Share on Facebook

47 Easy School Lunches Nutritionists Love

Balancing nutritious and tasty is tricky, especially when it comes to kids. These nutritionist-approved lunches—and lunch components—will solve all your problems this school year.

Pita hummus cucumberKREUS/Shutterstock

Pita with hummus and cucumber slices

“As a mom, my first priority is to make sure my kids eat! I never thought that would be my first goal but that’s my reality,” says Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, and author of The Detox Diet. “As a rule of thumb, I try to make sure that there is always a protein and fiber option in my kids’ lunches.” Check out these 7 unique hummus recipes.

Almond butter banana bread strawberriesVeronikaSmirnaya/Shutterstock

Almond butter and fresh strawberries on banana bread

“I think it’s so important to let your kids have a say in what goes in their lunch. I like to set out a few different choices—baby carrots, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn, snack bars, applesauce, etc.—and let them pick two or three options to put in,” says Alpert.

Smoothie milkshake made from peach,melon and papaya blended with kefir yogurt. Served in a jug style glass on a rustic wooden table with a colorful stripy straw.CatchaSnap/Shutterstock

Kefir smoothie

This smoothie includes banana, peach, collagen protein powder and a handful of spinach. “I also love to think outside the lunchbox too—sometimes leftovers from dinner work great, or I can make healthy muffins with my girls and use that as a main course option—they love banana almond flour muffins,” says Alpert. Kefir happens to be one of the 7 best probiotic foods for your gut that aren’t yogurt.

 

Grilled chicken salad with applevanillaechoes/Shutterstock

Apple Chicken Salad

Liz Weiss, nutritionist, and host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and blog told Reader’s Digest that she likes to put a fun spin on chicken salad by adding apples into it. Find out other easy lunch ideas straight from nutritionists.

 

Fresh avocado smoothie with slices on wooden backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Super Smoothie

Maggie Savage, nutritionist and blogger at She Let Them Eat Cake, told Reader’s Digest that she likes to give her kids a smoothie that’s green grapes, mango, and avocado.

 

Homemade Ants on a Log Snack with Celery Peanut Butter and RaisinsBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

“Ants on a log”

Arianne Perry, co-founder and CEO of Sweet Defeat and a certified health coach, says to put natural peanut butter on celery sticks with raisins for a fun-looking, delicious snack. “[It’s] a delicious combination of protein, healthy, fat, and fiber,” says Perry.

Slice tortilla wrap with peanut butter, raisin and banana.inewsfoto/Shutterstock

Peanut Butter Banana Wrap

This isn’t your normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, advises putting natural peanut butter or Sunflower seed butter with sliced bananas, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey on a whole wheat tortilla. “A healthy lunch for kids is one that includes at least two to three food groups and offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber,” says Moskovitz. Tired of stirring that natural peanut butter? You need this simple trick.

Flat bread with cheese. Whole flatbread pizza on white table.Geshas/Shutterstock

Personalized Pizza

Moskovitz suggests making a meal like a personal pizza with whole wheat pita, shredded cheese, tomato sauce, and a vegetable your child likes, such as green peppers or spinach. “The key is to keep meals simple yet fun,” she says. Moskovitz even suggests preparing foods in fun shapes, including messages, packing lunch in bags that feature your kid’s favorite cartoons or sports and allowing your kids to eat with their hands. She also recommends pairing healthy things with something more indulgent, like fruit with chocolate.

41-salmon-Secrets Your Brain Wishes You Knew_342280883-mubus7mubus7/Shutterstock

Smoked Salmon

Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN founder of Small Bites by Jessica, tells the Food Network that she likes to pack smoked salmon for her kids. She stuffs a tortilla with smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese.

Deli Turkey and Swiss Cheese SnackMichelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Turkey Swiss Pinwheel

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, and founder of Nourish Snacks, tells Real Simple that she makes these with whole grain tortilla, turkey, and Swiss cheese. By the way, if you’re avoiding carbs, you should check out these 7 science-backed reasons you should eat more whole grains.

 

Lunch box for kids with sandwich, cookies, fresh veggies and fruitsEkaterina Smirnova/Shutterstock

Bento Box

Registered dietician Sally Kuzemchak tells Parents that all food—and especially healthier fare—will look more appealing when put into cute little compartments. She fills bento boxes for her kids with bow-tie pasta, veggies, two cookies, and watermelon. Check out the 10 lunch box mistakes parents keep making.

