Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

August 8, 2019lectinfreemama

Lunch is hard. If you’re not the plan-ahead type, it frequently becomes a lesson in…what happens when you don’t plan ahead. Or maybe you’re the type who thinks you’re going to fast until dinner. Then you see Nancy with a slice of pizza or a bagel or a salad or whatever in the cubicle over, and your stomach becomes the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Trust me, I can sympathize.

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Kids’ lunches are especially hard because 1) kids can be picky, 2) kids always eat lunch, and 3) most parents don’t enjoy prepping for a meal they’re not even going to enjoy with their kids (or even witness them eat). I can’t guarantee your kids are going to like my ideas. My kid’s “YUCK mushrooms” could be your kid’s “YUM mushrooms,” etc.

But at least with the lunches I’ve created, you don’t have to spend hours of prepping for what could well end up in the trash. With the exception of the bagels (which they better not throw away, so help me God), everything in these back-to-school lunches requires minimal prep time. Unleash your inner lunch lady with these artful combos and remember you won’t have to pack these forever…be that consolation or a tearful reminder of “how fast it goes.” (Maybe you love packing lunches.)

The Italian Lunch (Snack) Plate

An Italy-inspired plate of basically snacks (so kids will love it).
  • Green mango slices (unripe)
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Olives
  • Roasted Pistachios
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (imported)
  • Walnuts

If you have trouble sourcing a green mango, choose a few slices of any seasonal fruit or some green plantain chips.

The Corner Deli Lunch Plate

A build-your-own-sandwich, New York deli-inspired lunch.

QUICK PICKLED RED ONIONS (make the night before): Mix together 1 red onion, sliced, and 1 tablespoon salt in a small bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry and combine with 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar in the bowl. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and then store in the fridge.

The Banks-of-the-Seine Lunch Plate

A lunch perfect for eating on the banks of the Seine
  • Figs
  • Mini Brie cheese (imported)
  • Cauliflower hummus (not pictured)
  • Pickled beets
  • Sliced radishes (or other crunchy veggies)
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Follow the quick pickled red onion recipe using shredded beets, or, if using round slices (pictured), pickle overnight or longer.

CAULIFLOWER HUMMUS: Combine 1 bag of steamed cauliflower rice, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons tahini, juice of 1 lemon, and 1 teaspoon cumin in a food processor. Process until smooth (add water to thin, if needed). Get other dip recipe ideas HERE.

The Oktoberfest Lunch Plate

Minus the beer.

Other Lunch Ideas

Rotation is key for preventing packed lunch exhaustion. Here are some more easy ideas that require a bit more prep.

Lamb & Feta Meatballs

Combine 1 pound ground lamb, 2 ounces Feta cheese, 1/2 cup ground puffed millet or ground flaxseed, and 1 large pastured egg. Make into 1-ounce meatballs and broil 6 inches from flame for 10 minutes. Pack cold with baby carrots, caramelized onions, and coconut milk yogurt.

Egg Salad

Combine 1/4 cup avocado oil mayo with 1 teaspoon mustard powder. Fold in 8 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Pack with lettuce leaves, coleslaw, and plantain chips.

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Asian Tuna Salad

Combine 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon coconut aminos, 1 teaspoon compliant sweetener, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 2 cans wild tuna (drained), 1 cup shredded carrots, 1 cup diced radishes, and 4 chopped scallions. Pack with lettuce leaves, shirataki rice, and chopped toasted pecans and cilantro.

Sweet Potato Toast

Bake 1/2-inch thick slabs of peeled sweet potato at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Cool in the fridge and use as a base for lunches. Pack with different toppings your child can assemble onto the toast.


Pack pressure-cooked seasoned black beans with chopped romaine lettuce, goat Cheddar cheese, chopped red onions, peeled/deseeded diced tomatoes, and a Wholly guacamole cup with some grain-free tortilla chips or with these mini taco cups.


Get my recipe for Swiss chard fritters HERE. Pack with yogurt or sour cream, to dip.


  • Karen

    August 21, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy these lunches. I’m going to do them up for work!


      August 22, 2019 at 1:21 am

      I agree–I mean, I had to sample them all…

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