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Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

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DISCLAIMER:  This article may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you purchase through one of our affiliate links.  We only recommend products we love.

Back to school! You’re either sad, or glad, or maybe a little of each. Your kids are the same. Everyone’s busy wrapping up what’s left of summer, busy readying the household for the new school year, and lunch might not be the first thing on all of our minds.

Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

But the fact is that lunch is an inevitable truth, school year or not. You may opt for school lunches, or you may opt to pack lunches. If you’re opting for packing lunch, you may be thin on ideas of what to make. Peanut butter and jelly was always my go-to, and frankly still is, and I never ever got tired of it. But that’s me. Most people like at least a little variety! And in some schools peanut butter is banned, forcing parents to find something else to send with their children to school. (By the way, PB and J CAN be a very healthy choice! If you follow the 90/10 rules, you can make a 90/10-friendly, healthy PB and J by choosing 100% whole grain bread with no high fructose corn syrup, peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter) with no added sugar, and fruit-only spread, such as Polaner or Simply Fruit.)

Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

Sandwiches are the most obvious choice. They’re easy, they’re cheap, most kids like at least one kind of sandwich, and they don’t need much refrigeration, if any, and they also do not require reheating. But, sandwiches aren’t for everyone. They can be a challenge for those intolerant to gluten, for example. I grew up with peanut butter as a staple, but many families cannot have peanuts and as said above many schools have banned peanuts and peanut butter altogether. And, while peanut butter and gluten-dense bread are not requirements for sandwiches, avoiding them can be a challenge.

Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

There are three things I try to include in every meal, no matter which course. Fruit and vegetables, proteins, and starches. These three elements, as long as they are healthy choices, can come from anywhere. Spaghetti sauce with healthy veggies? Great! Counts as a veggie. Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Awesome. Counts as a starch and a protein. (Cheese is high in protein.) Grilled steak, steamed green beans, and baked sweet potato? Perfect.

Lunches, even lunches-to-go, are no exception, so let’s dive a little deeper into each element.

Fruits and Vegetables

First, fruit and/or vegetables ought to be present. Not only present but prevalent. I personally prefer that veggies outweigh fruit in my daily intake, but for my kids, as long as they choose a fruit OR a vegetable for their lunch, I’m okay with that. (And yes, my kids are teenaged and they choose and make their own lunches.) It is a good idea to fill half your plate, or in this case, lunchbox, with fruits and veggies.


Second, a healthy protein is a must. Protein does not have to come from meat, but of course meat is a popular choice when it comes to lunches. A word of caution on deli meat: they are not all created equal. Deli meat is NOT the same as meat you buy and cook yourself. For starters, most have ingredients. As in, plural. As in, you have to read the ingredients and compare to the tiers, just as you would have to with anything else you buy that has ingredients. Deli meats are often cured. In the curing process, sugar, dextrose, colors, nitrites, nitrates, salt, and more can be used. This gives them a shelf life so they don’t spoil before they can have a chance to be sold. If you’re buying deli meat in a package from your store’s refrigerator, you have easy access to the ingredients list. If you’re buying deli meat from the deli, and having it cut and weighed for you, the ingredients are harder to find. You might have to ask your deli counter representative for a list of ingredients. Try to avoid added sugar, dextrose (or any sweetener ending in OSE), nitrites, nitrates, and added colors. Hint: look for the word UNCURED on the front, and then check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added sugar. Other options for proteins include, but aren’t limited to: cheese, yogurt, tofu, edamame, quinoa, sprouts, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and seed butters.


Third is the starch. There are a lot of varying opinions out there on carbohydrates. Are they necessary? Are they bad? I’m really not here to sway you one way or another on carbs, except to say that, when we are talking about children’s school lunches, more thought needs to be given to the fact that children need energy, much more energy in most cases than adults, and most of our energy comes from carbohydrates, or in this list, starches. Children (or adults for  that matter) should not live on carbs alone, but carbs are not evil in their own right. What I am encouraging here is a balance.

If we focus on 100% whole grains, carbs and starches become a whole lot less threatening. So let’s do that!

Ok. So I think we’ve established the rules for a healthy lunch. (Don’t break the rules. I’ll come to your house.)

Veggies, Protein, Starch.

Sounds easy enough but how do you make that into an actual packable meal?

We have ten great ideas for you! These ten healthy lunches are easy to make in advance, to prep ahead, so you can stock your fridge with these yummy, healthy lunches and your kids will have a great advantage, armed and fueled with great nutrition! Ready to hit those books and absorb all the world has to teach!

Easy Back To School Lunch Prep Examples

Grazer's Lunch
Easy Back To School Lunch Prep

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Good info! I’m going to help my daughter make some healthier choices when she makes her school lunches this year.

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