 

Chicken nuggets and sauce on a wooden background. Top viewTimolina/Shutterstock

DIY chicken nuggets

Nutrisystem nutritionist Mandi Knowles, RDN, LDN tells The Leaf that kids shouldn’t be deprived of popular meals like chicken nuggets. To make them healthy, she makes them from scratch. “It takes very little time to cook up a big batch of healthier nuggets on the weekend, using boneless, skinless chicken breast (or chicken tenderloins). Dip the finger-sized pieces into beaten egg and buttermilk, then roll them in panko crumbs.”

Fresh steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt on a rustic tabletop.Foodio/Shutterstock

Edamame

According to an article in The Huffington Post, Rick Hall, a clinical professor and registered dietitian at Arizona State University, suggests edamame has a healthy lunch for kids because it’s not only healthy but also convenient to pack.

 

grilledcheeseAleksandrova Karina/Shutterstock

Cauliflower Grilled Cheese

What kid wouldn’t like a grilled cheese? Here’s how to make it healthier: Switch out the butter and bread for cauliflower, as seen here on Delish. Did you know that cauliflower is a superfood on par with kale?

 

Whole wheat pasta with vegetables on cast iron panAnna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Whole-Grain Pasta Salad

Melissa Halas-Liang, registered dietitian and founder of SuperKids Nutrition, recommends to The Huffington Post making whole-grain pasta salad with roasted tomatoes, crushed garlic, chicken, and spinach.

yogurt cream and strawberries on romantic backgroundSilvy78/Shutterstock

Strawberries N’Dip

Jackie Newgent, RDN tells Real Simple that she packs strawberries for her kids because they’re loaded with antioxidants. She pairs them with a dip like Greek yogurt.

 

pizza with zucchini, onion, cheese and sesame seeds on a light wooden backgroundKiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Pizza Stuffed Zucchini

Instead of placing pepperoni and cheese on traditional dough, opt for a healthier topping like zucchini. This recipe from Delish only takes about 15 minutes to make.

ham rolls with vegetables and cheeseshtukicrew/Shutterstock

Apple Cheese Wraps

This recipe from Weelicious is pretty simple and great. Simply wrap slices of apple and cheese. Add ham for an enjoyable meal your kid will love.

Sushi Sandwichvkuslandia/Shutterstock

Lunch Box Sushi Sandwich

Turn a boring old sandwich into something surprising. This recipe from The Weary Chef includes simple ingredients like turkey, carrots, and mozzarella cheese in a spinach wrap, which you cut up like sushi.

Chicken burritos on the wooden backgroundAlexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Easy Burrito

Moskovitz suggests making a burrito with grilled chicken, cheese, rice, and guacamole. She also recommends not giving up on foods your child has tried only once—especially if the food is healthy. “Experts agree that a food should be offered at least ten times, perhaps prepared in different ways; a consistency change could make the food more appealing to children,” she says.

Top View of Baked Chicken Fingers Nuggets on Dark Backgroundoizostudio/Shutterstock

Baked chicken tenders with sweet potato fries

“Don’t worry about offering unhealthy foods—just don’t serve them too often and make sure to combine them with other good foods so that kids are more likely to eat the healthy stuff,” says Moskovitz. Find out some other healthy lunch ideas that aren’t salad.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with whole wheat bread on rustic wooden table istetiana/Shutterstock

Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread

Sometimes you can’t go wrong with a classic: “Parents should choose foods that are rich in nutrients such as protein, whole grains, fiber, and vitamin and minerals,” says NYC-based dietician Stacy K. Leung. She suggests adding carrots and water to the lunch to balance it out.

Broccoli SaladJulia Metkalova/Shutterstock

Pasta salad with broccoli, mozzarella, and grapes

“Try to include a fruit, vegetable, or both into their lunch bag every day,” says Leung. “Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of fiber which helps with fullness. Also, the different colors can help bring excitement to the meal. And always include water so your child won’t get dehydrated.”

Banana Peanut Butter Roll-UpsAgain Peace/Shutterstock

Rollups

“I love recommending ‘rollups’ to my clients since you can cut them into bite size pieces and they aren’t huge pieces of bread that can get soggy,” says Amy Shapiro, RD, a nutritionist and founder and director of Real Nutrition. “A healthy lunch is balanced with protein, heart-healthy fats, and fiber from plants.” She recommends taking a whole wheat tortilla and lightly spreading it with peanut butter or sunbutter. Then, place a medium-size banana at one end and roll up. You can cut into about eight bite-size pieces and pack it along with string cheese. If you’re not sure what sunbutter is, you can learn all about it here.

