Fresh-baked cookie

Quesadilla (cheese, chicken, beef, beans)
Raw nuts
Roll up with peanut butter and all fruit spread

Cheese, turkey, crackers and fruit
Tortilla chips and salsa
Whole wheat muffin

Kabob (cheese, chicken, grapes, strawberries)
Fresh-made trail mix
Sweet Quesadilla (cheese, apple, banana, chocolate chips) see below

Lunch box and snack ideas:

1. Food cut up into cubes (cheese, rotisserie chicken, carrots, fruit or brownie bites).

2. Tuna (make ahead and freeze, see recipe below) or egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread or mini bagel or whole-wheat waffle, or mini whole what dinner roll.

3. Mini sub sandwich on a whole-wheat hot dog bun.

4. Quesadilla on a whole-wheat tortilla with 1) thinly sliced banana and a few chocolate chips or 2) grated cheese and thin slices of an apple – but into small wedges for easy packing.

5. Natural Peanut Butter and all fruit spread on whole grain bread.

6. Turkey, lean ham or lean roast beef sandwich. Think about cutting sandwiches into smaller pieces, use tiny tortillas for wraps and small dinner rolls for sandwich bread. Try crackers, waffles, rice cakes, mini croissants, mini pita pockets and mini bagels to keep it interesting.

7. Serve baby carrots, peel, and cut fruit into smaller pieces to interest your child in the foods you pack.

8. Roll ups - use whole-wheat tortillas 1) with refried beans and shredded cheese, tuna fish, pizza sauce, cheese, meat and veggies or 2) with blueberry or strawberry flavored cream cheese with fresh fruit.

9. Healthy Hot Dogs – string cheese wrapped in lean turkey or ham and served in a whole-wheat hot dog bun with mustard or mayonnaise packets.

10. Peel and segmented orange with flavored yogurt.

11. Fruit or fruit and cheese kabobs.

12. Hot soup in a thermos.

13. Container of unsweetened applesauce, peanut butter or hummus with celery sticks.

14. Fresh fruit and raw nuts.

15. Raw vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes) with ranch dressing.

16. Mini salad with salad dressing on the side.

17. Dollops of yogurt, frozen on a sheet pan.

18. Fresh made trail mix with dried fruit (raisings, dried cranberries, dried cherries), raw almonds or other nuts, sunflower seeds, goldfish pretzels or popcorn.

19. Natural peanut butter with whole grain crackers.

20. Baked tortilla chips and salsa.

21. Fresh made pita wedges and hummus.

22. Mini quiches with their favorite ingredients (chicken, lean ham, vegetables, etc.).

Make Ahead and Freeze Tuna Salad Sandwiches


· 1 – 3oz package cream cheese, softened

· 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

· 1 – 6 oz can chunk tuna, drained

· ¼ cup chopped green onion

· ¼ cup shredded carrots

· 1 tsp lemon juice

· 2 Tbsp butter, softened

· 8 slices whole wheat bread (or rolls or bagels)


· In medium bowl, combine cream cheese and mayo and beat until smooth.

· Stir in tuna, onions, carrot and lemon juice and blend well to combine.

· Spread softened butter thinly on each slice of bread and spread tuna filling to make sandwiches.

· Wrap in freezer wrap, place in gallon freezer bag or other freezer container, label and freeze.

· To thaw, let thaw overnight in refrigerator or let thaw in lunch bag until lunchtime.

· Make sure sandwiches are eaten within 2 hours of being completely thawed.

Mac & Cheese Mini Muffins


· 1 package Macaroni and cheese dinner (cooked according to package directions) or fresh-made macaroni and cheese

· 1 egg

· ½ cup sour cream

· 1 ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese


· Preheat oven to 400°

· Mix prepared mac and cheese with egg, sour cream and ¾ cup shredded cheese

· Spoon into 12 mini muffin pan cups sprayed with cooking spray.

· Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

· Bake 13 – 15 minutes or until golden brown

· Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to serve

Kids Sized Submarine Sandwiches


· 2 tbsp butter, softened

· Mayo and mustard

· 4 hot dog buns, split

· Turkey, ham, cheese, as desired

· 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced


· Spread a thin layer of butter onto cut sides of hot dog buns.

· Spread mustard and mayo over butter.

· Layer remaining ingredients in buns to make sandwiches.

