5 Nutritious & Easy Ideas for School Lunches

healthy and convenient school lunch ideas

POV - The kids are back at school and you’re running out of ideas for healthy lunches, or you’re just looking for ways to mix things up and give them something new to look forward to.

If this sounds like you, then we’ve got you covered with tips and recipes to make sure that lunchbox comes back home empty each day!

Let’s dive straight in.

What Types of Foods are Good for School Packed Lunches?

As always, when it comes to nutrition, achieving a healthy balance is vital. One way to do that when planning packed lunches is to base the central part of the meal around protein & carbohydrates, which are essential for energy. But that doesn't mean you must make sandwiches with bread from the store. You can rustle up your own tasty lunch bases and pack your children off to school with beautiful bagels or creamy mac and cheese. Keep scrolling for those recipes!

Once you have that taken care of, you can add things like snacks or sweet treats or think about other ways to sneak in vegetables and other healthy elements.

How to Pack a Lunch Your Kids Will Eat

Every parent knows the feeling of opening a lunchbox in the evening to find it almost exactly as they’d packed it. That’s bound to happen occasionally – especially with young children – but there are some ways to avoid it.

Ask Them What They Want

If they've chosen what goes in their lunchbox, or feel like they've helped you choose, they're more likely to eat it. Getting them involved is a great way to talk to them about food and nutrition and learn about it, too.

Of course, you might need to explain at some stage that they can't just take brownie bites to school with them!

Involve Them in Making Their Lunch

Another great way to get your child to eat more healthily – and eat what you make – is to get them to make it with you if possible. We’ve included several recipes further down that are perfect for batch cooking, so why not make that a fun Sunday afternoon routine for the whole family?

Include Nutritious Treats

Things like smoothies, protein bites, and even cookies can be a great way to give your children a sweet treat while also sneaking in lots of healthy things like fruits, nuts, and seeds, which are also vital for energy levels throughout the day.

How to Keep a Packed Lunch Fresh

The best way to keep a packed lunch fresh is to find an insulated lunch bag that will keep everything cool once you take it out of the fridge. 

Most insulated lunch bags or boxes should be suitable for your needs. If you opt for pasta, a small container that fits inside the main bag will be essential – and save you a cleaning nightmare in the evening. It's also worth looking out for lunch bags with a sandwich compartment, so if you include whole pieces of fruit or bagels, you can avoid them getting squashed and ruining lunchtime.

Bonus points if you can find an insulated lunch bag or box with an attached bottle holder for water or a smoothie!

5 Nutritious, Easy, and Plant-Based Lunch Ideas

Now you've got all the essential tips, it's time for the most important part! Here are five back-to-school lunch ideas that will keep your kids energized throughout the day.

1Classic Vegan Mac and Cheese

Pasta is always a popular lunch option, and our Classic Vegan Mac and Cheese is a healthy lunch idea to meal prep a couple of days in advance or something you can cook up for dinner and set the extra aside for the next day. For an extra boost of protein we like to use a chickpea-based pasta, to help keep the kids fueled up longer.

And to make your life even easier, you could cook up a batch for the whole family!

The recipe uses our Unsweetened Cashew Milk, which looks and acts just like dairy milk and is ideal for cooking this and your other favorite Elmhurst recipes!

2. Vegan and Gluten-Free Everything Bagels

Another recipe that allows you to enjoy all our Cashew Milk’s nutritional value, is these Everything Bagels, perfect for batch cooking before adding a nutritious and healthy filling that your kids will love.

The toppings we suggest – like poppy and sesame seeds – are ideal for sneakily adding extra healthy touches to your child’s lunch. Why not come up with your own creations and pack them something that will be the envy of all their school friends?

3. Dairy-Free Raspberry Muffin Smoothie

A smoothie might be something you use as a lunch replacement as an adult, but for kids, they're ideal as a sweet yet nutritious way to round off their lunch. If your child is older and can carry a tumbler in their bag, a smoothie might even work as a go-to "snack" they can sip throughout the school day.

Our delicious Raspberry Muffin Smoothie recipe uses our Unsweetened Oat Milk, which is ideal for keeping you feeling full and providing slow-burn energy throughout the day.

4Oatmeal Cookie Protein Bites

Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast. It’s another perfect lunchtime dessert or a handy snack for kids after gym class or a particularly intense study period.

Our Oatmeal Cookie Protein Bites are easy to batch cook – and will last a whole week in the fridge, too! The only thing you'll need to worry about is them being so good, you eat them all and run out. We suggest using our Unsweetened Walnut Milk for this one, but others will work just fine if you prefer a different Elmhurst Plant Milk.

5. Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last but not least, what's better than a Chocolate Chip Cookie if you want your children to round off their packed lunch with something unashamedly sweet?

Another excellent opportunity to batch cook over the weekend and ensure your weekday mornings are incredibly productive and stress-free!

We prefer our Unsweetened Almond Milk for these cookies, but it’s another recipe where the choice is yours.

Get the Foundation of All These Recipes Here at Elmhurst!

Plant milks that help make healthy school lunches

Whether you’re looking for a Cashew Milk to help you make a creamy pasta sauce, an Almond Milk to use as the base in your dairy-free smoothies, or another Plant-Based Milk, Elmhurst has you covered!

If Dairy Free Milks are new to you, or you’re trying Elmhurst for the first time, why not buy our Unsweetened Variety Pack and see which of our Plant Milk you and your kids love the most?

Raise your glass of Plant Milk to another successful academic year!