Cold Thai Chicken Cabbage Salad with SobaJosie Grant/Shutterstock

Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Scallions

For kids who are a little more adventurous, try this soba noodle salad recipe from Martha Stewart. Soba is normally made gluten-free, which is perfect if your child has a sensitivity.

EggIrina Burakova/Shutterstock

Easy veggie egg muffins

Culinary expert and author of “52-Week Meal Planner” Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN,  tells NBC News that these veggie egg muffins will go over well with kids, and they are packed with protein-rich and an easy way to incorporate produce.

Close up of healthy macaroni and cheese with pureed cauliflower and stir-fried Asian green beansVezzani Photography/Shutterstock

Macaroni and cheese

Tiffany DeWitt, a dietician with Abbott Nutrition, shares  that she loves making mac and cheese for her kids with whole wheat pasta and pairs it with veggies for a balanced meal. Here’s the best way to make mac and cheese.

Quesadilla with chicken, served with guacamole or salsa sauce.gkrphoto/Shutterstock

Quesadillas

“They eat well at room temperature,” says Shapiro. “Take two small whole wheat tortillas and put in a pan or on a griddle. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup Mexican cheese mix (I use organic) and a few spinach leaves or sliced leftover grilled chicken or taco meat. Heat until both tortillas are crunchy. Cut into quarters and pack them with cut up cucumber, grape tomatoes, apple slices, and a side of guacamole.”

canape with fruits and cheeseStudio 37/Shutterstock

Fruit and cheese kabobs

“Kids will feel empowered that they can eat without rushing but not overwhelmed by too many items,” says Shapiro. “I always remind them that kids like repetition so don’t feel pressure to make different meals every day. Always pack a fruit or veggie.” She says to simply take a skewer and alternate fruit chunks and cheese squares. Pack some yogurt to dip into and a small cup of granola.

Italian Turkey Sausage with Red Pepper SaucePaul Horwitz/Shutterstock

Turkey Hot Dogs

DeWitt tells Abbott Nutrition that turkey dogs are a great source of protein and have less saturated fat than the conventional hot dogs.

A healthy snack of fresh broccoli and low fat dipping sauceA_Lein/Shutterstock

Steamed broccoli and lighter ranch dip

Unfortunately, the best tasting sauces—ranch, for example—aren’t the healthiest for you. With this recipe from Martha Stewart, you get a lighter version that makes eating broccoli enjoyable. Broccoli just so happens to be one of the 10 healthiest vegetables you—or your kids—can eat.

Whole wheat breakfast waffle served with blackberries and goji berriesElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Breakfast for lunch

“Pack foods that kids can eat with their fingers and in one bite,” says Shapiro. “Always pack what you know your kids like and don’t try ‘new’ things on them as they likely will not eat it.” She suggests packing two whole wheat waffles with peanut butter or sunbutter and a drizzle of honey in the middle; add a side of fruit and veggies, and a hard-boiled egg.

Eat-These-9-Foods-Daily-to-Remedy-Dry-SkinLarisa Blinova/Shutterstock

Avocado

DeWitt, an RD with Abbott Nutrition, notes that avocados have healthy fat, fiber, and vitamins. She loves spreading on toast, crackers, and sandwiches.

Homemade organic baked pumpkin chips served with lime wedges on kraft paperistetiana/Shutterstock

Baked sweet potato chips

Kids love potato chips, but those found at your local grocery store are loaded with sodium and fat. But you don’t have to give up on this snack for kids: Try this recipe from Martha Stewart—you get a low-fat version of their favorite that the kids will still love. Here are some other healthy snack ideas approved by nutritionists.

banana slices with peanut butter on white chopping boardZoeytoja/Shutterstock

Peanut butter and banana sushi

“Most picky eaters love this flavor combination, and the finger food aspect makes it appealing for kids (and adults). For those with food allergies or nut-free classrooms, simply substitute sunflower butter or soy butter for an easy swap. It’s also a vegan recipe filled with plant-based protein, fiber, and potassium, which are nutrients often lacking in lunches,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN tells NBC News.

