Summer’s easy, but also kind of hard. Easy because you don’t have to think about packing up school lunches, hard because—well—you have to think about keeping the kids busy all day. Tradeoffs. Fortunately, you won’t have to trade off nutrition or flavor in these healthy school lunch faves. From protein-packed snacks to bag up and end off with the kids to a few easy weeknight meals you can transform into tomorrow’s lunch. We’ve got you covered—at least where the food is concerned.
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Dried apricots, honey, and apricot jam form the filling for these tender, sweet (but not too sweet), and whole-grain–bolstered lunchbox bars. The recipe makes 16 bars—perfect if you’ve got a bunch of little scholars to pack for, otherwise they freeze extremely well. Get our Crumbly Oat and Apricot Bars recipe.
Hard-cooked eggs are some of the simplest things to make. Sadly, they’re also some of the easiest things to mess up. Here’s a simple technique for ensuring that the yolks will be cooked through, but far from turning the dry, green-edged, sulfury-tasting things a lot if us grew up with. Get our Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg recipe.
Dash Rapid Egg Cooker, $19.99 from Amazon
A sound investment for anyone who eats a lot of eggs.
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Snacks are a major part of any kid’s food life, and the hard truth is, if you’re not making good snacks for your family, they’ll find less innocent ones to fill up with. This crunchy mix has the appeal of pre-made ones, but it’s filled with honest ingredients, so you can let your little ones snack away without stressing. Get our Honey-Mustard Snack Mix recipe.
Hummus is a great thing for school lunches. It’s full of fiber, has a decent amount of protein, and—best of all—it doesn’t taste one little bit like health food. Make up a batch, pack it lunch boxes along with baked pita chips and mini carrots, and you can be sure it’ll all be eaten. Get our Basic Hummus recipe.
What parent can say no to chips? You can, however, insist that chips be relatively healthy—like these baked tortilla chips. They’re easy to make, not greasy, and perfect for scooping. Make a bunch and keep them stored in an airtight container for several days. Get our Baked Tortilla Chips recipe.
Back-to-school season coincides with the end of the summer pear season and the beginning of the fall one, so it only makes sense to make this perennially popular treat for packing into lunch boxes. Here, blended cooked pears are spread onto silicone mats to dry out in the oven (it’s a great Saturday project). Get our Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather recipe.
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Pita chips are really good at not breaking, even when little hands scoop them hard through a stiff container full of hummus. They’re also a lot more economical than buying premade ones, and a great way to use up day-old (or longer!) pitas. Get our Baked Pita Chips recipe.
WAAM Industries Waxed Canvas Lunch Bag, $24 from Etsy
Perfectly simple and eco-friendly lunch bags for your little ones.
A really tasty macaroni and cheese mixture bakes in muffin tins for single-serving portions perfect for packing up in school lunch. This particular mac and cheese mix is designed for maximum flavor and protein. Shredded mozzarella and grated parm combine with shredded cooked chicken (which means these are also a great way to use leftover rotisserie chicken) and a white sauce made with whole milk. Healthy bonus: Use whole wheat pasta. Get our Chicken Parmesan Mac and Cheese Bites recipe.
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Inspired by a Chinese-American restaurant dish we love, this mix of wok-fried skirt steak, broccoli florets, and fresh egg noodles gets a healthy boost from carrots and red bell peppers. Your kids will love it warm or cold. They’ll also love the crunchy toasted cashews sprinkled on top. Get our Beef and Broccoli Noodles recipe.
10. Nutty Trail Mix
Dried fruit, nuts, and a hint of chocolate make for a perfect after-school snack, or a sweet addition to their lunch bag. Get our Nutty Trail Mix recipe.
Stasher Silicone Storage Bags, $9.99-$19.99 from The Container Store
These reusable silicone bags are perfect for packing sandwiches and snacks.
11. Carrot Chips
All the crispy crunch of potato chips with way less of the salt and grease—plus a delicious natural sweetness that will keep them munching. A veggie peeler is the key to thin strips that bake up to an addictive crisp in the oven. Get our Carrot Chips recipe, and see how to make other veggie chips too. Send them as a side to a classic sandwich, or include a small container of dip or dressing as part of a bento-style spread.