2 Weeks of Healthy School Lunch Ideas
2 Weeks of Healthy School Lunch Ideas – Here are 10 easy, delicious gluten-free school lunches, plus a free printable planning sheet for creating your own combinations!
PSSST! Don’t miss our new school lunch post with 2 MORE weeks of school lunch ideas!
After a much more relaxed summer routine, it’s always kind of nice to get back into the swing of the school schedule. I love that while the school schedule is a bit more hectic, it’s also a bit more predictable. (Plus, I love buying school supplies. I’m a sucker for school supplies!)
School lunches have been a regular part of the daily school routine for the past several years in our house, and we’ve run into a lot of the same challenges you have:
- I don’t have a lot of time! – Instagram and Pinterest will show you beautiful, intricate lunches that might have you feeling overwhelmed. Don’t worry. My plan is to share easy, adaptable ideas that will free up time and get lunches packed without a bunch of extra effort. No special skills required!
- What do I pack? Whether you’re dealing with picky eaters, food allergies, or bored kids, the “what are we having?” question is always there. I’ll arm you with over TWO WEEKS of unique, adaptable ideas you can cycle through or use as inspiration when boredom strikes.
- But I’m dealing with food allergies/picky kids/sensory issues! Girl, I got you. I’m there in the trenches, too, so I know how it goes. My ideas are easy, adaptable, and work for a bunch of different diets.
Each of these healthy school lunch ideas is gluten and dairy-free (or not!) and many are also vegetarian, paleo, or allergy-friendly. Nothing requires a lot of fancy skills, and all have been kid-tested (though, spoiler: my kids still don’t love to eat their vegetables).
So here’s what I do to save time, energy, and sanity while packing healthy school lunches every day + 2 WEEKS of gluten-free school lunch ideas:
shop our favorite lunch boxes:
PRO TIP: FOLLOW A FORMULA.
When packing a healthy lunch, we shoot for a rough formula for a balanced meal. This makes decision-making easy. With our basic formula, I don’t worry about making a brand new lunch every single day. I only choose 2-3 kinds of lunches to pack each week.
My kids do plenty of repeats and haven’t complained about it yet. You don’t have to pack something wildly different every day if you don’t want to! Plus, cycling through choices will free up decision-making time and maintain enough variety to keep things interesting for your kids.
Our basic formula is: protein + carb + fruit/veg + something fun.
HERE’S WHAT THAT FORMULA CAN LOOK LIKE IN REAL LIFE:
- PROTEINS: Hard boiled eggs + Hummus + Turkey + Ham + Chicken + Pepperoni + Salami + Yogurt + Nuts + Almond Butter + Black Beans + Chickpeas
- CARB: Pretzels + Sweet Potato Chips + Crackers + Bagels + Bread + English Muffin + Tortilla + Waffles + Pancakes + Muffins + Sweet potatoes + Rice + Pasta + Granola
- FRUIT: Applesauce + Strawberries + Blueberries + Blackberries + Raspberries + Watermelon + Cuties/Clementines + Pineapple + Mango + Banana + Mandarin Oranges + Raisins
- VEGGIES: Carrots (carrot chips, carrot sticks, baby carrots) + Bell Peppers + Snow or Snap Peas + Cucumber + Jicama + Celery sticks
- FUN: Energy Bites + Fruit Leather + Cookie + Tortilla Chips + Trail Mix + Granola Bar + Chocolate + Fruit Snacks
You can get a copy of our lunch planning sheet here to give you lots of ideas!
As for putting my lunch formula into practice, here are 10 totally unique, HEALTHY school lunch ideas for your little ones. (That’s 2 weeks worth of gluten-free school lunches!)…
1. YOGURT AND GRANOLA PARFAIT
I pack dairy-free yogurt (our favorite is SoDelicious brand coconut milk yogurt), gluten-free granola, fresh berries, and a few energy bites (I make these with cashew butter for school!). The little thermos insert in the Omie Box lunchbox I used above keeps your yogurt contained and cold!
RECIPES TO TRY:
- Honey Almond Granola (Gluten Free, Vegan)
- Maple Pecan Granola (Gluten Free, Vegan)
- Paleo Granola (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegan)
- No Bake Cookie Energy Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan)
2. MEATBALLS AND VEGGIES
This is a great hot packed lunch option (or cold, if your kids don’t mind!). Pack cooked meatballs (these are chicken), a gluten-free roll (I used Udi’s brand), veggies, and whatever fruit is in season. This is easily paleo if you swap out the roll for something else–energy bites, almond flour crackers, sweet potatoes, etc.
The thermos insert in the lunchbox I used keeps the meatballs warm, or you can pack a separate thermos if you’re using another type of lunchbox.
