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31 Healthy School Lunch Ideas For Children

31 Healthy School Lunch Ideas For Children

Image: Shutterstock

Lunch is an important meal that contributes to a child’s daily energy and nutrient requirements. Yet, how often do you deal with your children skipping lunch or eating junk food?

Not eating a healthy lunch can make it difficult for your children to stay attentive in class or take part in sports and extracurricular activities at school. Besides, it can make them overconsume unhealthy after-school snacks (1). Thus, parents must explore attractive and nutritious school lunch ideas to make their lunchtime fun and ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Are you looking for some creative ideas to make your child’s school lunch attractive and healthy? This post shares some easy-to-make, healthy school lunch ideas for children that will make lunchtime interesting for your child.

School Lunch Ideas For Children

1. Grilled chicken and veggie wrap

Grilled chicken and veggie wrap

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Grilled chicken shreds mixed with sautéed veggies make quite a yummy filling. You can stuff this filling in whole wheat, millet, or spinach tortilla wrap and add lettuce, low-fat cheese or mayo, and dried herbs to make a sumptuous wrap. Children can carry the wrap to school along with berries and baked sweet potato chips assembled in a personalized bento box.

2. Vegetable and egg muffins

Muffins are an easy-to-carry, quick-to-eat, and versatile food that you can prepare in sweet or savory forms. One wholesome, savory preparation that you can pack for your child’s lunch is a vegetable and egg muffin. These muffins can contain different veggies, such as sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas with eggs, and dried herbs. Additionally, you can add toasted nuts and seeds to them and make the muffins chunkier and healthier.

3. Grilled tofu and pesto sliders

Grilled tofu and pesto sliders 

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Tofu is a protein-rich food that can help meet your child’s daily protein needs. To make this sandwich, all you need to do is fill the ciabatta rolls with grilled tofu slices, pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted arugula, bell peppers, and low-fat cheese, and voila! Your sandwich is ready! Pack it in the lunch box with homemade hummus or tomato sauce and some fresh strawberries or a fruit of your child’s choice.

4. Cranberry pinwheel sandwich

Cranberry juice is a common choice for people across ages, but have you tried cranberry pinwheel sandwiches? A cranberry pinwheel sandwich is a unique mix of cranberry sauce with cheese, giving the sandwich a unique mix of sweet, tangy, and cheesy flavors. And the best part is that you can add roasted chicken,  turkey shreds, scrambled eggs, or tofu to this sandwich to make it more filling and nutritious. So, experiment with the ingredients and make a personalized cranberry pinwheel sandwich for your child.

5. Hummus with pita bread

Hummus with pita bread

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Hummus is a low-fat, high-protein, and high-fiber dip made with chickpeas. Pack this nutritious dip with toasted pita bread, boiled eggs, thinly sliced cucumber pieces, apple, carrot, and a bottle of homemade mint-infused water. Alternatively, you can pack fish fingers, zucchini chips, or baked sweet potato balls with hummus and pita bread to give your child a delicious and healthy lunch.

6. Egg fried rice

Egg fried rice is a quick-to-make, versatile dish that children can eat at home or easily carry to school in a lunch box. You can use several ingredients of choice and tweak the classic fried rice recipe to prepare a personalized version of the dish. Different seasonal vegetables, such as arugula, parsnip, and French beans with dried herbs and sesame seeds, are good choices to make the dish nutritious.

7. Falafel with vegetable sauce

Falafel with vegetable sauce

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Falafels are small, round, fried balls mostly made with ground chickpeas. However, you can make several different variants using board beans or a mix of chickpeas and broad beans with vegetables, such as onions, tomato, corn, green peas, mushroom, and dried herbs. The best part is that you can ditch frying and bake falafel to raise the dish’s nutritional quality.

8. Pesto pasta

Pasta is a traditional Italian dish you can prepare as per your child’s liking. Pesto pasta is one flavorful dish children can carry for school lunch. Garlic, olives, parmesan cheese, basil, and pine nuts are common pesto sauce ingredients that add flavor and nutrients to the dish. You can further raise the dish’s nutritional value by adding veggies and a protein source, such as soya nuggets, tofu, chicken, or egg.

9. Pita pockets with buttermilk

Pita pockets with buttermilk 

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Pita pockets are a popular on-the-go food that children like to eat. You can pack this delicious food for your child’s school lunch with beverages, such as buttermilk. Ensure the pita pockets you make are nutritious by adding different ingredients such as chicken with dried herbs, hung curd dip, and seeds.

