If you're looking for lunch idea that are kid-friendly, nutrient dense, and easy to pack, we've got you covered. These ten recipe ideas may not all be kid-food at first-glance, but we've got some suggestions for easy tweaks to perfect these make-ahead lunches to streamline your mornings. Each recipe can be made ahead, will serve at least one student for every day of the week, and are suitable to enjoy at room temperature.
Butternut squash is one of the more universally-loved veggies among choosy eaters, and we've paired it with rice to make this hearty filling. Even better, this recipe is endlessly adaptable: add cooked chicken or beans for more protein, substitute a prepared pie dough for the homemade crust, or remove the leeks and herbs if you're little foodie picks around anything green. If savory tarts are a hit, add these other ideas to your menu: Quiche Lorraine, Chicken Pot Pie, Roasted Cauliflower, Gruyère, and Parmesan Tart.
The thing that makes this recipe a stand-out, other than how delicious and flavorful it is, is how easy it is to make ahead and store for later. Full of nutrients a hard-working brain needs, these flavorful (but not spicy) beans pair with crispy corn chips or crackers, sliced bell peppers, and wedges of leftover cheese quesadillas for a lunch that sort of feels like dinner out! To freeze the beans, scoop portion-sized servings on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the beans to a zip-top bag. The night before, grab a portion of beans and put in a container. By tomorrow's lunch, they will be defrosted and ready for dipping.
While this recipe would make a great school lunch, it also serves as a template for easy sheet-pan items that you can toss over cooked grains for a quick lunch that doesn't sacrifice flavor or nutrition. Experiment with other kid-preferred veggies for roasting, like carrots, green beans, and cauliflower. For protein, you can substitute any bite-size piece of protein, whether that's marinated tofu, chicken thighs, or cooked beans. Top with toasted chopped nuts, seeds, or dried fruits for even more variation.
Eggs tend to be a hit with kids of all ages, and they happen to make a great lunch. This classic combination of potato and egg has few competing flavors and textures, making it friendly to less adventurous eaters. If this goes over well, use this concept to customize a frittata with your family's favorite flavors.
This vegan pasta salad covers a lot of bases nutritionally, thanks to whole wheat pasta and a creamy dressing made from puréed beans. It is adaptable to any preferences, and collecting and assembling the ingredients is a great activity for helping hands. Look to leftovers for inspiration, adding last night's roasted veggies, shredded chicken, or the lingering pieces of a weekend cheese plate. For a gluten-free option, use your favorite whole wheat pasta, or try a version using rice as your base: Insalata di Riso.
This, of course, can be the filling for a sandwich, wrap, or pita, but since snacks are somehow always more fun, we love the idea of serving it with crackers and celery sticks for something a little different. There are a lot of herbs in this recipe, which may not be right for your little eaters, so adjust the flavoring as needed. If snacks-for-lunch is a hit, don't forget the classics, like hummus and ranch dip (this one is made from beans!).