Peanut Butter Granola Wrap Sandwiches


· 1 cup peanut butter

· 1 cup granola cereal

· ¼ cup chopped peanuts

· 2 Tbsp honey

· ½ cup dried cherries

· 2 Tbsp butter, softened

· 4 – 10” whole wheat tortillas


· In bowl, combine peanut butter, granola, chopped peanuts and honey. Mix well

· Stir in dried cherries

· Spread tortillas with softened butter, then spread with peanut butter mixture

· Roll up tortillas and cut in half.

· May be wrapped well and frozen.

· Let thaw in lunch box, next to frozen gel pack, until lunchtime.

Baked Pita Chips


· Whole wheat pitas, open and cut into wedges

· ½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese


· Preheat oven to 400 degrees

· Separate layers of pitas

· Spread them on a baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil spray

· Sprinkle them with parmesan

· Baked for 8 – 10 minutes until toasty and brown

Serve with hummus for dipping

Pizza in a Blanket


· 1 can crescent rolls

· 1 pack pepperoni

· 1 bag mozzarella


· Preheat oven to 350°

· Roll out and separate crescent rolls.

· Put cheese and pepperoni on each one.

· Roll into individual crescent rolls – place on baking pan.

· Bake for 11 – 14 minutes.

· Can be made ahead and frozen. Try it with chicken, cheddar cheese and broccoli.

Strawberry Crostini


· ½ baguette, thinly sliced

· ½ cup ricotta cheese

· 1 Tbsp honey

· 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced


· Preheat oven to 400 degrees

· Place bread slices on baking sheet and bake 5 – 8 minutes until brown, cool

· Combine ricotta and honey

· Spread over cooled slices and top with sliced strawberries

Sweet Quesadilla


· 2 whole wheat flour tortillas plus

o ½ cup grated cheddar cheese and 1 apple cored and cut into thin slices


o one banana, thinly sliced and a ¼ cup chocolate chips


· Sprinkle ingredients in an even layer over one of the tortillas

· Top with the remaining tortilla

· Put on microwave safe plate and microwave for 30 seconds until the cheese or chocolate chips melt (or may be heated in a skillet for 1 – 2 minutes on each side

· Cut into 6 – 8 wedges for easy packing

Fruit Roll Ups


· Whole wheat tortilla

· Strawberry or blueberry flavored cream cheese

· Fresh blueberries or strawberries


· Spread cream cheese on tortilla, making sure to cover all the way to the edges

· Top with fresh blueberries or strawberries

· Roll tortilla until tight and cut into slices for easy packing or eating

Mini Quiches


l 1 pkg refrigerated pie crust

l 4 eggs

l ½ cup mayonnaise

l ½ cup half and half

l 1 tsp Best Friend’s Seasoning

l Fillings as desired:

§ Bacon, sausage, ham, shrimp or any cooked meat you desire

§ Mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, feta or any cheese you desire

§ Broccoli, spinach, diced onion, diced bell pepper, diced seeded tomato. mushrooms or any vegetables you desire

l Whisk together eggs, mayonnaise, half-and-half and Best Friend’s Seasoning; set aside.

l Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

l Spray mini (1 ¾”) muffin pans with cooking spray; set aside.

l Unroll piecrusts on a flat surface; smooth out edges with a rolling pin.

l Using 2 ½” to 3” cookie cutter, cut 24 circles from piecrust, rerolling crusts if needed.

l Press into prepared muffin pans using a tamper or end of a large wooden spoon.

l Cut or chop fillings into small pieces.

l Divide fillings between prepared muffin cups putting any combination of a meat, vegetable or cheese in each one.

l Pour egg mixture over filling in cups; approximately 2 tsp per each muffin cup. I use a squirt bottle for this

l Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until center of quiches is set. Cook 5 minutes before removing from pans.

l To freeze, cool on wire rack and freeze in single layer until solid. Place in airtight freezer container in single layer.

l To reheat, place frozen quiches on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 – 14 minutes, until hot.

l Makes 24 pieces.

Caterpillar Pizza


· Store bought pizza dough (in the refrigerated section)

· Olive oil spray

· Toppings, such as olives, pepperoni, peppers, etc.

· Jar of pizza sauce

· Sliced mozzarella, cut into discs with a cookie cutter


· Preheat oven to 400 degrees

· Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet

· Divide the dough into 14 pieces, rolling each in your hands to make a 1” ball and using 3 to make the head

· Arrange balls on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand; spray lightly with olive oil spray

· Bake until dough is just starting to get brown around the edges

· Remove from oven and let cool slightly

· Put a teaspoon of sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese on each of the body pieces; using toppings to create the caterpillar features for face, etc.

· Return to oven and bake until the cheese is just starting to brown, about 8 minutes