School Lunch Roundup!

I’ve been sharing my kids’ school lunches on facebook quite frequently this year, and in an effort to put all those pictures in one easy-to-reference place they have all been reposted below (2018 update: There are so many of these updates now that I’ve put them together on a School Lunch Roundup Series page).

Also, I seem to get a lot of comments/questions/etc. when I share these on facebook so I’d like to start off by addressing a few of the more common ones…

  • I’ve written a post that includes everything you could ever want to know about the colorful “freezie pop molds” that I use frequently to add smoothies to their lunches.
  • All of the school lunch supplies we use including the divided lunchbox containers, thermos cups, and freezie pop molds are detailed on my kitchen essentials page. The lunchbox containers fit nicely (with a drink cup) in both Lands End and Old Navy cloth rectangular lunch boxes.
  • Some readers ask if these lunches provide enough food for my children and while I am probably not spot-on with portion size 100% of the time, the short answer is “yes.” First of all, “real food” is a lot more filling than highly processed food (especially the refined grain stuff like white flour). Secondly, portion sizes are getting out of control in America and have unfortunately skewed the public’s view of what is appropriate. Thirdly, my children are children (ages 7 and almost 5), and my 1st grader has little more than 15 – 20 minutes to eat (and socialize of course!). Lastly, both my children eat after-school snacks, and my older daughter has oatmeal (in a thermos) for her morning snack everyday less than an hour and a half before lunch. Okay, got that off my chest. :)
  • A few occasionally ask if these lunches have enough protein. First of all, part of eating a “real food” diet means you no longer have to count calories, fat grams, protein, carbs, etc. You simply eat a variety of whole foods (including lots of veggies) without “overeating” and the rest will just fall into place. It’s kind of nice not to have to worry about that stuff anymore. But, if you aren’t quite ready to forget about your daily protein intake please know there are MANY sources high in protein aside from just meat products such as yogurt, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, nuts (including peanut butter), seeds (including sunflower butter), and beans. When we switched to a “real food” diet we purposely reduced our meat consumption.
  • I make most of the pictured baked goods (like muffins and pancakes) in advance and store them in our freezer. So when I am packing school lunches the night before I just pull out what I need so it can defrost in the fridge overnight. Almost all of the recipes I used can be found on the blog…just use the search box at the top right of the page to find what you are looking for!
  • Also, I’d like to note that my 1st grader goes to a peanut/tree nut-free school so I often use sunflower butter and cream cheese as an alternative to peanut butter.

So without further ado here is the School Lunch Roundup! And please feel free to share you “real food” school lunch ideas in the comments below…

Triple-decker apple & peanut butter sandwich, organic cheese stick, a homemade (and kinda squished) butterfly-shaped whole-wheat biscuit, and frozen peas & corn
Frozen smoothie pop with berries/yogurt/kale/sunflower butter, 3 mini whole-wheat pumpkin muffins, apples, and popcorn
Heart shaped peanut butter & honey sandwich (I put the scraps in the freezer to save for stuffing/croutons/breadcrumbs/etc.), fruit mix including oranges and kiwi, organic cheese stick, and Kettle brand baked potato chips
Hummus/cheese/lettuce on a whole-wheat pita (Trader Joe’s brand – only 6 ingredients), caprese salad with pesto, hard boiled egg, and a raw nut/raisin trail mix pack
I was feeling creative this day :) Bread/fruit/cheese pinwheel kabobs, a mix of puffed brown rice cereal & sunflower seeds, and frozen peas/corn mix
Leftover cold cheese pizza (with a whole-wheat crust that she helped make the night before), store-bought organic applesauce, 1/2 banana, and a trail mix with some cashews/pistachios/raisins
One of my older daughter’s favorites: Tomato bisque soup with whole-wheat spiral noodles floating in it, an apple sandwich with sunflower butter & raisins, a cornbread muffin, and water (I send water everyday)
Half of whole-wheat banana pancake sandwich with cream cheese in the middle, 2 whole-wheat ebleskiver “round” pancakes, organic apples, plain yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup, vanilla extract, bananas, and homemade granola
Sunflower butter and all fruit jelly on five Ak-Mak whole-grain crackers, local strawberries, and carrots/celery
Frozen PB&J smoothie pop (with sunflower butter and spinach), “ants on a log” (celery with sunflower butter and raisins), leftover deviled eggs, and a whole-wheat blueberry muffin.
Cold homemade pizza lunchables with some sliced apples (in a new little monster-themed “Wexy bag” which are bpa-free biodegradable baggies)
Applegate Farms organic ham with cheese rolled up inside, carrots, mango, and a whole-grain cornbread muffin
Heart-shaped pancake sandwich with cream cheese and strawberry jelly in the middle, little heart fruit pieces (including strawberries, pear & melon), and applesauce
Frozen smoothie pop (plain yogurt/sunflower butter/berries/bananas/kale), hard boiled egg, carrots, and a whole-wheat banana muffin
Cream cheese/cinnamon/raisin/sunflower seed sandwich (my daughter’s creation), apples/blueberries/mango, and carrots
Cold homemade whole-wheat pizza, frozen peas, and a fruit mix including melon & kiwi
Leftover vegetable/pork/bean quesadillas on homemade whole-wheat tortillas, organic pear slices, and a rare surprise (a treat!) store bought whole-wheat graham crackers
Peanut butter & honey sandwich, apples/carrots, hummus, and (in the Wexy bag) whole-wheat pretzels
Whole-grain cornbread muffin, organic ham (rolled up), carrots, and a frozen smoothie pop (made with berries, yogurt, & kale)
Homemade whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bagel with organic cream cheese, hard boiled egg, and apple

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462 thoughts on “School Lunch Roundup!”

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  1. These are great! Thank you! And I have a dumb question. You show frozen peas and corn. Do you just put them in frozen and then do they thaw by lunchtime?

  2. This looks way better than the stuff they used to serve us in school. I remember my school would gives us cinnabuns for breakfast with even more sugar packed juice.

  3. About four years ago, I found your “School Lunch Roundup,” and there were dozens and dozens of lunches. There are many idea here, but where did those other archives go? I loved looking through them for ideas.

  4. Just wondering your thoughts. A lot of people I know are doing the Paleo diet and I just was curious about your take on it. Thanks so much! Love your site.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Lisa loves her whole grains so Paleo is not a way of eating she would choose for her family. Personally, I feel better if I don’t eat many grains or much meat but strongly believe that everyone’s physiology is very different and you have to make the choices that work for you.

  5. You are blessed your kids eat so little, my 5 kids by age 4 would eat more than is in any of those lunches lol By 7 my kids eat a grown man’s portion, none are fat, have way too much energy and we eat whole foods. Ah well, c’est le vie. Someday I ll have leftovers again without cooking double meals lol

    1. When you are eating whole foods you are filled up way more than when you eat processed foods. So it might look like a little amount but you will feel more full if you eat whole.

  6. Your kids are very lucky :D I’m sure they feel very loved! Beautiful & healthy ideas, thanks for sharing.

  7. How do you stop the fruit going brown. Peeled apples and banana’s always go brown in my kids lunch boxes and melon is always off by recess.

    1. Not sure about the bananas or melons, but to keep apples from turning brown just squeeze lemon juice on them. It works perfect every time.

  8. These are so inspiring! I’m having to pack lunches for my preschoolers, and this is really going to help me up my game.

  9. Sadly, a lot of these lunch ideas contain nuts/peanuts/peanut butter and that’s forbidden in schools where I’m from due to allergies.

    1. She mentioned in the post that most of the “nut” butter she used was sunflower butter- her daughter is in a nut-free school.

  10. I noticed that all of the lunches featured were in plastic containters. By now everyone knows of the evils of BPA, so I am sure the containers are BPA free. However, “BPA-free” plastic contains other chemicals that are simply not good for humans, especially growing kids:

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-free-plastic-containers-may-be-just-as-hazardous/

  11. I am recently starting as a cook at a daycare, early education center and could use some healthy recipes/ ideas to start my job off on the right foot, while bringing new creations to a somewhat redundant boring menu, any info would be great thanks!!!!

