5 Lunch Ideas for Teens by Kiran

This post is by blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page or her website!

Teens. They certainly can be challenging in a number of ways, right? :) I love the interaction and friendship that I have with my 14-year-old, but emotions, not so much.

Of course, there are other areas where it sometimes feels like it’d be helpful to have a book to reference as we try to lead them down the right path. So today, I’m hoping that we can shed a little light in the area of lunch ideas for teens, because this can be a tricky situation as well.

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Since I don’t have any teenage boys (yet – my littlest is about to turn 7, so I’ve got a bit of time!), I reached out to a few friends of mine who do. Out of 5 of them, here are some interesting facts that I gathered:

  • All 5 of them still pack their son’s lunches.
  • Their sons all request brown bags vs. reusable lunch boxes/bags.
  • Teenage boys have insatiable appetites.
  • Four out of five want peanut-butter and jelly every.single.day!

Each of these moms want to pack differently, but struggle in this area for one reason or another. So without further ado, here are some options for healthy school lunches for your teen boys OR girls that Lisa packed for her teen and tween last week (containers came home every day almost empty, she said!).

They are from one of the weeks of our new Real Lunches, Real Easy 4, which is only available for a few more days (through March 19th). I hope this provides some inspiration for you!

Real Easy Lunch Ideas for Teens

Lunch #1: Oven-fried chicken (or turkey if preferred), roasted sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Simple, but oh-so-good. Your teens will be begging for more of this chicken!

photo of lunch ideas for teens

Lunch #2: Lime-cilantro quinoa salad over spinach, hard boiled eggs, and a brown rice cake with peanut butter on it (if PB is not allowed or you teen has an allergy you could sub sun butter). The rice cakes taste a lot like popcorn! You can easily add more chicken to this healthy lunch because the recipe makes enough.

photo of lunch ideas for teens

Lunch #3: Lime-cilantro quinoa salad stuffed avocado, cherry tomatoes, and some YUMMY baked chicken & cheese taquitos. Pack more than two for bigger appetites.

photo of lunch ideas for teens

Lunch #4: Baked chicken & cheese taquitos (with optional salsa to dip them in), roasted sweet potatoes, berries, and cucumbers. Berries can be subbed with any other fruits in season.

photo of lunch ideas for teens

Lunch #5: Two brown rice cakes with peanut butter and raisins on top, plain yogurt mixed with a little pure maple syrup and berries + more berries (on the side), and oats to mix in. Again, you could sub sun butter if peanut butter is not allowed at your school.

photo of lunch ideas for teens

Like what you see and want more?

Or even need some help making these? Then check out Real Lunches, Real Easy 4, which has recipes for the above + 5 more weeks, along with shopping lists, pictures, templates, and more! This one is geared toward teens, tweens, and adults. In addition, let’s help each other out: I’d love to hear your ideas for teen lunches in the comments below. :)

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19 thoughts on “5 Lunch Ideas for Teens by Kiran”

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  1. My teen son plays football and lifts weights so he has to have something substantial! He would eat everything in those pictures above in one sitting! He’s very into clean eating so we do a lot of meal prep to stay on track. We cut chicken breasts into chunks and separate out into five containers each with a different marinade. And I’m talking simple homemade marinades! In the mornings, I pan cook one of the servings, heat up a package of cooked brown rice, then mix together and slip into a thermal pouch. I add in homemade protein bites, a sliced apple with a small container of peanut butter, some strawberries or blueberries, and a frozen container of greek yogurt. If I’m out of protein bites, I might sub pretzels and a serving of hummus. He’s not much on veggies in his lunchbox so I focus on getting those in him at dinner.

  2. I agree with all the moms laughing that you clearly don’t have teenage boys! My daughter would love to take such pretty things in her lunch. My sons not so much. First it is not nearly enough food. Second it’s not in disposable containers. There is no way I am getting the boys to bring Tupperware back home. My boys will literally take the same lunch every single day. So we do lots of sandwiches. I try to make a roast or chicken breasts on the weekends and thin slice for sandwiches. An apple or grapes & carrots. Potato chips (you win some, you lose some) Plus they usually grab a fairlife chocolate protein milk for a calorie boost. Anything pre packaged is preferred as it stays fresher sitting in his car all day. Because not only do you have to pack lunch but pre and post practice snacks. I have found lara bars are a healthy”ish” acceptable alternative to granola bars. They also love: Fruit leather. Dried mango. Freeze dried strawberries. Applesauce. Yogurt in squeeze tubes. Beef jerky/sticks. Cheese sticks.
    Seriously the boys still eat like toddlers!