RECIPES TO TRY:
- Chicken Zucchini Poppers
- Perfect Paleo Meatballs
- Buffalo Chicken Burgers (I use this recipe + cook them as meatballs)
3. HUMMUS & PITA DIPPERS
You can pack up a single serving of homemade or store-bought hummus, or pick up the store-bought single serving portions to use. Then, add a little fresh fruit and your favorite veggies (like carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, etc.), gluten free pretzels, and some gluten free pita crisps to dip in it.
To make the pita dippers, I brush a gluten-free pita (like MyBread brand) or pizza crust (like Udi’s, Three Bakers, etc.) with a little olive oil, cut into triangles, then broil for about 2-3 minutes on a sheet pan in the oven. Sprinkle with some coarse salt and maybe a little Everything Bagel Seasoning (Sophie loves it!). Voila!
RECIPES TO TRY:
4. TURKEY ROLL-UPS
My mom used to make these for us when we were little. She’d cut a little wedge of cheese and wrap some turkey or ham around it, then fasten it with a toothpick. Since we’re dairy-free, we just roll up the turkey or ham, but you could totally wrap the turkey around pickle slices, bell pepper strips, etc. if you like.
Serve this with a little pickle wedge, some fruit and veggies, and something crunchy, like almond flour crackers, sweet potato chips, or even something like popcorn!
5. WAFFLES OR PANCAKES
I love waffles almost as much as Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation does. My kids are in the same boat! Any time you have leftover pancakes or waffles, you can tuck them into a healthy school lunch.
We use this little Mickey Waffle Iron that makes the perfect packable-sized waffles, but you can use any kind you have. Round out the lunch with some fresh fruit (like mango and blueberries), a protein (like a hard-boiled egg or some yogurt), and something fun, like fruit leather or some trail mix.
When I plan to pack waffles or pancakes, I typically don’t pack syrup or jam since it’s so messy. Instead, I flavor the waffles themselves a bit more than I usually would, by adding cinnamon or a little extra syrup to the batter or using a flavored waffle (like pumpkin, berry, or gingerbread).
RECIPES TO TRY:
- Overnight Oatmeal Waffles
- Very Berry Gluten Free Waffles
- Gingerbread Waffles (Gluten Free)
- Almond Flour Waffles from Live Simply (pictured above)
6. PASTA SALAD
Salad can be a great option for lunch, but green salads can get soggy (my kids can’t maneuver things like a mason jar salad or a container of salad dressing without spilling), so pasta salad is a major winner!
We use gluten-free pasta, like these bowties or this rotini. You can mix and match your favorite toppings. My kids love pizza-inspired pasta salad, but you can go Greek, Caprese (with diced mozzarella and basil), or Tex-Mex (like this Taco Pasta Salad).
On the side, we go with veggies, fruit (green or red grapes here), and something crunchy. My kids love little gluten-free animal crackers for dessert!
7. BAGELS & (VEGAN) CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE
Sometimes keeping things interesting is as simple as swapping out bread for bagels. Use them for a bagel sandwich, or schmear them with your favorites–nut or seed butter & honey, a bit of jam or jelly, or cream cheese. For a dairy-free version, we like Kite Hill almond cream cheese mixed with a tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s one of Sophie’s favorites!
On the side, a simple combo of fruits, veggies, and something crunchy (in this case, plantain chips!) makes for a delicious lunch.
*For GF Bagels, we like Canyon Bakehouse (ALL the flavors!) and O’Doughs Bagel Thins (which are a more manageable size for my kids).
8. FRUIT DIP & DIPPERS!
This is a fun, easy school lunch. We start out with a little fruit dip (the thermos insert of the Omie Box helps keep this contained and cool), then we pack the rest of the box with ALL the things to dip in it!
Sliced apples, fresh strawberries, and some gluten-free graham crackers or animal crackers are my kids’ favorites.
FOR THE DIP: use 1/2 cup of your favorite plain or vanilla yogurt (dairy or non-dairy). Mix in 1 Tbsp nut or seed butter (At home we love peanut butter. At school, we go for almond butter or cashew butter), and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. If your yogurt is unsweetened, you’ll probably want to add a little pure maple syrup (or your favorite sweetener) to taste.
So again, that’s 1/2 cup yogurt + 1 Tbsp nut/seed butter + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + sweetener to taste.
9. MUFFINS & YOGURT
My kids love breakfast foods, so this healthy school lunch is a no-brainer. Use your favorite yogurt (dairy or non-dairy), some fresh fruit, a little trail mix, and then some little muffins. You can halve or quarter traditional-sized muffins to fit, or use a mini muffin pan to make mini ones.
