Back-to-school often means back-to-stress for many busy parents. Among the rush of new schedules, back-to-school shopping, sports practice, parent-teacher meetings, and other events, there’s one looming daily task that drains even the savviest of parents: filing your child’s lunch box.
Preparing a healthy lunch for your child to enjoy every day doesn’t have to be a burden when you understand how to master meal prep! Here, we’ll share a few tips to make school lunches a breeze with meal prep, as well as some easy recipes to get you started.
Tips for Stress-Free School Lunch Meal Prep
#1 - Set yourself up for success with smart preparation
The secret to meal prep success is a smart game plan. This will vary from family to family. For most people, setting aside a few hours on the weekend to shop and prep your meals is the easiest way to get ahead with school lunches. Batching is the most economical method – in both time and money – so try to plan to make at least one whole week (or even a month) of meal prep dishes in one go.
You will also need the right supplies to make meal prepping easy. Get enough lunch containers to make storing each lunch easy and safe. Airtight glass containers tend to be the best option as they don’t leech the harmful chemicals into foods that plastic containers do.
#2 - Focus on easy make-ahead recipes that last all week
Meal prep is easiest when you can make the bulk of your child’s lunches in one batch on the weekend. For that reason, meals like salads and sandwiches aren’t always the best choice as they tend to get soggy or wilt when they have been prepped ahead. Instead, focus on high-protein foods that you can make in big batches and that last well in the fridge for several days:
#3 - Make your weeknight dinners work overtime
You can kill two birds with one stone when you repurpose weeknight dinner recipes into delicious lunches. When planning your dinner menu for the week, try to include a few dishes that could easily be repurposed into a lunch wrap, pasta, or soup.
For instance, a Sunday roast chicken dinner quickly becomes a Mexican-style chicken wrap for lunch – just add some taco seasoning, avocado, tomato, and black beans. Feel free to get creative with what you have on hand, and try to make this extra lunch while you’re cooking dinner to save time later.
#4 - Make the freezer your friend
When it comes to meal prep, doing big batches with similar ingredients makes the process smoother, saves time, and reduces waste. The problem is, you can only keep so many lunches ready to go in your fridge at a time before they start to go bad. And, if your child is like most kids, they won’t want to have the same thing for lunch five days in a row.
This is where your freezer becomes your best friend! In one day, you could create a month’s worth of nutritious school lunches by prepping 5 different recipes with 4 portions each (or more if you have more than one school lunch box to fill). This makes lunch for every day of the week for one month, all in a day’s work.
Simply pull out a prepared lunch to defrost in the fridge the night before, pack it into your child’s lunch box, and send them on their way! Here are a few ideas that work well when freezing:
- Veggie fajita wraps
- Veggie-packed chicken meatballs with quinoa
- Vegan spinach and artichoke hand pies
- Falafels with blanched green beans and carrots
Mix up the recipes each month to make use of the best seasonal veggies at the time and keep their palate interested.
#5 - Prep healthy versions of your kid’s favorite classics
If your child loves lunch box classics like PB&J, turkey sandwiches, or cookies, meal prep is relatively fast and easy. But what if you want to send your child to school with healthier options that don’t leave them with a sugar crash and brain fog? The good news is that you can make healthier versions of their favorites without extra time or hassle:
- Instead of peanut butter jelly, try almond butter and chia seed jam.
- Instead of mac and cheese, try asparagus pasta.
- Instead of a processed turkey sandwich, try turkey egg bites.
- Instead of sugary cookies, try Dr. Danielle’s 3-ingredient cookies.
#6 -Work supplements into your lunches – seamlessly.
Did you know that including supplements into your child’s lunch can help improve their nutrition with little extra effort on your part? Here are two super simple supplements to add to your child’s meal-prepped lunches that they will love:
GutAssist is a delicious whole foods-based supplement that dissolves into water, juice, or your favorite smoothie. This supplement protects the mucosal lining of the GI tract which leads to better digestion, better focus, and more balanced moods. Adding this to your child’s lunch transforms simple water into a gut-healing superfood with zero extra effort on your part! Get it in original, orange, or berry flavor.
Getting your kids to take their vitamins won’t be a problem with these yummy natural strawberry gummies. Vitamin D3 is essential for brain health and healthy bone development, and B12 is well-known for increasing energy and focus. These gummies deliver the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D3 + B12 – two vitamins that can be hard to obtain through diet alone – especially if your child is vegetarian or vegan.
Easy Healthy Recipes that are Perfect for Make-Ahead School Lunches
Finger foods are great for younger kids who haven’t quite mastered silverware. These rice balls are a great choice over cold cuts or granola bars – they contain a balanced ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and proteins (as well as B Vitamins) to boost brain power, energy, and satiety.
Tip: make a big batch of these rice balls and freeze the extras. Then, simply defrost in the fridge the night before.
This recipe is as simple as prepping the chickpeas, laying them out on a baking sheet, and roasting them while you prepare your other meals. It’s a delicious and protein-packed snack that beats potato chips every time. Or, sprinkle them into salads or wraps for an extra crunch.
Skip the lousy ham and cheese sandwiches for an easy make-ahead alternative that is healthy and way more delicious. These ham and cheese bites are a high-protein, gluten-free, vegan-friendly recipe that kids and adults love.
Like our rice balls, these bites are a great recipe to double (or even triple) and freeze the extras for even easier lunches in the future.
Healthy Lunches Make Healthy Kids!
There are so many benefits to meal prepping your child’s lunches. This process takes a bit of planning ahead but will save you tons of time and energy throughout the week. It also tends to save you time and money at the grocery store.
But, the best benefit of all is that your child will go to school every day with a thoughtful, wholesome meal to fuel their growing mind and body.
They’ll get even more health benefits when you supplement their lunches with easy-to-take gummy vitamins and gut-boosting flavored water or smoothies. Learn more about these and our other kid-friendly supplements here!