  3. I can tell you don’t have teenage boys, because the food in the pictures would not be enough to feed one. They can eat at least twice as much if not more… lol It’s been a challenge for sure. My boy does not like eggs, he is more into soups and salads and not big on meet either.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi. Adding a healthy dip is a good way to get them eating more veggies and you can always up the fruits, as well.

  4. Hi! I’m excited to try your lunch ideas now that you have some for older kids and have purchased your meal plans. But I think this will only work for my 11 year old son. For my two teen boys, bringing anything besides a brown bag is a real challenge. California public schools do not provide lockers so kids have to carry their lunch around all day! Imagine the mess from an improperly closed Tupperware that leaks salad dressing or wet veggie drippings onto their binders, school work or chrome book…..Thank goodness for PBJ and prepackaged items that don’t leak.

    1. Yes!! I was able to make creative lunches with thermos containers and plastic containers when my boys were younger, but by high school – brown bags only will do. For the exact reasons you mentioned and probably others – like kids often walk around and socialize while they eat and they don’t want to look “fussy” with fancy containers. California high schools have outdoor open quads where kids eat lunch – they don’t always sit at tables. So I’d love more ideas for sandwiches and wraps that can go in a brown bag! (At least California public schools now provide free lunch to all kids – so many are choosing that option – though they also need snacks for mid-morning or to give them some energy if they go straight from school to after school sports/activities.

  5. for teenagers there are a lot of image issues with eating in front of peers. I believe my duaghter would be very happy to take what is shown above but my son definitely not. the standard lunch is generally sandwiches in a basic lunch box. so the salad items need to be on the sandwich, can’t have a separate salad

  6. My 14 year boy only wants chopped salad w/protein (nitrate free turkey, ham, or grilled chkn) ,seeds (pistachio, pepita, other) . I add carrots, asparagus, snap peas or whatever veggies I have available. Plus I give him either beef jerky and trail mix plus fruit or if I have left over veggies and pasta (rotate btwn GF, quinoa, whole wheat). My 16 year old runs XC/track and also eats constantly. I fill him up w/homemade burritos, snap peas,carrots, peanut butter and apples, trail mix, fruit, and sometimes pretzels. Homemade chicken nuggets, taquitos, enchiladas. It’s tough to keep up w/homemade stuff. It takes so much time and $ to make and its gone in one or two days!!!

  7. Both of my teenagers take lunch in reusable lunch bags. My son likes either a salad or a half of a sliced red pepper, along with a leftover hamburger or deli meat (no nitrates, very few additives). I often throw in some Pirate’s Booty for fun.
    My daughter takes salads or leftovers. They both have to be gluten free, and my daughter has a large number of other food sensitivities.

  8. Do you know where I could get the recipe for the oven fried chicken you stated teens will be begging for? I looked on the website but I might just be missing it! Thanks for all your great ideas!

    1. I would love the chicken recipe as well. Also, can the chicken be made ahead and frozen? My oldest is not a big bread eater, but likes meat, so this chicken sounds perfect. I too struggle with the too much not enough portion issue. I do not want my kids to be hungry but hate to waste food. They take reusable containers, so I see what is not eaten. My oldest often comments she did not have enough time to finish her food.

  9. My 16 year old daughter will only eat salad from the school lunches and they are usually gone by the time she gets to the front of the line, so I pack her lunch. I have learned that throughout the day. I make sure to pack her healthy snacks that will fill her up in between classes, such as beef jerky, Larabars, and trail mix. Actual lunch time is very short, so I usually make her a wrap with chicken, avocado, hummus, bell peppers Etc. This helps keep her full throughout the day on a limited time schedule for eating while still making sure she gets healthy sustenance.

  10. My son is 14, he will eat us out of house and home if allowed, lol! The hardest part for me is the question “is that enough/too much food for the day?” I’m hoping to purchase this latest book, fingers crossed it’s in the budget. I am lucky in the regard that he is just fine with containers and literally will eat just about anything.

  11. My 16 yo daughter will only take her lunch to school in plastic baggies. She will not use any kind of container because she says she doesn’t want to put it back in her locker afterwards. I think she probably thinks lunch containers are uncool too. This limits greatly what we can pack for her for lunch. I try not to pack too much because I think she rushes through lunch, and will throw some of it away. I know she also eats some of her friends leftover junk food at lunch as well. She is usually quite hungry after school, so I try to make the afternoon snack options healthier.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Mixing a little lemon juice in will help, as will wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Yes, I know it’s plastic, but it does help.:)