Finding easy, healthy lunches for kids that they’ll like (and you don’t hate yourself) is like The Incredibles; once discovered, it’s living on repeat in your house, especially if they don’t take more than a few minutes to make. That feeling has never been more intense than during today’s current COVID-19 crisis, where families are sheltering in place and now making everyone’s meals from home every single day—on top of managing their full-time work, facilitating remote schooling for their kids, and ensuring everyone stays safe and healthy.
Here, registered dietitians—all of whom are also parents and totally feeling the home-schooling stress right now—share the healthy lunch ideas they rely on to feed both themselves and their kids. Every meal on this list is full of nutrients that will provide enough energy to last until dinner, or at least nap time (yes, yours too).
6 easy, healthy lunches for kids and adults that everyone will love
1. Flour tortillas with smashed avocado and chickpeas
“Wraps are fun, easy and healthy lunch creations that people of all ages love,” registered dietitian Talitha Ellsworth, RD says. Just take a flour tortilla (or a gluten-free wrap if desired) and smear it with smashed avocado or pre-made guacamole, then add some rinsed canned chickpeas or pre-roasted chickpeas, then roll up and enjoy. Cutting the wraps down into sushi-sized bites is fun for kids because they can eat it with their hands, while you can nosh on a traditional sized wrap. Plus, the chickpeas provide lots of plant-based protein and fiber to keep everyone full and energized through the rest of the day.
2. baked potatoes
“Setting up a baked potato bar allows each family member to individualize their own meal,” Ellsworth says, of another lunch she makes for her fam regularly. Just stick the potatoes in the oven at 425°F an hour before lunchtime and it’s really the only prep work needed. To add protein to your lunch, use black beans, Greek yogurt, or tofu crumbles as toppings.
3. Fruit, cheese, and meat skewers
Registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, RD has a smart solution to get kids to eat foods they might not normally: Put them on a stick. “For picky little ones, it’s fun to make fruit and cheese skewers using halved grapes, strawberries, cubed pears, and a mild cheese like mozzarella or manchego,” she says. You can supplement with your own favorite cheeses, fruits, and chopped vegetables to make a more grown-up, portable cheese plate.
4. taco bowls
“Taco bowls made with lean ground beef, brown rice, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and cheese are a lunch favorite in our house lately,” registered dietitian Carolyn Williams, RD, PhD, says. “I love it because I can prep all the ingredients ahead to reheat before lunch, but also because lean ground beef is a great source of iron and B vitamins. This pairs perfectly with rice’s complex carbs and fiber, plus all the nutrients in cheese and vegetables to create a super-easy balanced meal.” With just a few minutes of prep, you have a perfectly balanced midday meal no cafeteria can rival.
5. chickpeas and noodles
Noodles is one of those foods you just don’t outgrow. Green Chef registered dietitian Gabby Geerts, RD, says lately she’s been pairing them with chickpeas because the bulk of her cooking is pantry-focused right now. (Amen, girl.) “Roast the chickpeas for about 15 minutes at 425°F for a crunchy protein topper,” she says. “Flavor with cumin and paprika for a warm, comforting meal full of plant protein and fiber.”
Check out the video below to see why chickpeas are so good for you:
6. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
Peanut butter and banana is a timeless classic duo, no matter if you’re 4 or 40. Persona Nutrition medical board member and registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, RD, loves it for the protein, B vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. She likes to pair it with a serving of blueberries on the side for an easy-to-eat finger food bursting with benefits.