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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Ann Arbor, MI!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

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Back-to-School Lunchbox Makeover: 5 Quick and Healthy Lunch Recipes

What’s in your lunchbox?

When I was a kid, it was standard, dependable: some sort of sandwich – usually PB&J on wheat, a fruit – usually an apple or banana, some veggies – usually carrot sticks, and a drink – usually boxed juice. Of course I didn’t make any of it, since my mom packed my lunch.

When I went to college and then started working, my lunch became all over the place: oatmeal one day, deli sandwiches the next. And frankly it was a challenge to find healthy options every day when someone (my mom) wasn’t packing my lunch for me!

Whether you’re making your own lunch (to take to work or class), or looking for something your kids will eat now that school is back in session, I’m sure everyone faces challenges when trying to come up with healthy options for your afternoon meal. Something that will keep you full (so you don’t end up with a candy bar in your hand at 3pm), and something that super fast and doesn’t require much cooking or prep time.

Enter: my lunchbox makeover – 5 quick and easy lunch ideas that are tasty, good for you, and that kids will love!

. . .

Makeover #1: Make a Sandwich

But not any kind of sandwich, a delicious sandwich that’s packed with flavor!

If you’re a savory person, try this Sprouted Grain Sandwich with Hummus and Avocado

It will literally take you less than five minutes to make. Toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread (like the kind from Ezekiel), top with 2 Tbsp hummus, 1 slice avocado, a couple slices of tomato, red onion, sprouts, and a super thin slice of swiss cheese (optional).

If you’re someone with a sweet tooth, try this twist on a Peanut Butter Sandwich (this is one that kids just can’t get enough of either).

You don’t even have to use peanut butter – you can use almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter, and any combination of toppings: bananas, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, apples, honey, etc! Here is the recipe for my favorite combination, but the possibilities are endless.

. . .

Makeover #2: Make a Salad

You can pretty much do anything you want with a salad. But there are a few rules to keep in mind to make sure it’s healthy:

  • Avoid toppings like too much cheese (more than 2 Tbsp is too much), croutons, and dressing
  • To season your salad, use salt & pepper – they do wonders for flavor, and 2 tsp olive oil with 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • For protein, add a hardboiled egg (use more of the whites vs. the yolks), beans, or 1 Tbsp nuts
  • Use as many veggies as you like! Just avoid any that are already pre-cooked or pre-seasoned/dressed

Here is one salad recipe that I love, and here’s a twist on a salad from CookingLight that is delish, but feel free to mix and match as you like!

. . .

Makeover #3: Have some Soup!

If you’re on the go, there are some great pre-made / boxed soups that taste delicious. Here are two options for pre-made soups:

Imagine Organic Butternut Squash Soup (comes in a shelf-stable box)

This soup is super healthy for you, has only ~100 calories per serving, and you can dress it up so it doesn’t taste store bought! I added microgreens to make it pretty, but you can add 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, some whole wheat toast for dipping, or whole wheat crackers on top.

Option #2 is this one-pot veggie chili. Make it the night before and pack it up with some whole grain chips or toasted whole grain bread. Kids go crazy for this chili, and it’s adult-approved too 🙂

Chili

. . .

Makeover #4: Make a Healthy Burger

Veggie burgers are a great source of protein, and you can really dress them up so they don’t taste store-bought! They also hold up pretty well for lunch. Here are 5 recipes for taking your veggie burger to the next level.

. . .

Makeover #5: Throw together a Burrito Bowl

burrito bowl

This is almost a no-cook meal. All you need is the ingredients here, and you are pretty much good to go! Cooking the black beans is optional, so if you are really short on time you can always omit the cooking step. This also tastes great hot or cold, so it works well in kids’ lunchboxes if they don’t have a place to reheat it.

So there you have it – 5 ways to completely makeover your lunchbox that will leave you and your family feeling satisfied, happy and full. Enjoy!

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35 responses to “Back-to-School Lunchbox Makeover: 5 Quick and Healthy Lunch Recipes”

  1. Thanks for this, Anjali! The first one is actually my most favorite sandwich, ever (with some kettle cooked jalapeno chips on the side. :)) Also, in addition to the hummus I add pesto. It’s so flavorful my stomach is actually grumbling just thinking about it!

    • Oooh those additions sound fab 🙂 I like eating it with the Baked Kettle BBQ chips since they’re slightly more guilt-free – but I’ll have to try the jalapeno chips soon!!

  2. Makeover #1 is making my mouth water … it looks so good! There’s something about a colorful sandwich … just makes one happy to take a bite! Thank you for sharing … I can’t wait to try some of your ideas!

    • Totally agree – I try to make my meals as colorful as possible, they’re so much more fun to eat that way! Hope you enjoy these recipes when you try them! 🙂

  3. Some fantastic ideas and quick meals at that.. Nor reason that ‘Healthy’ has to take ‘longer’ to prepare. I’m going to be trying the peanut butter sandwich reinvented today.. Thank you Anjali…

  4. Thank you so much for posting these meals! I’ve been trying to make a weekly meal plan that includes a short grocery list and minimal prep/cook time. Your blog has made this really easy! Thanks again! 🙂

    • Yay!! No problem at all – I’m so glad it’s helpful! Good luck with your weekly meal plan – let me know how it goes! 🙂

  5. Thanks for these amazing recipes – and great pictures! I’m suddenly hungry at 11.23 pm!! I do healthy recipes on my website – do check out our recipes; would be great to connect!
    Cheers
    Vandana

    • Thanks Vandana! So glad you like them! I’ll be sure to check out your website too – looking forward to connecting more through our blogs!

  6. Where can I find this Ezekiel bread? I have a trader Joe’s and a sprouts near me. That ends the healthy store list.

    • Oh! Trader Joe’s has an Ezekiel bread knockoff – it’s basically the same thing – they have a whole “sprouted wheat bread” section – just look for it in the bread section (they have a ton of varieties, so just pick the one you like 🙂 ). I’m not sure if Sprouts has Ezekiel – since they’re a health food store I’d guess that they would, but Whole Foods definitely has Ezekiel. Hope that helps!

  7. thanks for the ideas…peanut butter sandwich looks like a melt in mouth…yumm…
    i have never grilled a PBJ sandwich before…now i am thinking of buying a panini press to make it goey…your pictures are really a treat :-))

    • Thanks Jyo!! And yes omg – grilled PBJ is seriously the best ever. You don’t need a panini press to make it either, you can just use a regular pan and a spatula – just flip it over when one side is done and press down with the spatula on the side facing up to make it flat and crispy! Enjoy!

    • Haha! That’s awesome – and yes! These are great lunch options for adults too 🙂 Thanks Tammy – enjoy!

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