Coming up with daily school lunches is no easy task, especially with schools’ dietary guidelines. Our easy ideas are tasty and satisfying for both kids and adults.
Back in late June, I was invited to speak at Blossom Birth, a non-profit resource center for soon-to-be and current parents located in Palo Alto. I expected to talk mostly about making baby food but found myself fielding questions about school lunches instead.
Most parents in attendance had school-age children and were faced with the challenge of coming up with creative ideas for school lunches to satisfy both their children and any dietary guidelines their schools may have set.
This definitely was a tough nut to crack, so I decided to do some brainstorming before the school year began and pass on my ideas to all you school lunch packing parents out there.
The criteria we used for our menu ideas were:
- No PBJ – too many schools have banned peanut products due to growing allergies
- Will keep till lunchtime
- Finger foods that would be kid friendly
5 School Lunch Ideas
1. Meatball “Gyro”
Stuff homemade meatballs hidden with nutritious goodies, like our Kid-Friendly Turkey Meatballs with Beans & Kale, into a pita.
2. The Ultimate Quesadilla
Melted and then sliced into strips so that kids could easily dip them into salsa or guacamole. Try our Black Bean Quesadilla with Guacamole recipe.
3. Tortellini & Tomato Kebabs
Turn a dinnertime favorite into a lunchtime finger food by skewering cooked tortellini, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cubes. You can also pack a side of homemade pesto for dipping. Learn how to make a homemade pesto with this video:
How to Make a Hand-Chopped Pesto
Food processors and blenders are not needed to make a delicious herb pesto.
4. Tuna Fish Sandwich
Give this old standby a healthy twist by adding some some flaxseed.
5. CHICKEN & RICE BURRITO
Even the pickiest children seem to love chicken and rice, so you can’t go wrong here. Scroll down for this recipe, which can easily be turned into an adult’s lunch as well. Just spoon on a dollop of hot sauce for the adults, and you’ve got lunches checked for the whole family.
- Add some dairy – If your kid loves dairy, consider a spoonful of sour cream or a sprinkling of their favorite cheese.
- Anything can be burrito-fied – For adults who can warm up their lunch, consider adding a scoop of last night’s leftovers into your burrito.
- Democratize food! Let your kid(s) pick out the tortilla at the grocery store. There are so many flavors and colors these days, and it’ll help them feel like part of the decision-making process.
We figure parents can pick two of these options each week, prep the necessary ingredients ahead of time, and then just assemble the morning of when they’re packing lunch(es).
Drop in some extras like yogurt cups, bag of trail mix, edamame, or quick bread muffins, and you’ve got a lunch that will be the envy of all your kids friends.
- Rice – 1 cup
- Rotisserie chicken meat - ~ 1 cup
- Avocado - 1
- Tortillas – 3 to 4
- Rinse rice in water 2 to 3 times. This will achieve light and fluffy rice by rinsing away a lot of the residual starch.
- Place rice in a saucepan and fill with 2 cups of water. Add a generous pinch of salt, and if you want to more flavor and color, try spooning a few tablespoons of tomato sauce into the water.
- Bring to a boil, and then lower heat, cover, and cook until rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- While rice is cooking, cut up desired amount of rotisserie chicken.
- Store both rice and chicken in airtight containers.
- To make lunch, warm tortilla.
- Place tortilla up on a piece of aluminum foil.
- Scoop desired amount of rice and chicken into the bottom of the tortilla.
- Add some avocado slices.
- Wrap burrito by folding the bottom over and then the sides. Roll tight and wrap in tortilla.