34 days of school lunch recipes

Packing school lunches can be a drag, we get it. Here are our solutions to beat the lunch bag blues.

34 days of school lunch recipes

Are you already running out of lunch ideas for school? Are the kids complaining about eating the same ham sandwich every day? No stress, we’ll take the lead!

Whether you’re packing for an adventurous foodie or a classic picky eater, we have a recipe for you. Click through the slides for 34 fun new lunch ideas to send your kids to school with.

Tofu Croutons

Extra-firm tofu makes a happy home under a thick coating of panko crumbs. Tofu is made of condensed soy milk and contains many nutrients in only a few calories. Since tofu is so high in protein it also makes an excellent substitute for meat in most diets.

The tofu croutons will only take 25 minutes to make, so this lunch recipe is perfect for quickly getting your child out the door for school. Kids will love these crispy, delicious nuggets, which are fun to dip.

Get the recipe: Crispy Tofu Nuggets

plate of breaded tofu croutons with dip Photo: Erik Putz

Maple carrot soup

This carrot soup calls for a swirl: pack some sour cream your kids can dollop on top and then (carefully) drag a toothpick or spoon through it to create a fun design. Carrots are rich in nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. They help benefit your eye health and protect your heart, skin, brain and immune system while reducing inflammation.

The recipe recommends making the soup the night before so that all you have to do in the morning is heat it up and make some toast for dipping! The soup only needs a few common ingredients.

Get the recipe: Maple Carrot Soup

lunch idea for school bowl of carrot soup with bacon


Rainbow Veggie Quinoa Bowl

A lot is going on in this quinoa bowl. But crispy apples, shredded carrots, beets and a hard-boiled egg all get along nicely with the herb dressing. The bowl is complimented with a yogurt-herb dressing to add a creamy texture.

Mixing this colourful dish into your school lunch rotation will provide variety to balance out heavier, more protein-rich bowls that you might consider later in the week. The benefit of this veggie choice is the beets that are good for your blood and the vitamins in carrots.

Get the recipe: Rainbow Veggie Quinoa Bowl

quinoa bowl with grated veggies, hardboiled egg and dressing Photo: Erik Putz

Ginger Beef Rice Bowl

Create your own better-than-takeout rice bowl at home. Juicy ginger beef, hardboiled eggs and all the veggies are nice and cozy atop this hearty bowl. The ingredient list may be staggering, but this recipe covers all of the key food groups, and many of its elements can be repurposed for other dishes.

Ginger beef is also a good option if your child is dealing with an upset stomach during a long day at school. Ginger soothes gastric upsets, helps digestion and calms nausea.

Get the recipe: Ginger Beef Rice Bowl

rice bowl with ground beef, hardboiled eggs and shredded veggies Photo: Erik Putz

Cold Sesame Soba Noodle Dish

Kick this dish up a notch by adding grilled shrimp or leftover shredded chicken or beef. This soba noodle recipe takes only 20 minutes to make and delivers a light, refreshing flavour. When choosing which noodles to use you should pay attention to the mix of buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat flour has a nutty flavour and is a great gluten-free option. 100% buckwheat noodles can be fragile and difficult to work with, so stores usually sell them in a mix with wheat flour.

Get the recipe: Cold Sesame Soba Noodle Dish

plate of soba noodle salad with peppers Photo: Erik Putz


Make-Ahead Lentil Chili

Minimum prep for maximum payoff: a warm, hearty bowl of chili to slurp up at lunch. Since this chili makes six servings you can cook on the weekend and have enough for a couple of lunches during the week. A tip for making this dish ahead of time is to cool and pack the chili in a large container and stir in the beans later when it is ready to be served.

The beans and the lentils make an excellent source of fiber and protein. Peppers in chilli also boost your serotonin levels, giving you that extra boost to get through the day!

Get the recipe: Make-Ahead Lentil Chili

enamel bowl filled with chunky veggie chili Photo: Roberto Caruso

One-Pot Mac and Cheese

You won’t believe how simple this creamy recipe is to pull together. Mac and Cheese is the childhood classic, and there is no doubt your child is already familiar with this delicious dish.

Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium for growing children. The pasta adds fiber and energy-producing carbohydrates as well. If you are concerned about the high amount of calories, try low-fat cheese or serve it as a side dish with lean protein or a salad.

Get the recipe: One-Pot Mac and Cheese

thermos with mac and cheese with peas Photo: Erik Putz

Red Pepper Falafel Cakes

Protein-packed falafels are easy to make at home. Stuff them in a pita pocket for a quick lunch. These falafels are a fun and fast vegetarian option for your child.

Falafels are a good source of fiber and plant-based protein. These cakes may seem small, but they contain enough nutrients to get you through a long day. You may also consider baking these falafel cakes instead of frying them for an even healthier option.

Get the recipe: Red Pepper Falafel Cakes

bento lunch box with falafel in pita, carrot salad and dip Photo: Erik Putz


Vietnamese Roast Chicken & Salad Rolls

Easy to make and fun to dip. We love the simplicity of this meal and its ability to use up leftovers and odds and ends. You may also choose to teach your kids to roll their own for a fun activity! This recipe adds rotisserie chicken for an extra protein boost.

The recipe can be further customized with your favorite fillings. You may even choose to use gluten-free rice papers. Be sure not to soak the rice paper wrappers too long, or they become impossible to roll.

Get the recipe: Vietnamese Roast Chicken & Salad Rolls>

Vietnamese roast Chicken and salad rolls in a bento box Photo: Erik Putz

Homemade Apple-Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal

Fill them up well with this homemade rendition of instant oatmeal. Oatmeal is flexible enough that it can be served at any time of the day. If you do not have enough time in the morning to wait for the boiled water to mix in, try and microwave the oatmeal for a minute.

You may also choose to customize your toppings. This recipe works well with maple syrup too. Oatmeal is a great source of carbs and fiber, helping lower blood sugar and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Get the recipe: Homemade Apple-Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal

thermos of apple cinnamon oatmeal Photo: Erik Putz

Quick Margherita Pizza

This recipe is so quick and easy that you’ll want to make it as often as your family wants to eat it! Try baking it in the oven or grilled on the barbecue. The pizza can be easily customized as well. Add any toppings to switch things up and possibly serve it a few times a week. The naan can also be swapped out for a gluten-free or whole-grain option.

When you are full, the pizza can be easily stored in your refrigerator for another time. Pizza can be a well-rounded meal that offers all three macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.

Get the recipe: Quick Margherita Pizza

bento box with pizza, fig, chocolate, veggies and fruit Photo: Erik Putz


Magic Quinoa

Rushed mornings are no match for this protein-packed recipe. You can make this recipe in minutes, and the quinoa cooks in the Thermos, ready to be served by lunchtime. You only need a few ingredients, plus a little magic.

Quinoa contains important nutrients such as folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Being high in fiber and protein also helps you feel full throughout the day. The recipe easily fits into your gluten-free diet. You may also choose to serve the dish for breakfast with this sweet alternative, which includes coconut milk, fresh fruit, walnuts, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey.

Get the recipe: Magic Quinoa

Quinoa in a thermos Photo: Erik Putz

Zucchini and Feta Frittata

Simple and delicious, this healthy and wholesome frittata is perfect as a snack or meal. Frittatas are open to creativity as you can add any ingredients to the recipe. With a prep time of only 5 minutes, you can make this meal while multitasking while the frittata sits in the oven.

Eggs are full of healthy nutrients and are a great source of protein. Alternative vegetables to add to the recipe include pumpkin, broccoli, baby spinach, capsicum, mushroom, tomato and red onion. To boost flavour some extra protein can be added with chicken, salmon, or tuna.

Get the recipe: Zucchini and Feta Frittata

Zucchini and feta frittata in a bento box Photo: Erik Putz

Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs

Packed with hidden veggies, these mini meatballs will keep little learners full up until dinner. The recipe is perfect for sneaking in some vegetables to an otherwise children’s favorite. The small size of these meatballs makes them easy to freeze for a future lunch.

