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Back to school healthy lunch and snack ideas
As we head back into the school term, the thought of getting back into a routine can be daunting.
Summer holidays have a rhythm of their own, so when it comes to getting back into preparing lunches and snacks for your children during the day, it can feel totally overwhelming.
We know how busy you are, which is why we’ve come up with a extensive list of creative and healthy lunch ideas for your teens, your little ones, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, and halal ideas too. We’ve compiled healthy hot lunch ideas for school – as well as healthy cold lunches for kids. Nutrient dense and full of flavour quick and easy lunch box ideas – there will be something for everyone on this list!
Healthy ideas for primary school children
Getting young children excited about food can be a challenge if they aren’t enthusiastic about trying different things. The trick with healthy lunches and snacks for your primary school children is to pick things you know they like and incorporate tiny amounts of new foods as you go.
As they are consuming this lunch at school – if they don’t like it, they just won’t eat it, and the last thing you want is a ravenous child at the school gate at the end of the day! Try to go for foods you have tried together at home and you know they’ll eat, whilst including variety where possible.
Healthy Hot Meals
These options are a variation on food you might make for a weekday meal, and the beauty is you can do just that and then make extra to pack into lunches.
- Wholemeal Tuna Pasta
Wholemeal pasta is healthier than white pasta – so try to use this variation where possible. Boil the pasta and simply mix with mayonnaise, tuna and sweet corn. You really can’t go wrong with this simple and filling lunch.
- Wholemeal Pitta Pizzas
A great one to get your kids involved with! Wholemeal pittas again are a better option that white pittas, but go with either depending on what your children like. Simply open them, spread some tomato passata as a base and top cheese and ham (or any other topping!) Grill for 5-6 mins until cheese is melted and voila. Pack into a box for lunch!
- Chicken and tomato pasta (with their favourite pasta shape)
Simple grilled chicken with a tomato pasta sauce, combine with their favourite pasta shape for a personalised twist! In another part of the lunchbox it might be a good idea to add some carrot sticks or fruit – so they’re getting some veggies too.
- Healthy chicken goujons, salad and paprika wedges
This is so easy and another one you can patch prepare! Simply roll some small chicken pieces in egg, and then cover in breadcrumbs. Cook in the oven alongside some potato wedges seasoned with paprika (or just plain) Add a combo of your child’s favourite veggies – perhaps cucumber sticks and carrots.
- Flaked salmon and veggies
If you’ve already introduced your little ones to fish, then this is a great one. Oven bake a salmon fillet and then simply flake it into smaller chunks. Pack into a box with veggies and some plain pasta. A squeeze of sweet chilli sauce also works brilliantly – if they like it!
Healthy Cold Meals
- Turkey and salad wrap
Another one you can make in advance (perhaps 2-3 for to last a few days). Grab a wholemeal brown wrap, and pack with sliced turkey (or chicken) and fill with salad. Add a squeeze of mayo and roll into a compact wrap.
- Crackers, hummus and veggies (vegetarian)
Ideal if you have a lunchbox with compartments – just fill with some wholemeal crackers or oatcakes, a pot of hummus and lots of veggies. Best served with fruit in a compartment too!
- Italian brown baguette
Cheese, mayo, ham and rocket to make a child friendly baguette. Make sure you pack with lots of lettuce so they get the goodness of the greens – and sneak in some spinach too if you can.
- Ham and cheese roll up wrap
Very simple and a crowd pleaser. Brown wrap with cheese and ham – served in a lunchbox alongside chopped veggies like carrots, tomatoes and cucumber.
• Hard boiled eggs
• Fresh and dried fruit
• Hummus and veggies
• Dried fruit roll ups
• Chunks of cheese
Healthy lunch ideas for picky kids
Stick to foods that you know they will eat and introduce new foods when you are together at dinnertime. If they are alone at school and don’t like it, it is unlikely they will eat it.
Our top tip: Invest in good Tupperware. Take your child out with you to purchase their lunch box (make sure it’s practical!) This will make them more excited to use it.
Healthy lunches for teens
Heading into high school might mean your child suddenly has a change of heart of what they do and don’t want in their lunchbox. Healthy lunches for teens doesn’t have to be tricky – but does require some different options to the ham and cheese roll ups of primary school!