10. Spinach and cheese stuffed paratha (Indian flatbread)

Paratha is a staple Indian food that people enjoy eating across meals with curries, dips, pickles, and plain or seasoned curd. You can make paratha using single or combination vegetables with other ingredients such as spinach and cottage cheese. Chop baby spinach, mix it with cottage cheese and seasoning, and prepare a delicious paratha for your child’s school lunch.

11. Boiled eggs, cheese sandwich, and red grapes

A cheese sandwich is an all-time favorite of several children. You can club this classic sandwich with boiled eggs and red grapes to make an easy-to-carry, delicious school lunch combo. Alternatively, you may serve a cheese sandwich with baked fish fingers and homemade garlic mint dip.

12. Pearl couscous with chickpeas and tomatoes

Pearl couscous with chickpeas and tomatoes

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Couscous is a type of pasta made with semolina. You can use it to prepare different sweet and savory dishes. What’s best is that most of these dishes can be relished cold, and hence, are a good addition to your child’s school lunch. Pearl couscous with chickpeas and tomatoes is one cold lunch idea you should give a try. It involves mixing couscous with cooked chickpea, tomato, and other ingredients, such as onions and Feta cheese.

13. Mac and cheese with veggies

Mac and cheese is a cheese-loaded, gooey dish loved by children and adults alike. Make this traditional dish nutritious by choosing healthier ingredients such as low-fat cheese and macaroni made of whole wheat. Additionally, you can add some vegetables and soya granules to enhance the dish’s taste, texture, and nutritional value.

14. Burrito with guacamole

Burrito with guacamole

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Burrito is a classic Mexican dish prepared by wrapping a savory filling in a tortilla wrap. Usually, the filling is made with protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, or beef mixed with various ingredients, such as lettuce, tomato, cooked beans, cheese, salsa, and seasonings. However, you can replace the ingredient and customize the burrito as per your eating habits. Guacamole, eggplant hummus, and lemon-herb white bean dip are a few flavorsome dips you can pack with a burrito to prepare a surprise school lunch for children.

15. BBQ chicken burger

Generally, a BBQ chicken burger has burger buns stuffed with a grilled chicken patty that’s layered with other ingredients, such as BBQ sauce, lettuce, onion rings, tomato slices, and seasonings. However, you can change the ingredients to make a BBQ chicken burger of your child’s choice.

16. Blueberry cream bagel sandwich with nuts and Greek yogurt

Blueberry cream bagel sandwich with nuts and Greek yogurt

Image: Shutterstock

Blueberry is a nutrient-rich fruit that adds color and flavor to food. Besides, it offers certain compounds, such as anthocyanins, which promote long-term health (2). So, if you haven’t already, introduce your child to the goodness of blueberries through a blueberry bagel sandwich.

To make the sandwich, layer a bagel with cream cheese and thinly sliced blueberries. Then, cover it with another bagel. Ta-da, the sandwich is ready! Next, put the sandwich in your child’s lunchbox and add accompaniments, such as mixed nuts and a cup of low-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt.

17. Pasta salad

Pasta with sauce is a common dish that your child might have had innumerable times. But have you tried pasta salad yet? If no, cook differently shaped pasta, such as orecchiette, conchiglie, orzo, or fusilli, and mix it with diced avocados, halved cherry tomatoes, boiled corn, sliced romaine lettuce, low-fat mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and dried herbs. Voila! The salad is ready. Pack it for lunch, and add a handful of nuts and apple slices.

18. Baked fish fingers with mashed potatoes and green peas

Baked fish fingers with mashed potatoes and green peas

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Low mercury and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are good sources of high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, such as DHA and EPA. Make them a part of your child’s weekly meals by trying different recipes. One such delectable fish dish you can pack for your child’s school lunch is baked fish fingers. Since baked fish are generally plain, you can pair them with mashed potatoes, boiled green peas, and homemade tomato sauce.

19. Salmon and smashed cucumber grain bowl

Yet another fish dish that you can pack for your child’s school lunch is salmon and smashed cucumber grain bowl. This refreshing salad dish includes a mix of farro (a grain), salmon fillets, and smashed cucumber with several other ingredients, such as lemon juice and mint. You can find the recipe here.

20. Ham and cheese lunchbox muffins

Ham and cheese lunchbox muffins

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Ham and cheese is a delectable combination that is both flavorful and nutritious. You can make several lunchbox muffins by clubbing ham and cheese with healthy ingredients, such as veggies, dried herbs, and sesame or flax seeds. Next, pair these muffins with homemade salsa sauce, beetroot mayo dip, or avocado hummus and give your child a wholesome lunchbox dish to relish.

