Back-to-school season is one of the most hectic times for families. From making sure everyone is up and out the door on time to coming up with healthy school lunch ideas to pack to shuttling the children between after-school activities and correcting homework assignments — not to mention our own lives — weekdays can go by in a whirlwind.
I know that one of the most challenging parts of the school routine is making sure you can get tasty, nutritious meals on the table. After all, you know that’s not happening at school.
What are your kids eating at school? Suffice it to say, it’s the opposite of healthy food.
I’ve written articles about the unfortunate link between childhood obesity and school lunches, and unless you have a very unusual school that serves farm-to-cafeteria (!) lunches, I recommend that you continue to incorporate new ideas for packing school lunches.
Along those lines, I’ve teamed up with some of my favorite food bloggers from around the web to get their top picks for healthy school lunch ideas and quick-and-easy meals before and after the school day — all of which are kid-approved. They’ve shared lunches, dinners and snacks that are sure to be hits with the little ones and a lifesaver for you.
20 Healthy Lunch Recipes
Miryam, Eat Good 4 Life
A list of healthy school lunch ideas has to include this since most kids love mac and cheese. For this kid-friendly version, I added minced broccoli to increase the nutrient content. I also used whole-wheat elbow macaroni in place of the white counterpart, but you could also do a gluten-free or brown rice variety.
My children love vegetables so they don’t mind the broccoli. However, if your kids are picky eaters, you can add in cauliflower instead of green veggies. The cheese will camouflage the cauliflower, and kids won’t even notice it is there.
This is a super-easy weeknight dinner with only five minutes of prep time that can also be frozen for later on. I love this recipe not only because it’s so simple to make, but because it is economical and extremely nutritious.
This recipe it is also high in protein and fiber. You can also swap brown rice for protein-rich quinoa quite easily. This is a weeknight favorite in our house.
Snack: Almond Coconut Bars
A great high-protein snack that will keep kids full longer, this recipe is one of my favorite snacks to prepare for my children because it takes about 10 minutes, only has five ingredients and is very versatile, as you can add any other nuts or dried fruits of your choice. These bars are also great to pack on-the-go, add to lunch boxes for school or as a sweet treat.
Another excellent snack that’s ready in just a few minutes, my kids love helping in the kitchen, so making these bites is way more fun for them than it is for me! It’s a great way to introduce them to cooking and get them interested in making their own healthy foods.
Miryam Quinn Doblas is the clinical dietitian behind the food blog Eat Good 4 Life. Her mission is to inspire people to cook healthier so they can live a longer and happier life.
Brittany, Eating Bird Food
This egg salad recipe has a rich creaminess from the avocado and a robust sweet and savory spiciness from the curry powder. The two pair together quite nicely, and best of all, there’s no mayonnaise in sight! You can leave out the relish or pickles, but I really like the distinct flavor they add.
Lunch: Sweet Potato Tuna Salad
This tuna salad is extra healthy with no added oil or mayo. It has a nice crunch from the celery, plus a subtle sweetness that only potassium-rich sweet potatoes can give. While it’s great for healthy school lunch ideas, leftovers taste great, too — if there are any, that is!
Dinner: Baked Paleo Chicken Tenders
These baked Paleo chicken tenders are made with organic chicken, almond meal, shredded coconut and a blend of spices. They’re absolutely delicious and have great nutritional stats — lots of protein and healthy fats, low in carbohydrates, and very filling. They’re a great alternative to preservative-laden fast food nuggets.
Snack: Sunbutter Backpack Kisses
Made with sunflower seed butter, omega-3 fatty acid-rich flaxseed, hemp seeds, raisins, chocolate chips and a splash of maple syrup, these healthy no-bake bites are packed with flavor, kid-approved and nut-free, so they’re safe to take to school and share.
Brittany Mullins is a health coach, personal trainer and the healthy living blogger behind the popular blog Eating Bird Food.
Lexi, Lexi’s Clean Kitchen
Breakfast: Fluffy Paleo Pancakes
I love these pancakes because they are absolutely the real deal. They’re fluffy, the perfect texture and a family hit through and through. Nobody will know they are made with good-for-you ingredients, and they taste better than anything out of a box.
