Sensational Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

School lunch box ideas
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Back-to-school season is second only to New Year's as a time when people feel inspired to commit to new and healthier habits. You can bring your whole family around to the autumn awakening of healthy eating inspiration by making nutritious and tasty lunches and snacks.

Here are some school lunch ideas to explore that are anything but boring, easy to make, tasty to eat, and promote healthy eating habits all year long.

Boxes and Carrying Cases

To pack a good lunch you need the proper equipment. It doesn’t hurt to have lunch box options that are insulated, eco-friendly, and fun for kids.

Bento-style boxes offer varying numbers of compartments for the ultimate lunch experience. Fill each compartment with a variety of colors and flavors to get your little one excited about opening it up for a healthy lunch or snack.

Preschoolers can get by with boxes that have three or four compartments but older kids may need one with several places to stash food.

Planet Box and EasyLunchboxes are good durable bento box options that are easy to fill, close, pack, and clean.

If your kids like to take the occasional hot meal to school, an insulated thermos is a must-have for pasta, rice, soups, and leftovers. The OmieBox comes equipped with a built-in thermos compartment to insulate hot and cold foods.

If you prefer something that can be stashed in a lunch box, shop around for a sturdy cylinder thermos with a screw top, like the Thermos Funtainer

To keep food warm until lunchtime, fill your thermos with hot water (hot enough for tea) and let it warm for at least 10 minutes. Once the container is heated up, dump out the water and quickly pack in the piping hot food.

To keep snacks and meals cool, use the same trick with ice water to chill the thermos.

After you've chosen the right containers, it's time to pick the right outer carrying case and ice packs to help with transportation and temperature control.

Carrying cases that have extra pockets are a good option for storing napkins and flatware. Be sure to frequently wipe down the inside of the case with hot, soapy water to prevent bacteria from growing in the nooks and crannies.

Look for compact or flat ice packs that are easy to fit in lunch boxes. Remember to wash them well and refreeze after each use. For extra hot days, try tossing in frozen water bottles (which can also be reused) as both an ice pack and extra beverage.

Best Beverages

The early school months of August and September can often mean long days under hot and humid conditions. Staying hydrated is vital to keeping energy levels up, so be sure to pack plenty of fluids for your kids to sip on throughout the day.

In addition to water bottles (which can be filled and chilled in the fridge the night before), pack blended fruit and yogurt smoothies in a thermos. You can put them in reusable water bottles with citrus slices or fruit-infused ice cubes.

Snack Ideas

It’s easy to fall into a habit of packing quick (but less healthy) snacks in your kid's backpack—especially if you're scrambling to get them through the day and their after-school activities.

Rather than packing salty and sugar-filled processed foods like chips, cookies, and fruit snacks, whip up a few batches of homespun goodies like muffins, trail mix, and granola. You can even make real fruit leather that tastes better than the boxed stuff.

Pack these munchies along with a serving of fresh fruit or dairy (like yogurt, milk box, or a cheese stick) and you’ve got a balanced snack that will maintain your kid's energy levels between meals.

A Week of Healthy Lunches

In addition to keeping things interesting and fun with the foods you choose, think outside the box when brainstorming lunch ideas.

Try cutting traditional lunch box foods like sandwiches and granola bars into unique shapes with cookie cutters. Repurpose or remix leftovers. Pack snacks or meals in takeout containers (food grade ones are available in bulk online).

You can still include treats, but instead of highly processed packaged foods, aim to send your kids off with homemade treats. Not only are they healthier options, they don't necessarily take long to make.

Here is a week of easy, tasty, and nutritious meal ideas to get you inspired.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keeping "Bag" Lunches Safe. Updated August 16, 2016.

  2. Drewnowski A, Rehm CD, Constant F. Water and beverage consumption among children age 4-13y in the United States: analyses of 2005–2010 NHANES data. Nutr J. 2013;12:85. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-85