Before you pack another PB & J for lunch, let’s talk about how these easy bento lunches can add variety to your lunch routine without much effort.
While packing a PB & J for lunch is easy and it’s one thing most kids never grow tired of, we as parents want to pack lunches that include a variety of ingredients that add nutrition to their lunchbox and, most importantly, that come together fast!
That’s why I love packing quick lunches like this – it helps me assemble a balanced meal with the variety my kids love, plus the nutrition they need with items I have on hand.
Check out this video with all my tips for packing lunches fast in the morning or the night before.
One of my favorite shortcuts is using Libby’s® Vegetable Cups. They are single-serve veggie cups that fit perfectly into a lunchbox, making them convenient for getting more veggies into your kids’ meals. My kids love them because they come in a cup and somehow that makes eating their vegetables more fun. Crazy, but hey, it works!
They come in a variety of options, including: Cut Green Beans, Whole Kernel Sweet Corn, Diced Carrots, Peas & Carrots, and Sweet Peas, so lunch is never boring. Sometimes, I’ll send the Whole Kernel Sweet Corn and other days the Sweet Peas or Cut Green Beans. You can send them sealed or drain the water and place the veggie cup inside the lunch container; it’s totally up to you!
My kids prefer them drained and inside the lunchbox, so having a bento box or a lunch container with compartments like this one is so helpful because it keeps the ingredients separate and “nothing touches.”
Packing the rest is a breeze; I usually mix and match proteins like deli ham, turkey, or hard-boiled eggs, plus strawberries, sliced apples or blueberries as the fruit.
Lately, my family and I have been making protein roll-ups; deli ham, turkey, or roast beef and cheese rolled up. They are an excellent way to pack in the protein and easier than making a sandwich. Plus, kids love all things hand-held.
Another great shortcut is packing all the lunches for the week, like this one, all at once! Most of the basic ingredients stay fresh for long periods of time, 3- to 5-days, so keeping a homemade lunch in the fridge is the perfect grab-and-go option for busy families.
To switch things up a bit, I sometimes add some chicken salad instead of the roll-ups, or I turn the roll-ups into a wrap or sandwich. Regardless of what the main attraction might be, the veggie cup and fruit are always sent on the side.
I will say that if you pack lunches the night before, your mornings will go a little smoother, but if not, most of these ingredients are easy to keep on hand and in the pantry for easy grab and go options in the morning.
Another reason I like to keep a variety of Libby’s® Vegetable Cups in the pantry is that they make a great side for the kids at dinner, or can even be used to make simple dishes like Easy Peasy Risotto, the ultimate cheesy, creamy comfort food!
There’s really no specific recipe for making healthy and fresh bentos in a time crunch. The trick is to have a variety of ingredients on hand that can fill all the compartments, and when in doubt, make it colorful and fun to eat.
My kids have been loving grilled cheese sandwiches for homemade school lunches. Today, they had it with grapes/strawberries, carrots/broccoli and pirates booty! Thank you so much for all the amazing recipes and cookbooks! Received your 3rd cookbook in the mail and what do you know my name is listed because of being a food tester. I have shared your books with my sister and she loves them as well!
Thank you so much for sharing my recipes!
My kids LOVE “Maseca” corn pancakes for breakfast! There gluten free too!
My kids have always liked peanut butter spread on celery sticks
My kids love Macaroni & cheese with chicken and peas. They also love carrots and ranch.
my kids love fresh fruit sliced or some canned,/packaged veggies like corn. they’re also all about the wraps. they love tortillas with turkey, sliced cheddar, ranch & a handful of romaine lettuce.
My daughter likes homemade pizza lunchables. I pack na’an bread, sauce, cheese and pepperonis and she assembles them her way. And there’s room for apple or bell pepper slices too!
My daughter loves broccoli cheese soup in a thermos!
Our favorites are lentil or butternut squash soup, with a fruit side.
Little cherry tomatoes and cut up Babybel cheese; for adults I add a little fresh basil, too.
Wraps or mini omelets!…and when I’m on top of it, for cooked veggies, I keep 2 different kinds in the fridge to allow for choice!
My kids love pizza so we hide some spinach between the sauce and cheese, then top with more veggies and other toppings. They don’t even notice the spinach! We always make mini pizzas and they are a hit in the lunch box the following day too.
My little one just loves lunch meat or chicken with cubed cheese, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers!
My kids prefer bento style lunches with small potions of a variety of things. We always include veggies- favorites are ants on a log, carrots, mini bell peppers with a smear of Boursin or cream cheese, cucumber slices, and their very favorite: edamame pods.
Muffins with banana, applesauce and SPINACH!
Cucumbers & carrots cut into large matchstick size and sliced green bell pepper are lunch box faves. Zucchini or carrot muffins also sometimes make it into the school lunches if they haven’t all been esten by then.
Hard to pick just one – hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks is very popular with my boys. Homemade Mac ad cheese with a side of peas is always a hit as well.
I make taco salad on the weekend so the kids can have a hot lunch on Monday…they love that stuff and I add all of the veggies for the taco salad in a different container and chips in a baggie and they come home singing my praises!!! How super easy!
I’ve done carrots,celery and a dip,cheese and crackers and ham,and yougurt
If I want my kid to eat cold veggies, cucumbers are my go-to. She loves them!
I make chocolate zucchini muffins to get extra veggies in.
My daughter loves almond butter sandwiches shaped like dinosaurs and then a salad and some fruit.
My kids love snap peas, baby carrots, & mini cucumbers so those accompany most of our school lunches. Sunbutter & Jelly roll-ups or skewers with blueberries and deli meat always seem to go over well.
I have started doing wraps with protein and veggies. It’s a change up for my son and makes it more interesting than the standard 2 pieces of bread sandwich!
My daughter is 10 and packs her own lunch usually ham sandwich with lettuce or pasta salad, celery/carrots/broccoli, pickled okra and a fruit of strawberries or grapes. Her mid-day school snack is usually banana or grapes. My picky 14 yr old son, PB & J everyday for years and won’t change. He text me from school when I put in grapes asking me why I put them in his lunch but he did eat them lol.
My kids’ lunch always includes veggies. They love green peas, green beans, and carrots and peppers and broccoli with homemade ranch.
Meat and cheese roll ups, baby carrots and, fresh fruit, simple quick and they love it, thanks for the chance to win.
My kids love soups in a small thermos! And Ive used your tips for keeping them hot and they work great!! Thank you!!
Mac and cheese with peas or little cauliflower pieces!
Meatballs with veggies in the sauce!
We are trying a new plan this year by using leftovers from dinner as lunches the next day. While even I enjoy a good PB&J every now and then, we are all tired of the PB&J rut!
My kindergartner is still eating what we call squeezies, pouches of fruit and veggie purée for babies and toddlers, but hey, talk about convenient and it’s the only way he’ll eat veggies, besides corn. So I’m inspired to try corn cups but I cringe at the plastic waste involved. Laura, I know how tough and time consuming it can be, but please consider the environmental impacts of your food recommendations, and please consider not recommending foods that are overly packaged or sealed in plastic. It’s a health consideration too!
I love to make my every can veggie soup! Its a can of (please note nothing is drained all of it is in the juices) corn, green beans, peas beans and two cans of tomato products with a pound of hamburger meat. So yummy and filling! I love all of the bento boxes your insta is #GOALS!
My boys love egg salad. Our school is very restrictive on what is allowed and eggs are an easy allowed protein!
Our favorite back to school lunch is chicken pasta salad with peas, cut up baby carrots and sometimes dried cranberries.
My son loves to have what we call mini sandwiches, crackers, cheese, chicken deli meat, and Turkey pepperoni with a side of fruit and baby carrots. I also usually send a Juice in the Box container (which I love!) with herbal tea in it.
I love these lunch boxes, and adding corn cups would be a great addition! I hadn’t seen those before <3
My DD also loves meat and cheese rollups.
My kids love homemade lunchables with carrot stick and ranch. These lunchboxes are the best!
