4 Healthy School Lunch Ideas That Kids Will Love

Author

Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health

After a year of distance learning and letting kids pick through the fridge at home during lunchtime, parents are gearing up to start packing lunch boxes again.

To help you and your child make the transition back to in-person learning, the Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health team put together four tasty school lunch ideas that are easy to make, easy to customize, and delicious.

Click to jump to each recipe:

Tips for Easier School Lunch Prep

  • Use your freezer. Your freezer is your greatest resource when it comes to making healthy, homemade meals. Stock your freezer with bags of frozen fruits and veggies, stash dinner leftovers, and use it to store fresh ingredients before they expire.
  • Encourage kids to get involved. Kids can be picky eaters, so get them involved in the process. Ask them to choose their favorite toppings, let them pack their lunch boxes, or recruit them for basic meal prep. It’ll help take some of the guesswork out of pleasing your fussy eater.
  • Make a plan the weekend before. Reduce weeknight stress and last-minute rushes in the morning by making a meal plan over the weekend. Be sure to plan out all the items you’ll need from the grocery store, and identify which ingredients you can prep beforehand.
  • Pack sanitizing wipes and an extra mask. Many schools are reopening with additional safety precautions in place to keep kids and teachers safe. Packing some hand sanitizer in your child’s lunchbox can make post-lunch cleanup easy. Plus, having an extra mask is handy in case of spills or stains.

Recipe #1. Slow Cooker Taco Cups

It’s hard to keep up with ever-changing tastes when you have a picky eater. This customizable taco cup recipe can be easily adapted to fit your kid’s preferences. Kids can choose their favorite protein and toppings—like fresh corn, cheese, sour cream, or fresh pico de gallo.

This recipe also makes enough leftovers to enjoy as an easy weeknight dinner.

Makes: 6-10 cups (depending on the size of the tortilla bowls)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 3-6 hours (passive)

Required: A slow cooker, such as a Crock-Pot™.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb lean ground beef, ground pork, or chicken breast
  • Premade mild taco seasoning mix
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups no-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Store-bought tortilla bowls (or make your own using one of these methods)
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheddar or crumbled cotija, cooked black beans, sweet corn, sour cream, or mild salsa

Instructions

  1. Dice onion into small pieces. In a slow cooker, mix your choice of meat with onion, taco seasoning, and chicken or vegetable stock. Cook in a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker on low for 6 hours or high for 3.
  2. Drain excess liquid from the meat and let it cool completely. Season with kosher salt to taste. If using chicken, shred into bite-sized pieces with two forks.
  3. To keep the tortilla bowls from getting soggy, wrap the bowls, filling, and toppings separately. Pack a spoon so your child can build their own taco bowls during lunch.

Recipe #2. Teriyaki Chicken Bites with Brown Rice & Veggies

This recipe is a dinner classic that makes for a great next-day lunch. These chicken bites pack protein with a tasty teriyaki flavor—and are a healthier substitute for deep-fried chicken nuggets.

To make prep easier, use frozen vegetable mix instead of worrying about the chopping prep. Some parents may fear that frozen produce isn’t as nutritious as fresh kinds, but frozen veggies contain just as many nutrients as non-frozen options.

Makes: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes (active), 50 minutes (passive)

Ingredients

For the teriyaki chicken bites:

  • 1lb chicken breast
  • ¼ cup low-sodium teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tsps vegetable oil

For the brown rice and veggies:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups no-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, onions)
  • 1 green onion stalk (for garnish; optional)

Instructions

  1. In a pot, mix rice, soy sauce, and chicken or vegetable stock. Cook according to rice package instructions.
  2. Heat frozen veggies according to package instructions. In a bowl, mix cooked veggies with cooked rice.
  3. To make the chicken, heat a small amount of oil in a pan. While the oil is heating, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the pieces into the pan and cook until the chicken is fully done in the center.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add in teriyaki sauce. Stir with the chicken to mix, and simmer for about 3-4 minutes to reduce the sauce
  5. If desired, garnish with finely chopped green onions. Pack in a microwave-safe container.

Recipe #3. Classic Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

What kid doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich? When paired with this simple tomato soup recipe, this lunch combination is sure to please even the fussiest of kids.

To keep the tomato soup warm until lunchtime, pack it in a metal thermos in the morning or even in a travel tumbler with a spill-proof spout.

Makes: 2 sandwiches, 6 cups of soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

For the grilled cheese:

  • 4 slices whole-grain sandwich bread
  • 2 slices of your child’s favorite cheese (good options are cheddar, Muenster, Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone)
  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 small tomato (optional)
  • 1 cup packed spinach leaves or arugula (optional)

For the tomato soup:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (be sure to look for kinds with no added sodium or sugar)
  • 2 cups no-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1½ Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions

For the grilled cheese:

  1. If using, rinse the spinach or arugula and pat with a paper towel to dry. Thinly slice the tomato. Build each sandwich by layering cheese, greens, tomato, and a final slice of cheese between whole-grain bread.
  2. Over medium heat, melt butter in a small pan. Place each sandwich in the pan and press down lightly with a spatula. Once one side is golden brown, flip and toast the other side.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool before cutting in half and packing.

For the tomato soup:

  1. Dice the onion, carrot, and celery into small, equally sized pieces, or use a food processor to chop them up.
  2. In a pot, heat up olive oil and sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until soft—about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the can of whole peeled tomatoes, including the juices. Use a spoon to break up the larger tomato pieces. Add in the chicken or vegetable stock, Italian seasoning, and kosher salt. Stir to mix.
  4. Bring soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. While still hot, pack the soup in a metal thermos with a tight-fitting lid. If your child prefers a creamier soup, puree the soup in a blender before packing.

Recipe #4. Mini Charcuterie Platter

A kid-friendly mini charcuterie platter is ideal for days where there isn’t time to cook.

There isn’t a set recipe for a charcuterie platter. Instead, you and your child can mix and match different ingredients to make something that’s healthy while also fitting a picky kid’s tastes. To bulk up a cheese, cracker, and veggie platter, try adding a simple sandwich made with lunch meats.

To help inspire you, here are a few ideas for a kid’s charcuterie lunch:

  • Cold cut meat rollups
  • Cheese cubes or string cheese
  • Crackers or mini pretzels
  • Hummus dip
  • Fruits (like grapes, apple slices, or blueberries)
  • Vegetables (like baby carrots, celery sticks, or bell pepper slices)
  • Nuts (like chocolate-covered almonds or cashews)

And consider these sandwich combinations for something a little more filling:

  • Ham and swiss on sourdough bread
  • Turkey, brie, and apple on whole-grain bread
  • Tortilla pinwheels with deli meat, lettuce, and tomato sauce

If you have any school lunch ideas, tips, or tricks that you’d like to share, tag our official account @FLMedClinic in your photo on Instagram!

For more healthy and delicious recipes, sign up for the official Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health newsletter or view our other recipe blogs:

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