  12. Can I have your bagel recipe? I want to try to make my own and aside from using organic whole wheat flour, I’m not sure how to make the traditional recipe more friendly on my toddler’s system. If that’s the best change I can make, then that’s totally fine. Unless there is organic yeast that I’m not aware of. Thank you!!

  13. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

    Hi Michele. Lisa’s girls don’t mind if the apple brown a little. You could always use lemon juice or another citrus.

  14. I love all of your lunches. They look fantastic. I am wondering about the apples. How do you keep them from turning brown & yucky? Please advise.

    Thank you.

  15. Hello, I’m looking for suggestions for teenage boy real food lunches. My boys are very active with football, wrestling, baseball, cross country, and any other sport they can find time to play. They can afford larger portions and need the energy. Many of the meals above would work I’d just have to triple the serving sizes? They pack food for lunch and after school before game nights

  16. What do you put on your apples to keep them from turning before lunch? Lemon juice seems to not really hold.

    what type of thermos really keeps food warm all the way to lunch?

  17. Thank you these are great ideas. We are trying to become more of a “whole food” family my daughter does not like meat and I haven’t pushed her. I love all your ideas for pancake and healthy muffins because these are staples for lunches here I make a lot of zucchini bread for lunch.

  18. Lots of great ideas, however most schools have pb and other nut bans to consider. Parents should check out their particular school’s policies before sending those and possibly harming another child.

  19. Great ideas ~ Especially the apple & pb sandwich… my kids will love that one! Where did you get your bento box? I like the simplicity of the one you used :).

  20. I’ve been searching the site for a product you used a while back to hold pizza sauce for a homemade pizza lunchable. It was a reusable clear plastic tube with a zip-lock at one end. I would love to find them!! Thanks…LOVE your site!!!

  21. These were fun to look at and gave me many great ideas for my lunch. As I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly cystic ovarian syndrome), it is vital that I eat healthier and cut out processed food. Thank you!

  22. I noticed you had lunch boxes with at least 3 snacks which means 3 snacks a day? . Basically, we prep a lunch box for lunch and one for snacks?

  23. Hey- love these ideas.

    Where are the recipes for the lunches listed above? I’ve clicked on the pictures and looked around and I can’t find where they are, sorry.
    Thanks :)

  24. I’m so jealous that u can send nuts and nut butters Our schools have banned both claiming that it’s too hard to tell if it’s a seed butter or a peanut product – so my vegetarian kids lunches end up looking a tad odd. Thanks for great ideas!!!!!

  25. I love all the sliced fresh apple recipes! My daughter loves apples, but because of losing her front teeth, can’t bite into a whole apple. I tried slicing it and splashing it with lemon juice, but she turned up her nose at the “lemony taste” to the apple. Any suggestions on what I can do to the apple slices to prevent browning, but not have them taste lemony?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lindsay. While lemon does the best at keeping the brown away, many readers has suggested using pineapple juice. ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Toni. Lisa doesn’t usually do anything. The girls don’t mind a bit of browning but lemon will certainly do the trick. ~Amy

  26. Jennifer Hartley

    Just a question..sorry if Im repeating…..where did you buy those smoothie froze pop holders??? Im in Canada so it might not help but just had to know where you got them.

  27. Hello! This question may have already been asked, but there are 450 comments and I’m hoping you don’t mind answering again, so I don’t have to go trough them all.
    My son was intrigued by the picture of the pizza lunchable (I think it is the 11th pic on this post). Is that just slices of homemade baked (plain) pizza crust? Do you make your tomato sauce or buy it?
    I went through your recipe index, but could find this exact picture only on this post. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Those are whole wheat pita bread cut into triangle and you can use any organic tomato sauce or make your own. Lisa does both. :) ~Amy