10 Easy School Lunch Ideas to Take the Stress Out of Meal Prepping

Healthy school lunch consisting of brown cheese roll, fresh carrots and kiwi fruit and apple


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School child taking lunch box from his mother

No Picky Eaters

If you're running out of school lunch ideas and tired of feeling guilty for giving your kid a Hot Pocket and calling it a day, these easy and nutritious meals can be made in advance and save time, stress, and money. Meal prepping also allows you to control ingredients and portions to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need to stay focused and energized throughout the day. It can also be a fun and bonding activity to do together — helping picky eaters take ownership of their meals for healthy, balanced diets.

Related: The Best Prepared Meals at Sam's Club

Montessori material. Felt pizza. Children's hands.
Daria Kolpakova/istockphoto

DIY Pizza

DIY pizza with pita bread as the base is a great school lunch idea because it is fun, customizable, and can be made healthy. Try using whole wheat for a healthier crust, and use low-fat cheese and veggies such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, or spinach for toppings. Giving kids the opportunity to make their own pizzas allows them to be creative and experiment with flavors. (No pita? Use crackers or even slices of vegetables as the "crust.")

Related: Cheap and Easy One-Pot Meals

Beef Taco Salad

Taco Salad Bento Box

Your kid will love this taco salad bento box, which is customizable with a variety of ingredients: ground beef, chicken, or beans (as protein sources); fresh vegetables; cheese; and a healthy dressing (for added nutrients). This meal can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to a week, saving time and effort during hectic mornings. 

Recipe: Eating Well

Ham, Lettuce and Cheese Tortilla Rolls

Turkey Pinwheels

Turkey pinwheels are easy to make, versatile, and travel well. They can be made with a variety of fillings such as cheese, veggies, and condiments, making them a tasty option for picky eaters. Turkey is also a lean protein source, which can help keep kids feeling full and focused throughout the day. Try making them in advance and storing them in the fridge or freezer for an easy grab-and-go meal. 

Recipe: Ahead of Thyme

Chickpea salad on a gray background top view
Svetlana Monyakova/istockphoto

Smashed Chickpea Salad

A great option for vegan eaters, this chickpea salad is packed with protein, fiber, and fresh veggies. Made with chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, capers, dill, and vegan mayo, this meal is light and refreshing, and won't leave your kid feeling sluggish. Try adding a side of fresh fruit such as cut kiwis or grapes for extra nutrients and vitamins. 

Recipe: Life Made Sweeter

Egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread

Egg Salad Sandwich

Egg salad sandwiches are a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. These sandwiches are easy to make and can be prepared ahead with a variety of different herbs or vegetables — encouraging kids to try new flavors and expand their palate. Try adding a dash of Dijon mustard and freshly cracked black pepper for an extra depth of flavor. 

Recipe: Ahead of Thyme

Antipasto Skewers

Antipasto Skewers

Packed with nutrients and flavor, these skewers are "fancy homemade Lunchables," according to the recipe creators. Customize them with different cuts of meat, cheeses, and veggies for a balanced and delicious school lunch. You can also make them as an appetizer or to add to a charcuterie board

Recipe: Ahead of Thyme

Fresh tortilla wraps with chicken and fresh vegetables on plate

Rainbow Veggie Wraps

Another healthy vegetarian option, these rolls can be stuffed with different veggies, cheeses, and hummus — making them nutritious and easy to customize according to your child's preferences. Hummus is high in protein and can help with a range of ailments such as digestive issues and inflammation, and may even help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

Recipe: Eating Well

Freshly made club sandwiches

Turkey BLTs

Most kids will pivot to bacon, making a turkey BLT an ideal recipe to ensure yours is getting a well-balanced meal with protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches are easy to make and versatile; try customizing them with different types of breads, wraps, and condiments. 

Recipe: Eating Well

Steak Quesadilla with Monterey Jack Cheese, Jalapeños, Red Chiles, and Onions with Sour Cream on the Side
Gary Quay/istockphoto

Baked Chicken Quesadillas

These quesadillas can be customized with vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, and spinach, and meats such as steak, shrimp, and fish. Baked quesadillas are also convenient, as they can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge, and reheated quickly. Try using a spinach wrap for an extra serving of nutrients and vitamins. 

Recipe: Ahead of Thyme


Homemade Calzones

A fun and tasty alternative to pizzas, calzones are pockets of dough filled with meat and cheese and baked until golden brown. If your kid refuses to eat anything other than pizza and junk food, try making them calzones with different kinds of veggies inside to make sure they get a well-balanced diet. Calzones can be frozen for up to three months and are easy to reheat. 

Recipe: Ahead of Thyme