School’s here and it’s time to pack up lunch—whether your kids are starting in kindergarten or will be a sophomore in high school, we’ve got easy and nutritious recipes to pack for a delicious school year ahead. Some are more comfort food than brain food, but it’s all about balance, from the classic peanut butter and jelly combo to grain salads.
Chicken salad is the perfect filling lunch at any age, and it’s a snap to make in advance for the week. Short on time? Sub leftover rotisserie chicken from last night’s dinner and this sandwich is even quicker to prep. Get our Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe.
Pack these gingersnap sandwich cookies, and your kid will be the most popular one in the cafeteria. A tangy and creamy lemon filling balances out the bold spice of the ginger. It’s a slightly more modern version of a classic ginger cookie. Get our Gingersnap Sandwich Cookie recipe.
Think you can’t one-up the traditional PB&J? Break out the panini press. Grilling a peanut butter and jelly makes the outside crisp and crunchy and the inside soft and sweet and gooey. It won’t keep in a lunchbox, but it’s perfect for a post-school snack. Get our Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich recipe.
These sweet bars pack in a lot of fruit and oats, and use a blend of white and whole wheat flour, for a healthier snack that’s still something your kids will clamor for. Get our Apple Oatmeal Bars recipe.
Mayo-free pasta salads travel well and are good eaten cold or at room temperature, so they’re a natural choice for a lunchbox, and you can customize them as necessary depending on how picky your kids are, but the combo of feta cheese and chickpeas is pretty hard to resist. Get our Dill, Chickpea, and Feta Pasta Salad recipe.
A brilliant tip for school lunches is to utilize last night’s dinner, and this sandwich does it perfectly. Slices of meatloaf are sandwiched between two slices of bread and dressed up with a spiced, tomato-laced mayonnaise. Now that would get anyone through a long afternoon of history and math classes! Get our Spicy Meatloaf Sandwich recipe.
Sneakily healthy (but the kids don’t need to know that), these chicken fingers taste anything but wholesome. Chicken breast strips are coated in cracker crumbs and baked for an easily heated-up lunch that mimics fried food in flavor. Now that’s a win-win. Get our Baked Cracker Chicken Fingers recipe.
Okay, okay, bear with us. We know “quinoa salad” might not scream “kid’s lunch” but it’s actually a fantastic and versatile lunch option. You can make it well ahead of time, it’s filling and healthy, and you can adapt it to your kid’s palate. Do they love cheese? Nuts? Tuna? Add anything you (or they) like and they’ll never be bored. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.
This excellent salad recipe uses leftover turkey to make a filling lunch. Diced apples, celery, and red grapes add a burst of bright, fresh crunch and pair perfectly with the creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. Eat it over greens, on toasted bread, or plain. Get our Turkey Waldorf Salad recipe.
Everyone loves macaroni and cheese. And we love it especially for lunches since you can prep it days in advance. This recipe elevates the flavor by using two kinds of cheese and adding panko for crunch. Get our Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
Forget store-bought chips. This year, make your own using flour tortillas and win Parent of the Year award. Sweet and crunchy cinnamon sugar chips have only 4 ingredients and will last you all week. Get our Cinnamon Sugar Chips recipe.
The ultimate in lunchtime DIY, homemade fruit leather is a slam-dunk when it comes to school lunches. It’s sweet and healthy, easy to make, and fun to eat. Try experimenting with spices and fruit, like strawberries and cardamom or apples and nutmeg. Get our Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather recipe.
Take the classic potato chip up a notch. These sweet potato crisps are healthier but far more delicious, and shockingly simple to made. Just slice, toss, and bake. Warning: They are utterly addictive. Get our Sweet Potato Crisps recipe.
Lunchtime routine can feel old pretty quickly, so we love recipes that offer a twist on a familiar favorite. This version of a basic hummus uses white beans and edamame for an earthier, nuttier spread. Pack some raw vegetables and crackers and call it lunch. Get our White Bean and Edamame Hummus recipe.
We don’t consider a lunch box fully packed without dessert. These bars pack all the flavor of pecan pie into one easily transportable shape. They taste fancy but are simple to whip up on a Sunday for lunches all week. Get our Pecan Pie Bars recipe.
Related Video: What Nutritionists Pack in Their Kids’ Lunch Boxes