Dinner: Maple-Glazed Salmon
This is a super-easy, flavorful dinner that comes together in a pinch. It’ll make even the skeptical fall in love with salmon, one of the most nutrient-dense foods around!
Dinner: 30-Minute Taco Soup
This taco soup is a new recipe and already a hit with my readers. Just 30 minutes to a healthy take on tacos? Sign me up!
It’s the perfect (customizable) weeknight dinner. Yum!
Snack: No-Bake Powerbites
These powerbites are both a kid and adult favorite. They are perfect for the lunchbox because they are nut-free — plus with energy-increasing chia seeds , flax and sunflower seed butter, they provide the fuel kids need for the day.
Lexi is the healthy food blogger behind the popular blog Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. Lexi specializes in clean ingredients and delicious recipes that are free of gluten, grains and dairy. Check out her cookbook.
Angela, Oh She Glows
Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner: Crispy Quinoa Cakes
Crispy quinoa cakes packed with vegetables like vitamin K-rich kale, sweet potato, sun-dried tomatoes and more, enjoy these as part of breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are great with roasted home fries and avocado toast in the morning, on top of a salad or in a wrap for an easy lunch or dinner, or enjoyed all on their own.
A delicious, creamy vegan Caesar salad that will please the entire family, no one will never guess how healthy it is, and everyone will love the roasted chickpea croutons.
Dinner: 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta
Creamy, thick and rich with lots of garlic flavor and a hint of lemon, this 15-minute dinner is one of my newest favorite pasta dishes. The benefit-rich avocado works wonderfully in this recipe to create a sauce so creamy and thick, you won’t believe there’s no dairy hiding in there.
Angela Liddon is the writer, photographer and recipe developer for Oh She Glows, a popular destination for healthy vegan recipes. She also has an M.S. in social-personality psychology and enjoys helping others find happiness and health through a plant-based diet.
Karielyn, The Healthy Family and Home
Lunch: Raw Mock “Chicken” Salad
Healthy school lunch ideas need to be quick and easy. This one can be made in less than 15 minutes — plus it’s loaded with healthy veggies. I love it because the entire recipe is raw and uses a tangy, cashew-based dressing that goes with fresh garden ingredients.
You can pack it with or without fresh romaine leaves. It’s the kind of lunch you can feel good about serving to your children. It’s also loaded with clean, organic veggie ingredients, like red bell peppers, broccoli, onions, carrots and jalapeños.
Dinner: Creamy Red Lentil and Kale Soup
A super-easy, one-pot healthy soup that is ready in under 30 minutes and is the perfect warm, cozy meal to enjoy on a cold winter night, this weeknight family dinner is super easy to make, and the veggies can even be prepped earlier in the day to save time. Plus, you’ll only have one pot to clean.
Organic, fiber-rich red lentils, fresh onions, tomatoes, kale and garlic are mixed with full-fat coconut milk to make it extra creamy without added dairy.
Karielyn Tillman is the creator of the Healthy Family and Home website where she shares clean eating raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and no-refined-sugar recipes that focus on simple recipes, real food and clean ingredients.
Adrienne, Whole New Mom
Lunch or Dinner: Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets
These easy baked chicken nuggets make eating healthy when you’re on the run doable. Every time I make them, my husband asks, “Are these hard to make?” That’s his request that I make them again soon!
They’re egg-free, which is unusual for a nugget recipe, and have a grain-free option. They freeze well too, so you can have them available all year for an easy grab and go lunch, snack or dinner!
Dinner: Pakistani Kima
This one-pan meal is my most requested recipe, hands down — and it’s kid-friendly, too. It’s a great way to introduce children to international flavors.
The ingredients are easily substituted for a low-carb dish as well. The only problem I’ve ever had with this dish is that my family asks me why I don’t make it more often.
Snack: “Dorito”-Flavored Popcorn
The flavor of this popcorn seasoning is reminiscent of Doritos chips but without the chemical nasties. Nutritional yeast gives this snack its cheesy taste, keeping it dairy-free. Kids (and parents) will find it hard to not polish off the whole batch of this tasty, healthful snack.
Adrienne Urban is a wife, homeschooling mom, information junkie and the brains and heart behind Whole New Mom. Through special diets and natural health care, she has navigated her family through many health problems. Her mission is to empower you to be your healthiest, inside and out, and help you do it without breaking your budget or losing your mind.