We love packing the ham roll ups and of course hummus and cherry tomatoes. I think my daughter could live on those!
my girls love wraps with thin sliced veggies wrapped in pita or tortilla and hummus
I recently discovered a recipe that is great for jazzing up lunchboxes. It’s buffalo chicken with tortilla chips (or kettle cooked chips), with chopped celery, blue cheese, pico de Gallo, and avocado dressing on top. ~Chrissy
This sounds AMAZING!!
I have a thing for buffalo also!!!
I have one child that begs to take the left over rice to school. He loves black beans and cheese with it. I also add in his favorite carrots with peanut butter.
My sunshine’s favorite is hummus, cucumbers with skin off, mini colored peppers loves the yellow and orange, pita bread, pear/mangoe/pineapple fruit cup .with a thermos of cold water.
My kids love the old traditional ants on a log. I also throw in veggies as part of a pasta dish (they love anything served in a small thermos). I’ve also made them smoothies with spinach then frozen them in silicone popsicle molds. They can be messy but the kids enjoy them.
Carolina De Zan
One of my kids’ favorites is a couscous salad I make with pearl couscous, corn, diced cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, sliced black olives, feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I pack it with a a side of sugar snap peas and fruit.
Carolina De Zan
My kids really like a couscous salad I make with pearl couscous, diced cucumbers, red onions, and tomatoes, black olives, corn, feta cheese and a balsamic vinegrette. I pack it with a side of sugar snap peas, and fruit.
Kelli K Tanguay
My kids love sliced cucumbers with ranch to dip, and then they love mac and cheese cold (i know, gross to me but they like it) so they get cold mac and cheese and an apple or pear.
You can hide almost anything in a smoothie! That’s my strategy!
My daughter loves those mini sweet peppers! We cut them up (or not) and she just munches away. Another fave in her lunch is cucumber slices. She isn’t really a *dipper* so we skip the dressing but I LOVE Southwest veggie dip (in the refrigerated section by bagged lettuce 😉 )
Yesenia Maria Delafuente
ham and bacon with cream cheese pin wheels, with cucumbers and carrot sticks and Ranch dip. Are my kids fave.
My kids love cut up veggies in their lunch, carrots, sweet peppers, cucumber, even broccoli!
My kids love steamable mixed vegetables with chicken tenders.
My son likes to pack his own lunch, and the bento style containers help to ensure he has a balanced meal. He does love his pb&j, but varies his sides. Hard boiled eggs are a favorite. I like the veggie cup idea!
We like to do homemade lunchables with carrot sticks and ranch. My 12 year old packs salad with lunch meat on top. I love these lunch containers! They make packing lunches so easy!
I always try to have some sort of veggies in my boys lunch boxes, and the rule is they have to eat them before they get their sweet treat. It’s been working so nicely so far!
I can sneak in ton of vegetables in a red sauce pasta dish which the kids will gobble ip.
I love packing my son cucumbers, adding different lettuce to his sandwiches (I need to try making the roll ups or maybe use romaine as an outer wrap? 🙂 ). I like the idea of using a veggie cup too. Adds some more variety. I’m hoping to eventually get my kiddo to eat warm soup out of a thermos. Baby steps here! This is progress, not perfection 🙂
My kids love to pack their own lunch. We use raw veggies from our garden or CSA farm box. One favorite is a garden pita sandwich with hummus.
My daughter loves an easy to make, mini “caprese salad” with mini mozzarella balls, basil and grape tomato and balsamic. Other times, we’ll make a nori wrap, with sushi rice carrots and cucumber and tofu or salmon or egg.
My favorite back to school lunch is pulled pork sandwich with cucumber slices with cheese! It’s easy since you’re using leftover from the night before and all you do is pack the pork, cucumber slices, and cheese in a container, put a hamburger bun in a sandwich bag 🙂
We love tortilla wraps with ham, cheese, cucumbers and carrots inside. Nothing special but easy and they don’t get soggy.
My kids love fresh cut peppers, mini tomatoes, Cukes and ranch with a toasted sandwich or wrap.