They are an excellent choice to complement a carb option as well, such as pasta. These meatballs are tasty with or without the sauce to shave some time off the cooking time. Turkey meatballs are leaner than beef, healthier, packed with protein and flavor, and very moist.

Get the recipe: Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs

thermos filled with meatballs and veggies Photo: Erik Putz


Lacey-Edged Latkes

Easy fried latkes make a fun lunchbox companion. Latkes is the Yiddish word for pancakes and are traditionally made during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. However, these potato pancakes can be so tasty you may not be able to resist having them year-round.

The recipe makes 18-20 latkes, making them perfect to be frozen and reheated later. You can get creative with what topping to use. Some ideas include sweet chili sauce, sour cream, and ketchup. Add hummus and veggies on the side for protein.

Get the recipe: Lacey-Edged Latkes

Lacey-edged latkes in a bento box Photo: Erik Putz

Easy Buttermilk Waffles

Everyone loves leftovers. Treat the family by making extra waffles on the weekend, and keep the buttermilk goodness rolling into the weekday by reheating them in the toaster before transferring them into the bento box.

Eggs and milk are rich in protein, calcium, and essential minerals. With eggs being high in protein and the carbs in waffle batter, around 2-3 waffles are filling enough to get you through lunch. If you need more protein, you can always call on your waffle's best friend, bacon, to complete the meal.

Get the recipe: Easy Buttermilk Waffles

buttermilk waffles in a bento box Photo: Erik Putz

“Fried” Chicken Fingers

You don’t have to feel guilty about these tender chicken fingers. They’ve got the satisfying flavour of fried, but are baked in the oven. If the magic quinoa didn’t make you feel like a magician, this recipe may do the trick.

Baking chicken fingers in the oven uses less oil compared to if you were to fry them. Using less oil decreases the number of calories. To minimize the use of oil even further you can coat the chicken fingers with non-stick spray to crisp things up!

Get the recipe: “Fried” Chicken Fingers

34 days of school lunch recipes Photo: Erik Putz


Curried Lentil-Coconut Soup

Pack along a whole-wheat pita to sop up this creamy soup. This triple onslaught of flavor between the curry powder, lentils, and coconut milk creates a nutritious and delicious meal.

Curry powder helps with inflammation and heart health. Lentils are high in fiber, protein, and key vitamins. Coconut milk is high in vitamin C and iron.

Get the recipe: Curried Lentil-Coconut Soup

thermos filled with lentil soup Photo: Erik Putz

Beef Satay with Thai Dipping Sauce

This allergy-friendly take on beef satay uses soy nut butter in the dipping sauce, so it’s safe for those allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. If almond butter is an acceptable choice for your family, it is delicious in the dipping sauce. If using, add about 1 tbsp of sugar to the sauce. The beef satay also tastes good completely plain!

The ground turmeric and coriander are key ingredients when coating the meat. They also have their own health benefits. Tumeric helps with inflammation among other medicinal effects that help the body and brain. Coriander helps fight infection and promote overall health.

Get the recipe: Beef Satay with Thai Dipping Sauce

bento box with beef skewers and dipping sauce Photo: Erik Putz

Primavera Pasta Salad

Cold, slurpy noodles are an easy go-to lunch. The kids will be asking for it every day. The recipe is as easy as mixing cooked pasta with your favorite vegetables. Feel free to get creative and mix in other vegetables or meat for an added protein boost.

The type of pasta can be substituted with whole-grain or refined choices for a healthier option. Whole grain pasta is high in fiber, manganese, selenium, copper and phosphorus. While refined pasta tends to be higher in iron and B vitamins.

Get the recipe: Primavera Pasta Salad

Primavera Pasta Salad on a spoon Photo: Maya Visnyei


Banana Sushi

Need a quick lunch that the kids will actually eat? Try Banana Sushi—it’s healthy and yummy. Different spreads or bread options can be used in this recipe. Peanut butter or Nutella are good options to add some more sweetness. It may be enough to excite your kids about this protein-rich snack.

