Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids

Looking for school lunch ideas for kids? You’re in the right place with these back-to-school recipes, including school lunch box ideas, easy lunch ideas for school, and vegetarian school lunch ideas!

two kids sitting at a lunch table with their lunch boxes open and full of healthy food

Backpacks are stuffed, and classes are in full swing with a return to school…even if that means you’re home-schooling your kids via virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic and an upswing in COVID-19 cases in the United States. Or maybe your kids are going to in-person school, while keeping their social distance.

Now it’s time for you to really shine, even while packing lunches! Back-to-school season is very different for each of us, but one thing remains the same: You have to eat. Having a few go-to recipes on hand can mean a world of difference during crunch time.

I’m going to delve into all things regarding back-to-school lunches, including a whole bunch of plant-based recipes, plus gluten-free ideas, too, in this blog post.

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll find these meal-prep ideas helpful. What will you be feeding your troops? Perhaps mac and cheese and pasta salad? Or how about a healthy pizza recipe?

grilled cheese sandwich on a plate

Time-Saving Tips for When the Kids Go Back to School

I don’t know about you, but this time of year is really, really busy. It’s back-to-school season—and while I don’t have kids, work gets busier this time of year, and I’ve even felt compelled to do a lot of house cleaning. It also seems like the season to schedule every single doctor’s appointment!

No matter why you’re busy this time of year, all of us could appreciate some easy meals for this busy season, right? That’s why I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite dietitian-approved school lunch ideas—plus a few of my best time-saving tips for the kitchen.

Let’s start with those great ideas for time-saving tips, which will undoubtedly help your mental health, too.

Plan Out Your Meals

Yup, if you know what you’re putting on the table, you’ll be more likely to have all the ingredients on hand and speed up meal prep time.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

Whether that means making extras and repurposing those leftovers for the next night—or making extra chicken breast one night and using the extras in an all-new recipe the next night, that’s up to you.

Enlist Little Helpers

Trying to keep the kids occupied while you make meals? Bring them into the kitchen. Younger kids can help with things like washing fruits and vegetables, and older kids can sharpen math skills by helping you measure.

A bowl of baked tofu

The Best School Lunch Ideas for Kids

Without further ado, here are ideas for healthy lunches from myself and my registered dietitian colleagues!

Vegan Tofu Nuggets from Jessica Spiro, RD, owner of Jessica Spiro Nutrition

Italian Baked Chicken Pasta Freezer Meal from Megan Byrd, RD, nutrition blogger at The Oregon Dietitian

Indian Butter Chicken Recipe from Shahzadi Devje, RD, nutrition blogger at Desi~licious RD

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili from Megan Byrd

No-Bake Healthy Energy Bars from my own kitchen

Almond-Crusted Chicken from Klara Knezevic, RD, CLT, co-author of Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide

English Muffin Pizzas from Dana Magee, RD, CLT, co-author of Nourished

Citrus Shrimp and Zoodles Sheet Pan Meal from Shannon Garcia, RD, food blogger at Kiss in the Kitchen

Italian Pork Meatball Recipe from Allison Schaaf, MS, RD, founder of Prep Dish

White Bean Pizza from my own kitchen

Veggie Pasta Bake from Sarah Schlichter, RD, nutrition blogger at Bucket List Tummy

A box filled with veggies on skewers

Tomato, Pepper, and Tortellini Lunchbox Skewers from Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, food blogger at It’s a Veg World After All

Quinoa Pizza Bites from Sarah Schlichter

Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans from Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, nutrition blogger at fANNEtastic Food

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bites from Ginger Hultin, RD, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep

Taco Skillet Pasta from Brittany Poulson, RD, author of The Healthy Family Cookbook

Burrito Bowl from Crystal Karges, RD, owner of Crystal Karges Nutrition

Corny Salmon Cakes from Liz Weiss, RD, co-author of No Whine with Dinner

Vegetable Orzo Soup from Alena Menko, RD, owner of Alenka Menko Nutrition and Wellness

Grilled Turkey Avocado Sandwich from Brittany Poulson

Healthy Vegetable Fried Rice from my own kitchen

Crispy Air Fryer Quesadilla from Colleen Christensen, RD, owner of Colleen Christensen Nutrition

Chicken Fajita Tacos from Colleen Christensen

mac and cheese in a casserole dish

Mac and Cheese with Chicken from Toby Amidor, RD, author of The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook

Beef and Mushroom Burgers from Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of Expect the Best

Healthy Fruit Pizza from my own kitchen

Sheet Pan Panko Crusted Cod from Jenny Shea Rawn, RD, food blogger at My Cape Cod Kitchen

DIY Starbucks Protein Bistro Box from Leanne Ray, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at Leanne Ray

Shredded Mojo Pork from Kara Holton, RD, food blogger at The Cheesy RD

Instant Pot Cilantro Chicken and Rice from Jenna Braddock, RD, co-author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better

Vegan Power Bowl from my own kitchen

Healthy Spaghetti Pie from Grace Shea, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at First Bites Nutrition 

Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken from Kara Lydon, RD, blogger at The Foodie Dietitian

Baked Pesto Salmon from Lindsay Schoenfeld, RDN, nutrition blogger at To Taste

Instant Pot Turkey Chili from Kelli Shallal, RD, author of Meal Prep for Weight Loss

Double Chickpea Vegetable Pitas from Sharon Palmer, RD, author of Plant-Powered for Life

An apple sitting on top of a wooden table

More Ideas for the Best School Lunches

Want more healthy school lunch ideas? Use these:

Healthy Freezer Meals

Frozen meals are the ultimate weeknight meal hack, but they aren’t always so good for you. Luckily you can easily make your own meals, freeze ’em, then reheat at a moment’s notice for a healthy, no-fuss dish! I use this trick often for lunches, dinners, and even snacks! I recently shared one of my fave freezer recipes in this article.

Healthy InstantPot Recipes

Take a look at these dietitian recipes for your Instant Pot electric pressure cooker!

Healthy Sandwich Recipes

Sammies are super easy to make in just minutes.They’re quick, convenient, and packable—perfect for back-to-school season. I share simple ways to make your lunchbox a little bit healthier in my blog post! Then get even more ideas for healthy meals to make.

Healthy, Quickie Recipes

You’re going to need lots of quick and easy meal ideas once the kids go back to school. Get inspired with my favorite speedy recipes in this post and in my article for Think beyond peanut butter and jelly, and create a healthy meal in less time than it takes to figure out an algebra problem! Looking for more healthy meals to make?

Healthy Takeout Orders

Ordering takeout doesn’t have to put a wrench in your healthy eating plans. I asked experts to share their healthiest menu picks in this article. When you’re in a time pinch, you can also try boxed meals such as Hello Fresh vegetarian recipes.

This blog post was updated in August 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on


I’d love to hear from you! What are your go-to easy lunch ideas for school and your best school lunches? What are your tips on how to pack school lunch for when kids back to school? What are you putting in your kids’ lunch box while remote learning is taking place?

Looking for school lunch ideas for kids? You're in the right place with these back-to-school recipes, including school lunch box ideas, easy lunch ideas for school, and vegetarian school lunch ideas!
Plant-Based Eating |

Find this post helpful? At no additional cost to you, you can support the maintenance of running this site by using my Amazon affiliate links to shop. Thank you so much.

And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get updates delivered straight to your inbox! Also, download my free 3-day vegan meal plan.

Want to go shopping with a dietitian? Here’s your chance! I just opened up my very own storefront,  full of plant-based meal plans, grocery lists, recipe books, and more!

Join The Conversation

You Might Also Like

Comments Background Texture

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *