A taste of the healthiest lunches perfect for in-person learning

April 3, 2021

During the morning rushes to finish some last-minute homework, eat breakfast and gather your backpack, it is easy to dread the question, “What am I going to pack for lunch today?” To avoid this, here are a few recipes that are both healthy and easy to make amidst the morning chaos or the evening before. Because coming up with simple, nutritious and appetizing foods to bring to school can be a difficult task, these four lunches offer ideas that can be altered depending on your preferences. 

One of the first things that came to mind when posing the quintessential lunch question was the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As a treat many grew up with, a PB and J sandwich is always enjoyable. The balance between the sugar in the jelly and the peanut butter’s salty taste is satisfying and easy to whip up when in a rush. If you’re looking to spice up the recipe, you can also toast the bread, replace the peanut butter for almond butter, cut raspberries in half as a substitute for jelly, use sweet cinnamon bread or drizzle some honey on top.

Offering a balance of sweet and salty, the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich was delicious — especially after a long morning of classes.

Knowing PB and J can get boring, it is also critical to have another sandwich option at hand. With more protein and vegetables, a turkey sandwich is a classic savory option. 

Compared to the PB and J’s cost of $9.24, the total cost for the turkey’s ingredients from Walmart (with which you can make multiple sandwiches) was more pricey at $20.29. Although more expensive, the fresh additions of tomato, onion, avocado and lettuce make it worthwhile. Both of these tasty sandwich recipes are straightforward and can be topped off by adding a side of pretzels and fruit, specifically strawberries and blueberries. Also, keep in mind that both sandwiches can be easily squashed in your backpack, so the best way to transport this meal is to put it in a container rather than in a plastic bag. 

A cheese quesadilla with a side of tortilla chips and homemade guacamole is another uncomplicated dish to prepare. You can also add chicken or steak to the quesadilla for some protein. This meal did not disappoint with the guacamole’s lively flavors to offset the salty chips and quesadilla’s cheesy texture. However, the quesadilla does not stay warm if brought to school unless brought in a thermos. Despite this, it was still appetizing because of the fresh guacamole and wasn’t too pricey, costing $8.97 for the ingredients from Woodlands Market. While the cooking time was longer than for the sandwiches, the quesadilla and guacamole did not take more than 20 minutes to make. It was ultimately well worth the effort, mainly because the quesadilla and guacamole could easily be packed using separate metal containers. Consider including pineapple as a side for some added sweetness. 

Adding a bit of a kick, the spicy hummus compliments the vegetables’ taste well.

Hummus with pita bread, red peppers, celery and carrots is the most practical meal, as it has a total price of $8.63 from Whole Foods and is simple to make and pack: the ingredients can be thrown in a bag and be ready to go in a couple of minutes. To add a subtle kick to this recipe, substitute normal hummus for spicy hummus, which complements the vegetables and pita bread’s mild taste. The only drawback was that this meal wasn’t quite filling enough, so include a side of crackers, such as Wheat Thins, and blackberries to finish it off.

Lastly, as a healthier version of Lunchables, a combination of salami, crackers, cucumbers and cheddar cheese create a hearty meal. Similar to the hummus, this lunch is relatively cheap (with a total cost of $10.26 from Whole Foods) and simple to make and transport. The salami, cucumber and cheddar cheese can be stacked on the crackers to pack, or they can be brought as separate ingredients that are put together at lunch. This meal is also not as filling as a sandwich, so add some strawberries, blueberries and popcorn for an extra snack. Although uncomplicated, this lunch is still enjoyable after a long morning of stressful classes.

The DIY “Lunchable” does not disappoint with its simple yet flavorful ingredients.

Each of these recipes offers a delicious option while keeping your lunch on the healthy side. If you are in the mood for a lighter yet satisfactory meal, the makeshift Lunchable and hummus plate are great options. That being said, even though it takes the longest to prepare, the quesadilla with the side of guacamole and pineapple is my favorite because of its flavors. Nevertheless, you won’t be disappointed with any of these meals.

Turkey sandwich:

  • Two slices of whole wheat or white bread
  • Two tablespoons of mayonnaise 
  • Two leaves of romaine lettuce
  • Four to six ounces of turkey lunch meat
  • Half of a tomato, sliced
  • A thinly sliced red onion
  • Half of an avocado, sliced

Cheese quesadilla (with chips and guacamole):

  • Quesadilla:
    • Two flour tortillas
    • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Guacamole:
    • Two avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed
    • One lime, juiced
    • One teaspoon of salt
    • One-half cup of diced onions
    • Two Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
    • One teaspoon of minced garlic
    • Optional: three tablespoons chopped cilantro


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