Watching the seasons change from summer to fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. I love the sunshine, the warmer temperatures and all the extra daylight that we seem to have but I also love flannels, jeans and watching the leaves on the trees change. I also love that my kids have to go back to school and resume a much more structured week.

When the first week of school nears, I inevitably have a few mini panic attacks thinking about packing lunches every single day, five days a week. I am not sure why this anxiety comes with the notion of going back to school. I work full-time and my kids are in a camp five days a week during the summer; I am required to pack them a lunch every day. Admittedly, their “camp lunches” probably have a little more junk in them than I like but I also make them help assemble their camp lunch each evening so they sneakily toss in a few of their favorite treats here and there.

However, change that lunch table from ‘at camp’ to ‘at school’ and I get a little more panicky.  A month or so before school starts I am searching Pinterest, digging through my cookbooks and making lists of healthy recipes I can make for my kids to bring to school.

My kids are pretty darn picky so more often than not, they don’t like the new recipes that I try and instead I go back to what has worked in the past. Why recreate the wheel?

Here is a list of some of the lunch box items that my kids will get throughout the school year. I am not perfect. I don’t cut their crackers into duck shapes or their sandwiches into suns and moons (truth be told, my kids hate sandwiches). I strive to have a few healthy options in their box every day. I encourage them to help me pack each evening and while we disagree on what is ‘healthy’ I do believe in letting them make their own choices. I also find that if I restrict them from something, they find a way to get what they want anyway. I prefer honesty, so we compromise.

Lunch Box Ideas

  • Baked/Air-Fried Chickpeas (recipe suggestion below):  my 10 year loves these
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter (try Sunbutter if your school is peanut free or even hummus)
  • Carrot Chips: For some reason, my kids will eat the carrots in chip shape over baby carrots or sticks (also great to use as a scoop for hummus)
  • Left over pasta/noodles: Take a thermos and fill it with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes with the lid on. While that is sitting, reheat your pasta. Dump the water and add the warm pasta into the thermos and top with nutritional yeast. This will keep the noodles warm for quite a few hours.
  • Brown Rice/Tofu: Using a thermos, follow the same method listed under the Pasta/Noodles above and fill with reheated brown rice and tofu – the Tofu Teryaki Bowl from the Engine 2 Cookbook is my kid’s favorite.
  • Smoothie pouches – I’ve purchased these reusable baby food pouches and I have filled them with smoothies. I freeze them and then toss them into my 7 year’s old lunch.
  • Peanut Butter/Banana Cookies – If it’s called a cookie, for whatever reason, it’s more appetizing to kids. The cookies from the Plant-Strong book are our favorite. Containing bananas, oats and peanut butter they can be pretty filling. I will freeze these after baking and grab one to toss into a lunch when needed.

  • Edamame – simple, easy, nutritious (Bonus if you have an air-fryer! Air-fry frozen shelled edamame sprinkled with garlic powder at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. It is amazing).
  • Fruit – my kids are not fruit eaters (sadly) but always a healthy option for your little one’s lunch box
  • Kite Hill “Yogurt” Tubes – my kids used to beg me for those gnarly commercial yogurt tubes. These I have found are the best compromise. They do contain added sugar however so not a daily occurrence but a nice go-to item once in a while.
  • Sedona Waffles – These are found in the Engine 2 Cookbook as well. I make a batch and freeze on the weekends. Like I said, my kids don’t like bread or sandwiches but these are a great option to toss into anyone’s lunch (mine included).

Bottom-line though, if your kid eats well at home, don’t sweat the lunch box prep. I am constantly reminding myself that my kids eat a very good dinner complete with steamed broccoli every night. If their lunch box isn’t up to Pinterest standards every single day, so be it. If they are happy, healthy, active and thriving you are doing a-okay.

RECIPE: Roasted Lunch Box Chickpeas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or get you can use an air-fryer)

1 can of garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), rinsed and drained (1.5 cups)

Garlic powder, Smoked Paprika (or seasoning of choice)

I sprinkle the rinsed and drained garbanzos liberally with garlic powder and a little smoked paprika but feel free to use whatever seasonings your kids like.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chickpeas into the oven for about 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, shake the pan of beans and return to the oven for about 20 more minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, leave the chickpeas in the oven for as long as you can. I did this by accident once and discovered that this is key to getting them super crispy.

If you using an air-fryer, place the chickpeas into the air-fryer at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, shake the basket and return for another 10 minutes. You might have to do one more round to get the desired crispiness.

Store in an air-tight container on the counter for a few days. If you place them in the fridge, they will lose their crispiness.

Stay Plant-Strong!