While any nut butter you choose will provide a substantial amount of protein, bananas are a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Get the recipe: Banana Sushi

Banana sushi in a bento box Photo: Maggie Naylor

Homemade Alphabet Pasta

One of the easiest lunches you can pack, this alphabet pasta will fill them up well. Make it the night before and simply reheat for the Thermos. The alphabet pasta is a playful spin on your usual meal, but this recipe can also be done with gluten-free pasta.

To dodge the overwhelming amount of carbs in the meal you can compliment the dish with protein or use whole-grain or refined pasta. Whole grain pasta is high in fiber, manganese, selenium, copper and phosphorus. While refined pasta tends to be higher in iron and B vitamins. Be sure to pack cheese beside the thermos so your kids can do their own sprinkling!

Get the recipe: Homemade Alphabet Pasta

bento box with saucy alphabet pasta inside Photo: Roberto Caruso

BLT Waffle-Wich

This lunch combines two things kids love, waffles and bacon, for one surprising sandwich. To pack, place pieces of waxed paper or foil between all layers to keep them fresh and wrap the sandwich in parchment. Pack mayo separately in its own mini squirt bottle. Before eating, remove waxed paper or foil and squirt mayo onto the waffle.

This meal is perfect if these ingredients are leftover after a weekend brunch. Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A, while tomatoes can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Get the recipe: BLT Waffle-Wich

lunch ideas for school Photo: Roberto Caruso


Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs on Rice

A warm, thermos lunch is as comforting as it gets—especially when there are mini meatballs and saucy rice inside. If you want an even healthier option you may even want to combine this recipe with our turkey and zucchini meatballs for extra vegetables. Turkey meatballs are leaner than beef, healthier, packed with protein and flavor, and very moist.

You may also want to switch the breadcrumbs for a gluten-free substitute if you so choose. Finding what type of rice is best for your diet may also be beneficial. We recommend using either long-grain rice or jasmine rice found in the recipe.

Get the recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs on Rice

thermos filled with meatballs Photo: Roberto Caruso

Ham-and-Cheese Pinwheels

A new spin on ham and cheese, these yummy pinwheels have lunch all rolled up. These buns are perfect at room temperature. Make them in the morning and wrap them tightly in foil for the lunch box.

This tasty appetizer is easy to prepare with just five ingredients. Between the gooey cheese, the ham's crispy edges, and the Dijon mustard zip, this dish will impress. You may substitute the buns for a gluten-free option or use dairy-free or low-fat cheese.

Get the recipe: Ham-and-Cheese Pinwheels

baked dough rolled up with ham and cheese inside Photo: Roberto Caruso

High-Protein Smoothie

Parents of picky eaters rejoice! This smoothie is a cleaver cheat. Prepping the smoothie only takes a few minutes in the blender and then you have a nutritious snack for the next few days.

This smoothie packs in all the refreshing fruits you would want in a smoothie but adds a sneaky curveball in the romaine stems. Romaine lettuce is a small but mighty addition as it contains such nutrients as vitamins C, K, and A, calcium, folate, magnesium, and potassium.

Get the recipe: High Protein Smoothie

glass of thick purple smoothie Photo: Roberto Caruso


Pressed Italian Picnic Sandwich

Making one sandwich that serves six is the correct answer to busy school mornings. Ciabatta bread is always a luxury. If you have one, you can even cut down the recipe time using a panini press. What is great about any Italian sandwich is that you can use any toppings you find around the house, and it’ll be just as good.

The basil pesto is the key ingredient that ties everything together. It smells and tastes good and is a part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Get the recipe: Pressed Italian Picnic Sandwich

Pressed italian sandwich Photo: Maya Visnyei

Calzones with Turkey Kielbasa

Make ahead and freeze for easy, homemade pizza pockets anytime.  Kids will love helping to prepare these yummy handheld calzones. The recipe makes six adult servings so even half of one of these calzones stuffed in a Tupperware will make a hardy lunch, especially with a salad.

