Our Best No-Stress Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Try these colorful ideas for lunch box season.

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Joy created Lunches + Littles because she saw a need for a resource focused on quick, colorful recipes. Her mantra? Making meals fun doesn’t have to be hard! With three little ones (4, 5 and 6), it can’t be! Follow @lunchesandlittles opens in a new tab for more.

Back to school means lunches, lots and lots of lunches. Over on our feed, @lunchesandlittles opens in a new tab, we share daily lunch box inspiration and tips, as well as get a lot of great ideas from our community of followers. We know that packing lunches can stress parents out, so we are going to try and make it easier for you by sharing some of our go-to lunches, favorite products from Whole Foods Market and three really simple tips that will ensure you are more prepped and less stressed this new school year.

Lunch-Packing Tips

Let’s talk tips. Simply put: Always keep things simple, colorful and familiar. What do we mean? Let’s break it down ….

1. Keep it simple.

When it comes to packing lunches, keeping things simple is key. When we shop for lunch box add-ins, we pick up a whole lot from the produce section first. Think easy-to-eat fruits and veggies that can be cut into slices, cubes and sticks, as well as quick, grab-and-go options like cheese sticks, apple sauce cups, and mini sandwich crackers.

2. Keep it colorful and fun.

We all eat with our eyes first — especially kids. So colorful, fun food and the overall presentation can be really important. We like to keep things fun by adding stars, hearts, flower shapes, etc., to our lunch boxes. Often, just a few little cuts with a sandwich cutter or mini cutters for smaller items (and the addition of a few fun food picks) can transform a meal into something pretty grand. A few extra minutes, generous pops of color and a little creativity can make food so much more exciting for kids.

3. Keep it familiar.

School lunchtime is probably not the time to start introducing new foods to your little one(s). Instead, we would suggest opting for foods that are familiar and save new foods for dinnertime or the weekends. But just remember to keep it familiar by packing lunch boxes full of foods your kids already know. You don’t want a little one away from home questioning what something is or how to eat it instead of doing the actual eating.

Easy Lunch Box Ideas

So now that we have gone through some of our easy tips, let’s take a look at three of our go-to lunches and show you how to make them happen:

traditional sandwich lunch box for school

Traditional Sandwich Lunch

Our school is not nut-free, so peanut butter works fine for us, and Justin’s Nut Butters are a great choice — we love the Honey Peanut Butter and the Vanilla Almond Butter. Take your nut butter, some jelly and a few slices of whole wheat or whole grain bread, and you have a traditional sandwich made a bit more wholesome. And, if your school is nut-free, try an alternative nut butter made from almonds or cashews. Great lunch box additions include: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Mini Cheddar Cheese Sandwich Crackers, 365 Everyday Value Drink Boxes and fresh in-season produce, like baby carrots, celery sticks, blueberries, mini cucumbers and grape tomatoes.

kids lunch box with meatballs

Mini Meatballs and More

If your little ones don’t particularly love sandwiches, or if you find yourself in a sandwich rut after a couple weeks, here’s an alternative: Cook up frozen mini-meatballs opens in a new tab ahead of time, so you can quickly pack them up in the morning for school. More wholesome lunch box add-ins include: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Fruit Strips, 365 by Whole Foods Market String Cheese, yogurt, banana chips and more fresh produce including baby carrots and broccoli with their favorite ranch for dipping (because kids love dips!).

kids lunch box with waffles

Breakfast for Lunch

Our kids would probably eat breakfast foods every meal of the day if we let them, so occasionally surprising them with a taste of breakfast in their lunch box is a fun change of pace. Some great options to add in to your breakfast box include: kiwifruit, striped bell pepper sticks, 365 by Whole Foods Market Single-Serve Almondmilks, 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce Cups, and more fresh produce like strawberries and mini cucumbers.

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