Homemade organic summer fruit ice cream on plate with fresh fruitsmarcin jucha/Shutterstock

Fruit popsicles

DeWitt tells Abbott Nutrition that these fun snacks are much better made at home with real fruit juice—and your kids won’t be able to tell the difference.

Roasted nuts and sunflower seeds in caramel and sugar on the old wooden background. Selective focus.Katarzyna Hurova/Shutterstock

Hungry Boy Granola Bars

Don’t let the name fool you; these bars from Martha Stewart are great for all kids. They are packed with oats, coconut, almonds, sesame seeds, and raisins. Here are 10 more granola bar recipes that your kids will love.

vegetarian sliders made with mushroom & rice pattiesTanya Hsu/Shutterstock

Bean and veggie sliders

Martha Stewart gives kids a healthier version of the sliders that everyone loves so much. Patties are made with rice and beans and topped off with cilantro and mango for a nice kick.

Plastic cup with tasty yogurt on tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

Yogurt

Maya Feller, RD, owner of Maya Feller Nutrition, tells the Huffington Post that she packs her kids yogurt along with other snacks for their lunch. “I have two children who both have great palates, so I feel lucky that packing lunch is not too much of a challenge. Every day, I pack a mid-morning snack that usually consists of a Siggi’s yogurt tube or goat milk squeeze pouch, cucumbers, baby bell peppers, and a side of hummus for my son. For my daughter, I pack a Siggi’s yogurt tube or goat milk squeeze pouch, cucumbers, berries, and cherry tomatoes,” she tells the site.

Cup with chunky guacamole served with nachosiuliia_n/Shutterstock

Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis

Pack something easy and fun like these Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis. “The healthy fat will help keep kids full,” Jessica Cording, RD, founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition, in New York City tells Parents. Don’t miss these easy after-school snacks kids will love.

Authentic Mexican Taquitos with a fresh garden saladEzume Images/Shutterstock

Bean and cheese sushi

Halas-Liang tells the Huffington Post that she makes bean and cheese sushi by spreading mashed black beans with a bit of lemon juice on a whole grain tortilla, sprinkling shredded mozzarella cheese, and rolling it into a tight log. Then she cuts slices just like sushi. She’ll add in oranges and veggies like edamame or sugar snap peas.

Grilled chicken breast. Fried chicken fillet and fresh vegetable salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula leaves. Chicken meat salad. Healthy food. Flat lay. Top view. White backgroundSea Wave/Shutterstock

Leftovers

If you’ve had a great, healthy dinner the night before, it doesn’t hurt to serve it as lunch for your kids the next day, according to Laura Lagano of Laura Lagano Nutrition.

Hard-boiled eggOlexandr Panchenko/Shutterstock

Hard-boiled eggs

Newgent tells Real Simple that she likes to pack hard-boiled eggs for her kids as a quick and easy source of protein. “Eggs provide high-quality protein that’s key for kids’ growing muscles—and so much more.”

Homemade Healthy Chicken Salad Sandwich with ChipsBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Healthy chicken salad

Registered dietitian and chef, Jessica Ivey tells NBC that she likes to make chicken salad with nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo. “When you substitute Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise, you reduce the saturated fat while adding healthy nutrients, like bone-building calcium,” she tells the site. Check out these 10 delicious ways to have Greek yogurt for breakfast.

cheeseandcrackersEdward Fielding/Shutterstock

Finger foods

Sarah Remmer tells RD to pack finger foods for kids so that they get a variety of things to eat. She suggests things like whole grain crackers with cheddar cheese cubes and sliced pieces of fruit.

Two glasses of iced tea with lemon on wooden backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Unsweetened ice tea

Bauer tells Real Simple that if you want to add sweetness to tea for your kids, try adding a small portion of 100 percent fruit juice.

Red, green and yellow sweet bell peppers on table, close upAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Peppers

DeWitt tells Abbott Nutrition that she likes to pair peppers, which are filled with antioxidants, with hummus or a bean dip for a well-balanced meal. Next, find out some more super healthy (and tasty!) lunch ideas to make for yourself.

Audrey Noble
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and am a University of Southern California alumna. My previous work experience includes positions at Vanity Fair as the editorial beauty assistant & Refinery29 as the associate beauty editor, branded experiences. I'm a great resource for all things beauty, as well as books, reality TV (Vanderpump Rules especially), and podcasts (Pod Save America is my jam).