10 Healthy Meals and Snacks for Back-to-School Lunches

A healthy lunch does more than keep children full and happy. Research shows that a well-balanced meal can help with academic performance, weight management, and overall health. 

But as any parent knows, creating a nutritious lunch Monday through Friday isn’t always so simple. Shopping, preparing, cooking, and packing takes thought, time, and consideration. You want the food to be both delicious and nutritious. Packing plant-based lunches helps check both of these boxes, while also exposing young palates to tasty meatless options. It’s amazing how kids will gravitate to fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains when they’re prepared in a way that’s appealing and familiar to them. 

We know what you’re thinking: easier said than done, right?

Well, yes. Kids can be both tricky and picky eaters, especially when they’re exposed to all the temptations of the school cafeteria. So to help win over their hearts and bellies, we’ve created a list of Meatless Monday meals specifically designed for school lunches and snacks. These recipes are all relatively simple to prepare and embody those fun flavors that children enjoy. From Buffalo cauliflower bites to veggie nuggets to “awesome sauce,” check out these 10 healthy meals and snacks for back-to-school lunches.  

Bonus tips and no or low-cook lunch box combos: 

  • Frozen shelled edamame + peeled orange + leftover penne pasta + yogurt tube
  • Nut butter and whole wheat sandwich + hummus & carrot sticks + apple slices
  • Apple sauce + guacamole & carrots + air fried tofu cubes + leftover brown rice  
  • Whole wheat hummus & veggie wrap + sliced fruit + pop corn + cubed cheese 
  • Freeze a juice box as an ice pack, keeps food cool and thaws by lunchtime 

Awesome Sauce

Why is “awesome sauce” an awesome lunch option? Well, you can put it on anything: pasta, tortellini, eggplant parmesan sandwich, zucchini noodles, etc. You can also use it as a dip for fried zucchini or baked polenta fries. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak in a serving or two of vegetables.

For the Awesome Sauce recipe, click here.

Leftover Black Bean Quesadillas 

For a guaranteed crowd pleaser, look no further than this black bean quesadilla. Not only is it easy to prepare, but it’s also perfectly portable, fitting nicely into any size lunchbox or backpack. Add some extra cooked veggies into the filling to make it more nutritious. 

For the Black Bean Quesadilla recipe, click here.  

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

An alternative to tuna or chicken salad, this chickpea salad sandwich is sure to satisfy eaters of any age. It’s a low-cost recipe that uses only a few inexpensive ingredients that you likely already have on hand, such as chickpeas, celery, and mustard. You can also add the chickpea mixture atop of salad greens (if mommy or daddy needs something for their lunchbox). Fun tip, this is also a great dip with hearty crackers or pita instead of bread.

For the Chickpea Salad Sandwich recipe, click here.

Everything Bagel Roasted Chickpeas

Every lunch needs a little bit of crunch, but you don’t always have to rely on chips or other heavily processed junk food items. These roasted chickpeas are a breeze to makejust dry the chickpeas, sprinkle with seasoning, and roast in the oven or air fryer. Make a big batch to munch on all week long.

For the Everything Bagel Roasted Chickpeas recipe, click here.  

Homemade SpaghettiOs

A little bit of nostalgia never hurts for lunch, especially when it’s plant-based. Nutritional yeast and a couple tablespoons of honey give this pasta dish a well-rounded flavor that kids are sure to love.  

For the Homemade SpaghettiOs recipe, click here.

Hummus Dip For Vegetable Sticks

Hummus and Veggie Sticks

No need to reinvent the wheel here. Hummus and veggie sticks is a tried-and-true favorite amongst the youths. And it’s not hard to see why. Creamy hummus is a natural match for crisp and refreshing veggie sticks. Throw in some pita chips for a little extra crunch, and feel free to buy your hummus in the supermarket to save a step.

For the Hummus and Veggie Sticks recipe, click here

Close up of preparation of peanut butter, banana wrap.

Nut Butter and Jelly Banana Roll Ups

Although we aren’t breaking new ground with these nut butter and jelly roll ups, you can customize them however you like in order to incorporate more nutritious ingredients into your child’s diet. Bananas, grapes, seeds, or any nut butters are all yummy options for this classic snack.  

For the Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll Ups recipe, click here.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash might not be the first ingredient that you think of when considering a school lunch, but its inherent sweetness and creamy texture are perfect for young palates (and a thermos). This recipe uses yummy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to give the soup a warm fall flavor.

For the Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup recipe, click here.

 Veggie Nuggets

It’s a fact of life: kids love nuggets. But the beauty of this reality is that kids aren’t particular about what is inside the nugget. That’s why these veggie nuggets are the perfect snack. Primarily made from shredded carrots and broccoli florets, they’re suited for lunch boxes and can be made even more delicious with a dipping sauce of honey mustard or barbecue.

For the Veggie Nuggets recipe, click here.

Whole Wheat Vegan Strawberry Muffins

When you bake at home, you can avoid a lot of the oils and preservatives found in commercial baked goods and pastries. This recipe for whole wheat strawberry muffins has just the right amount of sweetness thanks to a mix of sugar, applesauce, and fresh strawberries, and is a bit heartier thanks to the whole wheat flour. Baking these at home is also an opportunity to recruit some little helpers into the kitchen. 

For the Whole Wheat Vegan Strawberry Muffins recipe, click here

Click here for more Meatless Monday recipes. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.