The thought of school lunches brings up images of greasy chicken nuggets, oozing PB & Js and warm and melty mac and cheese. While these childhood staples are timeless, they are not necessarily the nutritional powerhouses your child needs halfway through his or her day. These healthy lunchbox alternatives, guaranteed to be a hit with your kids, definitely deliver on nutrition, but don’t compromise on taste.
With a prep time of just five minutes, this salad is the perfect healthy-yet-tasty lunchbox staple. Packed with protein, this salad can serve as a standalone dish or as a side dish in your child’s lunch. The grapes add a fruity twist to the timeless classic. Get the recipe from Add a Pinch.
Looks can be deceiving — the “cheese” part of this mac and cheese is actually cheddar mixed in with pumpkin puree. Pumpkins boast several health benefits including keeping eyesight sharp, boosting mood and reducing the risk of cancer. The Lean Green Bean recommends using whole wheat pasta in place of traditional macaroni to fulfill your daily whole grain requirement. This dish reheats well, so your child can pop it in the cafeteria microwave during lunchtime. Get the recipe from The Lean Green Bean.
PB & Js starting to feel repetitive? Bring out these summer rolls. Fresh, easy to make and packed full of vegetables, these rolls will surely break the monotony. Just pop them in a reusable container (we love all of the great options by ECOlunchbox!) and slide into your kid’s backpack. No reheating necessary. A simple dipping sauce gives the rolls a delectably nutty twist (but you can easily skip this if peanuts are not allowed at your school). Get the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Good ol’ PB & J. It’s practically a school lunch requirement. While this classic meal is no doubt delicious, it’s not always the healthiest. Many commercial jam brands contain high amounts of sugar, high sodium levels and high fructose corn syrup. Meanwhile, commercial peanut butters can be packed with unhealthy oils and even sugar. This healthy take on a PB & J swaps out peanut butter for almond butter, white bread for sprouted grain bread, and store-bought jam for a flavorful blueberry chia jam. Chia seeds, which serve as the thickener in this jam, boast a multitude of benefits, including high fiber, high antioxidant content, and high protein content. Get the recipe from TheWholeTara.
These mini cauliflower pizzas are the perfect alternative to the oversized, greasy-yet-addictive school cafeteria pizzas. With a cauliflower crust, these little bites prove themselves to be just as filling without the high carb content. Moreover, they are the perfect size for your child’s lunchbox and can be reheated in a cafeteria microwave. Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.
Is your kiddo in need of a little comfort food? Slide these pot pie pockets into their lunchbox. With the same taste of home but significantly more portable, these pockets promise to be the afternoon repast your child will love. Simply pop in a cafeteria microwave, reheat and eat! Get the recipe from The Pinning Mama.
Potato-packed tater tots are so yesterday. With the same delightful crispiness, this healthy take on tater tots will give your bundle of energy the healthy boost they need to go about their day. Broccoli is considered a superfood for a reason — it boasts a variety of nutritional benefits, including high fiber, potassium and tons of antioxidants. These tots can be reheated in a school microwave for 1-2 minutes. Whether you serve this as a side dish or a main meal, these tots are sure to be a hit. Get the recipe from Primavera Kitchen.
Need even more great ideas to keep your child’s lunchbox fresh and exciting for months? Check out these recipes for delicious school lunches your kiddo won’t even think of trading away.
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Amrita Krishnan is an editorial intern at Make It Better. A rising sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, Amrita is interested in pursuing journalism. In her free time, Amrita enjoys reading, running and painting.