Back-To-School Lunch Recipes

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After taking the time to prepare a healthy lunch for your child, the last thing you want to hear is that he traded it to another kid or bought a school lunch and tossed what you made in the garbage. Try these easy recipes and ideas for back-to-school lunch fare your kids will actually look forward to eating.

Super Sandwich Recipes

Since they travel so well and are easy to eat almost anywhere, sandwiches are a timeless school lunch favorite. This reduced fat meatloaf recipe does double duty as a hearty dinner and tasty sandwich filler. The mozzarella sandwich offers a refreshing change from the usual cheese sandwich choices.

Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich

Yield: 8 slices

Calories per slice: 235

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • ¾ cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup of 1 percent fat milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup of marinara sauce
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Sauté onions, garlic and celery in oil until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Move vegetables to a large bowl and mix in turkey, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, ¼ cup of the marinara sauce and spices with your hands until combined.
  4. Transfer to a loaf pan and pour remaining sauce over the loaf.
  5. Bake for one hour or until meat thermometer in the center reaches 160 degrees.
  6. Wait 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  7. The next day, create a great sandwich by surrounding a slice of meat loaf with an Italian roll or even white toast.

Refreshing Mozzarella Sandwich

Yield: One sandwich

Calories: 476

  • 2 slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 2 slices of Tuscan bread
  • 2 leaves of fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste

To assemble the sandwich, toast bread and spread a little olive oil on the inside of each slice. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground pepper into the oil and then add cheese, tomato slices and basil leaves.

Tasty Trail Mix Recipes

Kids love to find a delicious snack in their lunch bags along with the main fare. Here’s a surprise snack that will satisfy your child’s sweet tooth and sneak in a little nutrition too:

Sweet-n-Nutty Trail Mix

Yield: 11 cups

Serving size ½ cup

Calories per serving: 332

  • 6 cups of granola
  • ½ cup of raisins
  • ½ cup of chopped dates
  • 1 cup of dried mixed berries
  • 1 cup of mini chocolate chips
  • ½ cup of peanuts
  • 1 cup of mixed nuts

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Thermos Lunch Recipes

If your kids are getting tired of the same old thing, thermos lunches allow you to provide hot, homemade meals for them at school. Here are a few interesting variations on old favorites that they might enjoy:

Vegetarian Chili

Yield: 9 servings

Calories per serving: 371 (excluding toppings)

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 pound of carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 large stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 14½-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14½-ounce can of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cans of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of pink beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Sour cream and shredded jack, pepper jack or cheddar cheese (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a 5 or 6-quart Dutch oven.
  2. Add vegetables, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir in spices and beans, reduce heat, cover and simmer an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Garnish with cilantro leaves, sour cream and shredded cheese as desired.

Mexican Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: 413

  • 1½ cups macaroni, uncooked
  • 6 slices of American cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup shredded Colby jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • ¾ cup of cooked corn kernels
  • ¾ cup of diced red and/or green bell pepper
  • ¼ cup of mild salsa
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté diced pepper until tender.
  3. Drain pasta and add pepper, corn, salsa, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted into pasta.

Revisiting Peanut Butter & Jelly

Good old PB & J sandwiches have stood the test of time as easy-to-prepare lunch choices most kids will eat. Take the old standard up a notch with these fun variations:

  • Peanut butter and honey
  • Peanut butter and orange marmalade
  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Peanut butter, apple slices and cinnamon
  • Peanut butter, honey and cocoa powder.

If peanut allergies are an issue for your child, or if other children at your child’s school suffer these allergies, substitute one of these other delicious nut butters:

  • Cashew butter
  • Almond butter
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Soy nut butter.

When preparing kid’s lunches, a balance between novelty, taste and nutrition provides the winning combination. Your kids will have the lunches other kids wish they could win in a trade.

Last Updated: September 2, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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