Back-to-School Lunchbox Makeover: 5 Quick and Healthy Lunch Recipes

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on August 21, 2014

What’s in your lunchbox?

When I was a kid, it was standard, dependable: some sort of sandwich – usually PB&J on wheat, a fruit – usually an apple or banana, some veggies – usually carrot sticks, and a drink – usually boxed juice. Of course I didn’t make any of it, since my mom packed my lunch.

When I went to college and then started working, my lunch became all over the place: oatmeal one day, deli sandwiches the next. And frankly it was a challenge to find healthy options every day when someone (my mom) wasn’t packing my lunch for me!

Whether you’re making your own lunch (to take to work or class), or looking for something your kids will eat now that school is back in session, I’m sure everyone faces challenges when trying to come up with healthy options for your afternoon meal. Something that will keep you full (so you don’t end up with a candy bar in your hand at 3pm), and something that super fast and doesn’t require much cooking or prep time.

Enter: my lunchbox makeover – 5 quick and easy lunch ideas that are tasty, good for you, and that kids will love!

. . .

Makeover #1: Make a Sandwich

But not any kind of sandwich, a delicious sandwich that’s packed with flavor!

If you’re a savory person, try this Sprouted Grain Sandwich with Hummus and Avocado

It will literally take you less than five minutes to make. Toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread (like the kind from Ezekiel), top with 2 Tbsp hummus, 1 slice avocado, a couple slices of tomato, red onion, sprouts, and a super thin slice of swiss cheese (optional).

If you’re someone with a sweet tooth, try this twist on a Peanut Butter Sandwich (this is one that kids just can’t get enough of either).

You don’t even have to use peanut butter – you can use almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter, and any combination of toppings: bananas, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, apples, honey, etc! Here is the recipe for my favorite combination, but the possibilities are endless.

. . .

Makeover #2: Make a Salad

You can pretty much do anything you want with a salad. But there are a few rules to keep in mind to make sure it’s healthy:

  • Avoid toppings like too much cheese (more than 2 Tbsp is too much), croutons, and dressing
  • To season your salad, use salt & pepper – they do wonders for flavor, and 2 tsp olive oil with 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • For protein, add a hardboiled egg (use more of the whites vs. the yolks), beans, or 1 Tbsp nuts
  • Use as many veggies as you like! Just avoid any that are already pre-cooked or pre-seasoned/dressed

Here is one salad recipe that I love, and here’s a twist on a salad from CookingLight that is delish, but feel free to mix and match as you like!

. . .

Makeover #3: Have some Soup!

If you’re on the go, there are some great pre-made / boxed soups that taste delicious. Here are two options for pre-made soups:

Imagine Organic Butternut Squash Soup (comes in a shelf-stable box)

This soup is super healthy for you, has only ~100 calories per serving, and you can dress it up so it doesn’t taste store bought! I added microgreens to make it pretty, but you can add 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, some whole wheat toast for dipping, or whole wheat crackers on top.

Option #2 is this one-pot veggie chili. Make it the night before and pack it up with some whole grain chips or toasted whole grain bread. Kids go crazy for this chili, and it’s adult-approved too :)


. . .

Makeover #4: Make a Healthy Burger

Veggie burgers are a great source of protein, and you can really dress them up so they don’t taste store-bought! They also hold up pretty well for lunch. Here are 5 recipes for taking your veggie burger to the next level.

. . .

Makeover #5: Throw together a Burrito Bowl

burrito bowl

This is almost a no-cook meal. All you need is the ingredients here, and you are pretty much good to go! Cooking the black beans is optional, so if you are really short on time you can always omit the cooking step. This also tastes great hot or cold, so it works well in kids’ lunchboxes if they don’t have a place to reheat it.

So there you have it – 5 ways to completely makeover your lunchbox that will leave you and your family feeling satisfied, happy and full. Enjoy!


Making Moves

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on August 13, 2014


Hi Everyone! I know you’ve probably all been wondering where I’ve been the past couple weeks. In case you haven’t guessed from the picture – this Bay Area girl is making a big move to… Ann Arbor, Michigan!

That’s right: after living my entire life in the Bay Area, I’m off to start a new adventure in the Midwest. The husband just got an amazing tenure-track job at Michigan State (hence my Spartans t-shirt), and so we took Layla on her very first flight about 1.5 weeks ago and moved cross-country!

The past few weeks have been unbelievably hectic: between packing, moving, waiting for our stuff to arrive, unpacking, settling in, exploring the area, etc. – as I’m sure you can imagine.

But don’t worry – there will be plenty more Picky Eater approved recipes coming your way very soon :) This has truly been the year of major life changes for us and I really appreciate all of you sticking with me throughout all of it.

Before I get back in our (very enormous) kitchen (yay!) I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite recipe roundups:

Just in time for Labor Day: my Labor Day Recipe Guide! 

Healthy Breakfast Ideas to Get Your Day Started Right

5 Quick and Healthy Lunch Recipes

One Week of Healthy Meals On a $100 Budget!

Healthy and Easy Meals When You’re Short on Time

My Top 20 Healthy Snacks

Lastly, here are some pictures of all of us in our place this morning, surprised by a SF themed care-package from my brother and his girlfriend! See you all back here (with delicious fun recipes) very soon!



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