So how's that school lunch prep thing going? If you're as out of ideas as we are, you'll love these fresh (and simple) brown-bag tactics that are kid-size versions of healthy mealtime trends, from paleo to pocket pasta to farm-to-cafeteria. We've paired each idea with a fitting piece of lunch gear, designed to keep noontime nibbles cool, safe and delish. Bite on!
Pint-sized paleo strips + dipping sauce containers
Thank you, chicken strips, for always being a crowd pleaser. This recipe for baked chicken tenders with honey-mustard dipping sauce by Allergy Free Alaska is right on board with the paleo trend (lean protein, almond flour, dairy-free) and gives kids enough energy to make it through the afternoon. Pack the dipping sauce in a stainless steel, leakproof container by LunchBots.
Veggie pizza + pizza "boxes"
And there’s no pizza cheese in sight with this veggie pizza idea by Favorite Family Recipes. Unless you count Greek cream cheese. It’s a low-fat option that gives enough creaminess to hold together a rainbow of veggies. Shortcut spotted: the pizza crust is made using low-fat crescent rolls. Pack up a few slices in pizza-shaped neoprene containers by Daisy Container Company.
Farm-to-cafeteria roll-ups + zoo lunch kit
Bring fresh ingredients back to the lunchbox with this idea for zucchini roll-ups by Shutterbean. Thinly sliced and grilled zucchini make up the “roll” for a tasty filling of fresh spinach, basil, lemon, and goat cheese. Substitute cream cheese or mozzarella for those less adventurous tikes. Now that we’re thinking about it, this recipe would have a great first life as dinner for the family; leftovers later. Pack ‘em up in a cute zoo lunch kit by Skip Hop.
Super-toast + sammy containers
Every time we pin, tweet, or like some current foodie post lately, it seems like a fancy version of toast is usually involved. Just experiment with a search for “fancy toast” to see what you find. Proscuitto, pears, hummus, and grapes for the win. We love the idea of using avocados and tomatoes like in this recipe by Tastes Better From Scratch to build a superfood lunch for the kids. Pack up some open-faced creations in these perfectly sized sammy containers by Fit Fresh.
Pocket pasta + eco lunch bags
Plain Chicken succeeds in making spaghetti even more of a family favorite by making it cuter and portable with a recipe for mini spaghetti pies made in a muffin tin. And if you’re keeping up with trends, spirally, curly veggies are here to stay — try substituting spaghetti squash for noodles in this recipe. Then get ready to stand by your belief that squash guts are “just as good” as pasta. Dabbawalla’s line of washable lunch bags will last through a school years’ worth of spaghetti spills.
Skinny tuna salad + fun ice packs
There are so many things going right with this tuna salad recipe by The Yooper Girl, like yogurt, apples, and pita pockets! It all adds up to a lighter version of a lunch favorite that’s great for kids on the go. Worried about keeping the mix cool? Kids Konserve’s line of ice packs and colorful sleeves will help. Great for groceries and boo-boos, too!
Quinoa salad + collapsable containers
If you’ve ever tried cooking the stuff, you might have at least one disaster tale to tell. Thank goodness Bless This Mess is here to help us fluff and dress a quinoa salad to perfection. A grain high in protein, quinoa is a great make-ahead lunch option for the whole family. A good dressing is “just the ticket” according to mom Melissa. We can’t wait to try her lemon-oregano creation. Smart Planet’s collapsable containers are begging to be packed to the brim.
Cauliflower bites + quad containers
Why is it that anything in the shape of a nugget gets instant trust from kids? These cauliflower bites by Momables barely look like veggies, and they’re gluten free! Not to mention, low-calorie, and full of vitamins C and K, antioxidants, and fiber. Bring the small-plates trend to the lunch room with these, plus a few other kid appetizers packed in a LunchBots quad container.
Savory sliders + hot/cold box
Just in time for fall, this recipe for grilled cheese and tomato sliders by Averie Cooks comes along and makes us want to dunk and dip all day. Plus, petite foods just taste better. We also love the dual hot/cold OmieBox with adjustable compartments and a removable container for soups. The idea started as a Kickstarter campaign to create “a smarter lunchbox.”
DIY Mason jar lunch gear
On par with all the clever products out there for packing lunch smart and stylishly, Say Not Sweet Anne shares a lunch container DIY that you’ll want to bookmark. Using two small mason jars with connector rings and lids (and a quick soldering lesson) you can put together a dual jar to hold endless combinations of lunch surprises. Yogurt and granola? Cheese and crackers? Milk and cookies?