Healthy Hot Meals
- Noodles and veggies (vegetarian)
A jazzed up stir-fry – which can be enjoyed hot or cold! Rice noodles or egg noodles work well for this. All you need is ginger, honey, soya sauce and garlic. Stir fry broccoli, sweetcorn, beans and peppers in this and add to noodles. Simple – delicious!
- Pesto pasta with prawns (veggie without prawns)
Whilst prawns can be more expensive than turkey and chicken – they are an excellent source of protein and delicious with pesto, pasta and pine nuts sprinkled on top.
- Fajita bowl (can be vegan)
Basically a fajita, without the wrap! Instead, pack into a lunchbox with rice, some guacamole, cheese and lettuce and your teen will have a delicious Mexican feast.
Healthy Cold Meals:
- Frittata (can be vegetarian)
Frittata is amazing for batch making lunches. It’s egg based – thicker than an omelette and designed to be sliced so it can be easily served with salad. The best part also is you can add any veggies you like! You’ll need 8- 10 eggs, ham, cheese and veggies. Season and add to a pan and wait for it to cook!
- DIY ciabatta sandwich (can be vegan/vegetarian)
If your teen wants to choose their own lunch – let them!! You’ve done all the hard work so far. When you’re making your weekly shopping list, ask them what they fancy in their sandwiches. Encourage them to choose a protein and salad, plus a condiment. Ciabatta are big and ideal for adding lots of filling!
Our top tip: When it comes to snacks – if they have a bulk of a healthy lunch, ask them what they prefer. They may ask for cookies, fizzy drink and chocolate – which can always be enjoyed in moderation but ideally not everyday.
Healthy halal lunches
Ensure you source your meat from a reliable halal butcher.
- Chicken noodles
Use egg noodles for this, halal chicken and then a mix of green beans, broccoli, baby corn, carrots and peppers. Sweet chilli sauce works well as a simple sauce.
- Lamb kebabs and salad
Simply cook halal lamb on kebabs in the oven with your choice of seasoning and serve up with simple salad. Add potato wedges too for carbs.
- Beef meatballs with brown pasta and veggies
Cook halal beef meatballs in the oven until lovely and cooked. Serve with brown pasta and veggies in a lunchbox. Can be made for a dinner option too!
Healthy teen halal lunch ideas:
- Stuffed peppers (vegetarian/non-vegetarian)
You can add mince to create a non-vegetarian version of this meal. Stuff with a mix of rice, tomato passata, garlic and salt and fill the peppers. Cover with cheese and roast in the oven until soft and delicious.
- Paprika chicken and sweet potato
Simple baked halal chicken seasoned with paprika and chilli – served in a lunchbox with sweet potato wedges or even mash. Serve with side of veggies.
Our top tip: These meals can all be prepared in advance – so it only requires one cooking session!
Vegetarian and vegan lunch box ideas for kids
One of the most important parts of a vegetarian and vegan diet is making sure your child gets enough protein and calcium, so remember to always add a protein source and use cheese, milk and yogurt products fortified with calcium where possible.
- Egg wrap
Hard boil eggs, combine with mayonnaise and season with black pepper. Wait until cooled and then add to a brown wrap with salad.
- Chickpea ‘tuna mayo’ (vegan)
Like tuna mayo, but vegan! Grab a can of chickpeas, mash with a fork and mix with vegan mayo. Add seasoning and some chopped spring onions and chives! Add to a sandwich or even a jacket potato for a vegan lunch option full of fibre and goodness.
- Flatbread and hummus (vegan)
Perfect for a compartment lunchbox – add flatbreads, hummus (homemade if you fancy!), veggies, fruit and some savoury crisps or pretzels on the side.
- Feta filo pastry parcels
Filo pastry is wonderful in a savoury dish – and delicious with pesto and feta. Simply cut your filo pastry into squares, fill with pesto and feta and wrap at the top. Brush with melted butter and bake until golden. Serve with salad in a lunch box.
Our top tip: Try to venture away from the everyday salad – which is an easy option on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Scroll up to the other sections to see more healthy veggie and vegan options for teens.