Like many other sandwich-based recipes, take these opportunities to empty out your shelves and get creative with what tastes good together. The pizza dough can also be homemade, gluten-free, or whole wheat.

Get the recipe: Calzones with Turkey Kielbasa>

filling a calzone with cheese and veggies Photo: Rob Caruso

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Tender pulled pork is yummy hot or cold, making it a perfectly portable lunch. Not only is pulled pork a staple freezable lunch item, but you also have the benefit of your entire house smelling amazing when preparing it!

Pulled pork also works in a slow cooker if you have extra time. Pork is a good source of vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, iron, and vitamin B.

Get the recipe: Pulled Pork Sandwiches>

Pulled pork Sandwich Photo: Jodi Pudge


Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale and Red Pepper Pesto

Another perfect dinner that translates well into a cold meal the next day. This vegetarian pasta with kale and red pepper pesto recipe can be made in less than 30 minutes and is packed with fiber and healthy vegetables.

As stated above, you may substitute this pasta with whatever alternative best fits your diet. Whole grain pasta is high in fiber, manganese, selenium, copper and phosphorus. While refined pasta tends to be higher in iron and B vitamins.

Get the recipe: Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale and Red Pepper Pesto

plate of pasta with basil and tomatoes

Mini Meatball Subs

If your little one won’t eat cold meatballs, warm them up, store them in the Thermos and let them assemble their own sub at lunchtime. Save some meatballs from pasta night and stick them in a sub bun. They're perfect for taking in a school lunch the next day.

You can also use our turkey and zucchini meatballs on your sandwich for added vegetables. The meatballs featured in this recipe can also be eaten alone or they make a satisfying meal piled into crusty rolls with cheese and greens.

Get the recipe: Mini Meatball Subs

mini meatball subs Photo: Andrew Grinton

Tuna Melt Calzones

Introducing the tastiest tuna melt you’ve ever had, enclosed in a pizza crust and combined with muscle-building spinach that transforms it into a balanced dinner (which can be served at room temperature). Most of the carbs in spinach consist of fiber. Spinach is also rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

These tasty calzones are super yummy and super filling. If your little one doesn’t like spinach, feel free to omit it. The calzones also freeze well, so they’re ready whenever you are. Bake from frozen in a 475f oven for 16 min, or until tops are nicely golden.

Get the recipe: Tuna Melt Calzones

calzones and carrot slaw Photo: Andrew Grinton


Penne with Sautéed Sausage & Kale

Delicious warm, or cold, pack this baby in a Thermos or on ice for a yummy lunch room meal. Short pasta is great at retaining sauces with "bits" in them. In this case, chunks of turkey sausage, chopped kale and shreds of salty Parmesan cheese complement well. Kale is a popular vegetable for any healthy diet as it is high in vitamins K, C, and A.

To send for lunch, reheat until piping hot. Then, pack it into a pre-warmed insulated container. (You can do this by letting boiling water stand in the container for 1 min.)

Get the recipe: Penne with Sautéed Sausage & Kale

thermos filled with pasta and sausage and kale Photo: Jodi Pudge

Rotisserie Chicken Gyro

In this easy and kid-friendly recipe, storebought rotisserie chicken is transformed by sautéeing it quickly with garlic and herbs. This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make thanks to the rotisserie chicken. It is the perfect weeknight option! The chicken goes well with tzatziki if you require more flavor and creaminess.

Rotisserie chicken contains high amounts of riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc. If the shredded chicken seems dry, you may want to add sodium-free chicken stock to the pan after sautéeing.

Get the recipe: Rotisserie Chicken Gyro

Rotisserie Chicken Gyro Photo: Maya Visnyei

Read more: 8 handy on-the-go snack recipes 15 better-than-takeout recipes 90 adorable lunch bags and accessories

This article was originally published on Aug 28, 2019

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