We LOVE this nonstick silicone mini muffin pan. The muffins don’t even need liners! (I do recommend putting the silicone muffin pan on a baking sheet to give it more stability in the oven.)
RECIPES TO TRY:
10. ANTIPASTI SNACK BOX
This is one of my kids’ favorite packed school lunches. You can mix and match just about any of the components, but think of this as a little cheese board. Since we’re dairy-free, we focus on the meats, olives, veggies, and crackers, rather than a variety of cheeses.
You could use anything here–salami or pepperoni, ham or prosciutto, cubes or slices of cheese (if it fits your dietary needs), any color of olives, nuts (if they fit your diet), small veggies like cherry tomatoes, crackers or breadsticks, apples or pears, etc. Then, for a treat, we use chocolate covered almonds or raisins to go with it.
One of our favorite gluten-free cracker brands right now is Van’s. They’re not as nutritious as almond flour crackers, but they’re really delicious and have a texture that’s similar to Wheat Thins. We like The Perfect 10 and Fire-Roasted Veggie flavors best.
get your school lunch planning sheet!
Make lunch packing a breeze with this mix-and-match set of ideas to choose from. Or, use our blank form to come up with your own!
PLAN LUNCHES WITH THIS FREE SCHOOL LUNCH PLANNING PRINTABLE
All you have to do for the perfect school lunches is mix and match from the categories above! I even made a little free printable for you to use to come up with your own ideas!
You can print out a copy and use it to come up with school lunch ideas that work for you and your needs. Then, just hang it on the fridge, in the pantry, or on the inside of a cupboard door when you find yourself in a rut.
KEEP WORKING ON YOUR LUNCH GAME WITH THESE POSTS:
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Absolutely fantastic ideas. Thank you SO much!!!
Oh my goodness! Thank you so much Amanda! I hope they’re helpful 🙂
I really LOVE this post! Thanks so much!
I’m so glad, Shannon! I hope it’s helpful! It was helpful for ME to put it together and have all the ideas in one place!
Really loved this! Gave me some helpful ideas to try and I love the lunchbox containers.
Oh, I’m so glad! Thank you for sharing!
Where do you buy those lunch containers?
All our lunchbox gear is linked here 🙂
Thanks for these ideas! My 3 yr old son starts Jk in Sept and he’s picky on lunches. These are some great ideas!
I’m so glad it’s helpful! Best of luck!!!
I’m interested to know what the container is and where I can get one!
Linda – The lunch box is linked a few times in the post, but I also just did this post with all the lunch box gear you might find helpful! 🙂
You didn’t post 1 sandwich!! That’s awesome! Everything looks so great and i know my daughter will love the variety! Thanks!!
It’s fun to break out of a sandwich rut every once in a while, right? I’m so glad it was helpful!
Wow, my daughter wanted so bad home lunch for her school and I didn’t know where to start.. This post its just the light I needed to make her happy , now I’m able to give her healthy choices for lunch. THANK YOU!!!!! <3 <3 <3
Btw couldn't find the printable..
I’m very sorry, I restart my browser and now the printable works..
No problem, Eve! I’m so glad you found them! 🙂
where did you buy the lunch box?
Here’s the link! I get mine from Amazon 🙂
I’m a kid who pack my own lunch and is VERY picky with food
but still wants to eat healthy and this just sooooo helpful so thx
I’m so glad! 🙂
My kids are older 19, 17 and 13. They would love these. Great for lunches, snacks and college meal prep. Thank you!!!
Kristel – Oh my goodness, I LOVE hearing this! (I eat the same kinds of lunches, too!)
I am curious if this lunchbox keeps the food hot enough for the 5 hours from pack to lunch break to avoid bacteria growth. It seems much easier with cold. Any idea on its functionality with hot meals holding temp?
Nicole – I hear you! My kids don’t have quite that long to wait for lunch, but I typically heat whatever we’re packing SUPER hot (like WAY too hot to eat) before packing to help the heat last.
This is so helpful! I am a teen that packs myself ( and younger brothers a lunch) Basically every day. Whenever I am looking for lunch ideas, they either have too much food, is too complicated, or only has hot lunch ideas. These are perfect! I am so glad that I found these ideas, and will definitely be using them!
I’m so glad it’s helpful Hannja! Cheering you on from here!
How does it keep food cold? Do you have to have an ice pack or store in fridge?
I sometimes like to do a mix of hot and cold food (soup and maybe some cheese or yogurt pouch) but wondering how to keep the cold food cold in the side compartment?
Eileen – It’ll kind of depend on how long it is from the time you pack to the time your child’s lunchtime is, but I’ve found we can keep warm food warm in the insulated thermos, then I pack an ice pack with the lunch box. My kids say their warm food is warm and the cold food is cold!