21. Bacon, egg, and cheese croissant sandwich

A croissant is a flaky pastry that’s eaten with a spread. You can use it to make a sandwich that children can have for their school lunch. To make the sandwich, cut a croissant into two halves. Then, layer one half with a cheese slice and top it with two to three strips of cooked bacon. Next, add a layer of fluffy scrambled eggs and place the other half of the croissant on top to make a sandwich. At this point, you can pack the croissant for school lunch or bake it and serve it hot for lunch at home.

22. Italian sub sandwich

Italian sub sandwich

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A sub sandwich is a quick-to-prepare dish that’s a good choice for packed school lunches as it provides children with various ingredients through one dish. For instance, an Italian sub sandwich can be made with a hoagie roll (a type of bread) stuffed with a filling of different ingredients, such as oregano leaves, rosemary needles, lettuce, cherry pepper, pickled pepperoncini peppers, beefsteak, and provolone cheese. These ingredients make the sub sandwich flavorsome and healthy for children.

23. Mini quiche with beetroot dip

Mix scrambled eggs with goat cheese, dried herbs, and cooked veggies, such as corn, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms. Pour this mixture into a muffin tin and bake. Voila! Your mini quiche is ready to pack for lunch. This dish is quick to prepare and quite versatile, letting you play with the ingredients. It means you can make different styles of mini quiche for your child and give them happy surprises occasionally.

24. Apricot jam and bread

Apricot jam and bread

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Take a multigrain seeded bread slice and spread a layer of apricot jam, low-fat mayo, and almond butter on it. Put another bread slice on top, and your sandwich is ready! Pack this multi-flavored sweet delight for your child’s school lunch. Complete the meal with accompaniments, such as apple, a few pretzels, and black grapes.

25. Omelet in a bun

Bread and omelet is a classic dish that most people relish for breakfast. But you can tweak it and prepare an interesting dish—omelet in a bun. First, cook different vegetables in a pan with cheese, dried herbs, and eggs to make an omelet. Then, tear a bun into halves and stuff it with the omelet, and your omelet in a bun is ready to pack for lunch. Next, add accompaniments, such as a cup of berries, Greek yogurt, and a bottle of homemade lemonade.

26. Meatballs with pasta

Meatballs with pasta

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Meatball is a flavorful, chewy, and gooey food that several children love to eat. You can make meatballs using any lean meats, such as chicken and beef. Additionally, you can add pulses, flour, and veggies to make the meatballs more flavorful.

Alternatively, you can make no-meat meatballs using scrambled tofu, cottage cheese, or sprouted pulses. Whichever option you choose to make the meatballs, add them to any pasta recipe and pack the dish for your child’s school lunch.

27. Creamy veggie and lentil curry with rice

Curry with rice is a staple food for several people worldwide. You can make any pulse and veggie curry, such as sambhar (an Indian curry), and pack it for lunch with rice. To ensure that the curry doesn’t spill out of the lunch box, keep its consistency thick, for which you can use low-fat cream. Whatever curry you intend to make, ensure that it contains veggies, pulses, or any other protein source to make the meal wholesome.

28. Baked sweet potato crisps with dip

Baked sweet potato crisps with dip

Image: Shutterstock

There will be days when you wouldn’t want to give your child the regular lunch dishes. On such days, try something different, such as sweet potato crisps with homemade dip. Sweet potato crisps are easy to make, nutritious, and filling. Besides, your child can eat them quickly and enjoy some free lunchtime to play with friends. It’s a win-win for you and your child.

29. Baked oaty chicken dippers

Oaty chicken dippers are a delectable food prepared by coating chicken fillets with a mixture of oats, eggs, and seasonings. You can serve this protein-rich dish to your child for lunch with a sauce or dip of their choice. Alternatively, you can keep them as an accompaniment to fried rice or pesto sauce noodle. Whichever way you use them, chicken dippers are a healthy choice.

30. Dried fruit flapjacks

Flapjacks are a type of baked bars made with rolled oats, fat, and syrup. Most people prefer eating flapjacks for breakfast with milk or as a quick snack, but you can pack it for a child’s school lunch. You can make flapjacks using different ingredients, but making them with dried fruits, oats, seeds, and nuts, makes them more nutritious and, of course, delectable.

31. Mini frittata

Mini frittata 

Image: Shutterstock

Frittata is an easy-to-make, egg-based dish made by baking a mixture of eggs, vegetables, dried herbs, and heavy cream. Generally, people prefer eating frittata for breakfast. However, you can serve this healthy and delicious dish for your child’s lunch as well. Club this dish with toasted ciabatta bread and a dip or a cup of Greek yogurt to make your child’s lunch complete and healthier.

Lunch is an important meal of the day. Hence, giving your child packed school lunches is a great way to ensure they eat healthy. In addition, you can try different ideas that are unique and nutritious so that your child may look forward to eating homemade lunch daily.

References:

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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more