Practical School Lunch Ideas (Cold & Hot) + Tortilla Pinwheels
When my son started school, I was determined to pack him healthy, nutritious and satisfying lunches. Without me hovering over him while he ate, he brought his fancy sandwiches right back home, sometimes untouched. I could see he wasn’t really into what I packed for him.
After he brought several lunches back, I resorted to ordering food at school, but that never sat well with me since they weren’t very balanced meals – very little fruit or veggies. And, I could never tell if he actually ate his lunch.
Then I got creative. Read on for great (easy) lunch ideas for cold and hot school lunches your kids will actually eat and you’ll feel good about. Thank you to Shamrock Farms for sponsoring this post!
One of our favorite easy lunches to pack (and make ahead) are tortilla pinwheels and I’ve included the print-friendly recipe for those below!).
P.S. Don’t miss our new lunch ideas post for 2017!
Update on the Lunchbox:
For first grade, my son started using this Planet Box lunchbox (affiliate link).
Start with the drink:
1. Milk: my son’s drink of choice so I always make sure he has milk for lunch.
2. Juice – select a juice box that has reduced sugar and real fruit juice
School Lunch Main Course (Grains & Meats):
1. DIY “lunchables”: crackers, deli turkey or salami, sliced cheese
2. Sandwich or sandwich kabobs: disguise their sandwich by threading turkey, cubed string cheese, and squares of bread on skewers.
3. Mini bagels and cream cheese
4. Easy chicken sliders (canned chicken – drained well and mixed with mayo and black pepper to taste, place filling between lettuce and cheese to keep the bun from getting soggy)
5. Tortilla pinwheels (cream cheese, sliced cheese, deli turkey, thinly sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce or spinach – roll tightly and slice into rounds). Get the print-friendly recipe for tortilla pinwheels below.
School Lunch Fruit:
1. Small banana
3. Blueberries, strawberries or other berries
4. Fruit kabobs
5. Apricot, apple,.. whatever your kids love
6. Applesauce 7. Peeled clementines
School Lunch Veggies:
1. Baby carrots with ranch in mini cups
2. Cucumber slices
3. Snap peas
4. Salad (romaine, cheese, croutons, side of ranch)
5. Avocado slices (to prevent browning: slice flesh into bite-sized pieces inside the skin, scoop out flesh and replace into shell, drizzle with lemon juice, cover tightly with plastic wrap)
School Lunch Snacks and Treats:
1. Banana bread (Here is my husbands perfect banana bread)
4. String cheese
5. Pretzels, or gold fish crackers
6. Fruit snacks or fruit leather
7. Dried fruit (raisins, craisins, banana or apple chips)
8. Z-Bar or fruit bars
10. Chocolate chip cookie (click for soft homemade cookies)
12. DIY trail mix
Here are some winning lunch combinations:
[DIY “lunchables”, cucumber slices, grapes, yogurt]
[chicken slider, salad with ranch, trail mix, banana]
[turkey sandwich kabobs, carrots & ranch, apricot, pudding]
[mini bagel with cream cheese, snap peas, strawberries, fruit leather, string cheese]
[tortilla pinwheels, sliced avocado, blueberries, banana chips]
Hot Lunch Ideas (with a Thermos):
Tips for using a thermos: *We recommend the Thermos Foogo 10 oz or Thermos Funtainer 10 oz: *Pack hot thermos in the morning (5 hours before it’s eaten) *Heat the thermos first: add boiling water, cover and let sit 5 min then drain. Heat food until it’s hot. Place into heated thermos and close tightly with lid. Food will be warm at lunchtime.
What to put in a hot lunch thermos:
1. Soup (try: chicken noodle soup or Mom’s meatball soup)
2. Pasta (try: chicken alfredo or spaghetti with shrimp)
3. Pilaf/rice, or stir fry (try: creamy chicken and rice, or shrimp fried rice)
4. Leftovers! You can really get creative with a thermos. Just avoid foods with overwhelming aromas (i.e. broccoli and cabbage).
Tortilla Pinwheels Recipe (School Lunch Idea)
Homemade Pinwheels are the easiest make-ahead school lunch idea. A kid-friendly easy lunch idea.
- 1 flour tortilla
- 2 Tbsp cream cheese
- 1 slice mozarella cheese (or your favorite cheese)
- 1 oz turkey deli meat (2 slices)
- 1/4 cup shredded lettuce (or spinach leaves)
- 1/4 tomato, thinly sliced
Spread cream cheese over tortilla.
Add sliced mozzarella and deli meat over the top half of the tortilla followed by shredded lettuce and sliced tomato.
Tightly roll the tortilla from the top downward then slice the roll into rings.
Can you tell by the look in his eye that I promised him candy for this photo? 😉