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Whether you’re packing food for yourself or your kids, there are a few foods that require little preparation and keep well in an insulated bag inside a backpack. Here are some ideas for an easy lunch to pack and enjoy at school.
Each one includes a main course, side dishes, dessert and a drink. Feel free to modify the meal plans based on your own dietary needs or preferences.
1. Gluten-Free Option
For a quick, simple, gluten-free lunch, make a wrap out of turkey, cheese, mayo and lettuce. You can even put the lettuce on the inside if that’s more convenient, using the turkey as the outer layer. Pack a container of gluten-free hummus, corn chips and pudding, then include a bottle of sparkling lemonade for a refreshing drink.
- Main course: Turkey and cheese lettuce wrap with mayo
- Sides: Hummus and corn chips
- Dessert: Pudding cup
- Drink: Fizzy lemonade
2. Low-Sugar Option
If you’d like to avoid an after-school sugar crash, here’s an idea: Pack last night’s spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce in a reusable container. In a separate compartment, include some carrots and broccoli with dressing, and choose a dessert, like brownies or cookies, made with a sugar substitute.
For your beverage, pack an ice-cold hibiscus tea, which you can sweeten with stevia or another sugar alternative if you choose.
- Main course: Spaghetti and meatballs
- Sides: Carrots and broccoli with ranch dressing
- Dessert: Sugar-free brownies
- Drink: Hibiscus tea
3. Vegetarian Option
Here’s a vegetarian choice that still has plenty of protein. Pack a big salad with filling toppings like hardboiled eggs, avocado and cheese. Choose a lighter side, like grapes, and enjoy some cookies and milk for dessert.
- Main course: Cobb salad with spring greens, hardboiled eggs, shredded cheese, pumpkin seeds, cherry tomatoes and avocado, topped with poppyseed dressing
- Sides: Grapes
- Dessert: Chocolate chip cookies
- Drink: Milk
4. Dairy-Free Option
No milk? No problem. For an easy lunch to pack, make some rice and chicken with your choice of spices. Pack some dippable veggies like bell peppers or cucumbers with a side of dairy-free dressing, then savor a fruit popsicle and your choice of nut milk. Be sure to pack it all in an insulated lunchbox with ice or a freezer pack.
- Main course: Chicken and rice bowl
- Sides: Bell pepper strips and cucumbers with balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Dessert: Mango popsicle
- Drink: Soy milk
5. Kosher Option
One kosher school lunch idea is to pack a tuna sandwich with mayo for the main course. Include a bowl of hot butternut soup and an applesauce cup on the side, then include a cinnamon roll and a bottle of sparkling water to wash it down.
- Main course: Tuna sandwich
- Sides: Butternut soup and applesauce
- Dessert: Cinnamon roll
- Drink: Sparkling water
6. Vegan Option
For an easy lunch to pack that includes no animal products, wrap up a batch of rice and beans, corn, lettuce and tomatoes with vegan sour cream in a flour tortilla. There you have it: a vegan burrito. Pair it with some chips and guacamole, then pack a simple dessert that’s usually vegan, like dark chocolate — but be sure to check the label — for dessert. Throw in an apple juice box to drink.
- Main course: Burrito
- Sides: Chips and guacamole
- Dessert: Dark chocolate bar
- Drink: Apple juice
Delicious and Nutritious
Most of these lunches only take a few minutes to make. If you’re short on time but still want to pack something healthy, try these simple meals that include plenty of variety and options for different diets.