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!

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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 🙂

Chili

. . .

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!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather February 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Great makeover tips!!! I am trying to tweak our habits into healthier ones.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Thanks!! I’m sure you’ll love these healthier lunch options!

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Ami February 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thanks for this, Anjali! The first one is actually my most favorite sandwich, ever (with some kettle cooked jalapeno chips on the side. :)) Also, in addition to the hummus I add pesto. It’s so flavorful my stomach is actually grumbling just thinking about it!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Oooh those additions sound fab 🙂 I like eating it with the Baked Kettle BBQ chips since they’re slightly more guilt-free – but I’ll have to try the jalapeno chips soon!!

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Brown Girl Friendly February 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

OMG…. I think I love you. My mouth is literally salivating. Everything looks sooooo yummy! Thanks for posting!!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Awwwww!! Thank you soo much 🙂 So nice to meet you!

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Small Footprints February 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Makeover #1 is making my mouth water … it looks so good! There’s something about a colorful sandwich … just makes one happy to take a bite! Thank you for sharing … I can’t wait to try some of your ideas!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Totally agree – I try to make my meals as colorful as possible, they’re so much more fun to eat that way! Hope you enjoy these recipes when you try them! 🙂

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Kellie February 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Some fantastic ideas and quick meals at that.. Nor reason that ‘Healthy’ has to take ‘longer’ to prepare. I’m going to be trying the peanut butter sandwich reinvented today.. Thank you Anjali…

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Yay!! I hope you loved the sandwich 🙂 So glad you liked these ideas!

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BE February 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

Great article and great pictures! Would love to share out heart healthy meals in honor of Heart Month:
http://www.bounceenergysavings.com/2012/02/heart-healthy-meals-budget/

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 27, 2012 at 11:55 am

Thanks! 🙂

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Lauren February 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Thank you so much for posting these meals! I’ve been trying to make a weekly meal plan that includes a short grocery list and minimal prep/cook time. Your blog has made this really easy! Thanks again! 🙂

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Yay!! No problem at all – I’m so glad it’s helpful! Good luck with your weekly meal plan – let me know how it goes! 🙂

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Vandana February 28, 2012 at 9:55 am

Thanks for these amazing recipes – and great pictures! I’m suddenly hungry at 11.23 pm!! I do healthy recipes on my website – do check out our recipes; would be great to connect!
Cheers
Vandana

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

Thanks Vandana! So glad you like them! I’ll be sure to check out your website too – looking forward to connecting more through our blogs!

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laviera March 7, 2012 at 8:02 am

Tried the recipe, but maybe I gotta give it a second go. Looked way better on this site than my plate. HA!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater March 7, 2012 at 8:12 am

Aw! haha – which recipe did you end up making? And how did it taste?? 🙂

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samara March 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Where can I find this Ezekiel bread? I have a trader Joe’s and a sprouts near me. That ends the healthy store list.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater March 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Oh! Trader Joe’s has an Ezekiel bread knockoff – it’s basically the same thing – they have a whole “sprouted wheat bread” section – just look for it in the bread section (they have a ton of varieties, so just pick the one you like 🙂 ). I’m not sure if Sprouts has Ezekiel – since they’re a health food store I’d guess that they would, but Whole Foods definitely has Ezekiel. Hope that helps!

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VSL Narasimham August 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Thanks for the ideas and recipes! Will try to make the butternut squash soup tomorrow 🙂

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 2, 2012 at 8:14 am

No problem! Can’t wait to hear how you like it! 🙂

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Jyo August 22, 2014 at 12:08 pm

thanks for the ideas…peanut butter sandwich looks like a melt in mouth…yumm…
i have never grilled a PBJ sandwich before…now i am thinking of buying a panini press to make it goey…your pictures are really a treat :-))

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Thanks Jyo!! And yes omg – grilled PBJ is seriously the best ever. You don’t need a panini press to make it either, you can just use a regular pan and a spatula – just flip it over when one side is done and press down with the spatula on the side facing up to make it flat and crispy! Enjoy!

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Shabnam August 22, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Thanks a lot for this post. I love all food ideas and I’ll use them as soon as university starts.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Great! Let me know how you like these lunch ideas when you try them!

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Tammy September 3, 2014 at 11:25 am

These look so amazing. I don’t go to school, I don’t have kids, but these are so amazing, just to make for myself 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Haha! That’s awesome – and yes! These are great lunch options for adults too 🙂 Thanks Tammy – enjoy!

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Amelia @ Eating Made Easy September 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

All of these look fab, especially the veggie & PB sandwiches!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Awww thanks so much Amelia! The PB sandwich is one of my favorites 🙂

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