All time favorite is cheese sticks, blueberries, turkey roll ups on wheat wraps with lettuce and sometimes pita chips!
We recently tried sweet potato & black bean tamale in a thermos. I steamed the frozen tamale in ther microwave steamer and put it straight into the warmed thermos. I foresee more trips to the tamale man as that’s a big change from a cheese sandwich and mini cucumbers!
Homemade soup , such as chicken and noodles that include vegetables. The enjoy a hot lunch once in a while
Angela J Jones
My daughters’ new favorite is hummus with pita bread stuffed with veggies.
My kids like simple veggie dippers – carrots, cucumbers, celery with a small side of ranch or hummus. Easy!
Not even a recipe but my kids LOVE snacking on fresh veggies. Especially bell peppers!
My favorite veggie is super easy-I give them raw assorted veggies with either homemade hummus or homemade ranch to dip. They love dipping and I can get some veggies in them.
My kids love the chicken nuggets. Warm or cold they just love them. I have to hide veggies in other foods for my 8 year old, but the teenager will take carrots or veggies straws in his lunch.
My kids love baby carrot with a mini hummus cup!
Quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, arugula, balsamic vinaigrette. And feta cheese.
My kids favorite is a taco salad with grape tomatoes and olives in a homemade vinaigrette dressing.
Carrots with a ranch dip are the only veggies my kids will eat at lunch.
Our fav school lunch is a sandwich kabob using tomato, cucumber, turkey, cheese & some carrots on the side of the kabob.
Zucchini muffins and mini cucumbers.
Our favorite veggies in our packed lunches are cucumbers, carrots, celery, and broccoli with hummus to dip in… they are especially happy if it happens to be chocolate hummus which I surprise them with every now and then!
Veggie fried rice! Sometimes it has protein in it like cut up pork chops or it just stands on its own. My son loves it and it fills him up.
13 year olds eat a lot!
Hard boiled eggs, hummus, carrot or cucumbers and crackers. Always a water bottle.
My girls love muffins, and they’ll knowingly eat things like spinach, zuchinni, and pumpkin flavored muffins they won’t eat cooked another way. They fit easily in a lunchbox, and an even easier way to get an extra serving of veggies in.
My daughter loves a hummus “platter” in her lunch. I pack all sorts of things she can dip in her hummus….pita chips, carrots, cucumbers, bell pepper strips. She loves it and we also use different types of hummus like red pepper hummus, black bean hummus, and cucumber hummus.
A new fav is vegan tuna salad with whole grain crackers. Mmmmmm!
I don’t have kids yet but planning for them in the near future! I personally love ham and cheese roll ups with carrots and ranch on the side!
Indus love cucumber and hummus sandwiches.
I wouldn’t call it a recipe, but baby carrots or cherry tomatoes are always a win.
Nothing better than supplementing lunch with a side of raw veggies – carrots, peppers with dip.
My kids fave veggie for lunch is celery with cream cheese – a healthy crunchy snack!
DIY lunchables – I bought cookie cutters (and I don’t bake cookies!) to make fun shapes for ham and turkey and cheese, add some whole wheat crackers with side of cucumbers, carrots and ranch. Perfect lunch!
Our favorite back to school lunch is mini cucumber and grape tomato, ham and cheese lettuce roll ups, fruit cup, and a bottle of water
My 4-yo loves these veggie cups. I like to send them with half a sandwich and fruit or hummus.
I love this idea of just wrapping ham and berries and sending some of these veggie cups. I added them to my grocery list. I’ll let you know how it goes!
i like to send leftovers so I don’t have to think about what to make. I take your advice and skip a day.
Great lunch ideas! my favorite are your miniquiches. I throw some peas in there too.
My favorite lunches are these bento type lunches. I just bought the corn cups for lunches, great idea!
I make a pb&j for my son every day -he won’t eat anything else at school- but he loves these veggie cups! I discovered them last year in another post you shared and I’ve been adding them to his lunch every day. Thank you Laura
My daughter likes to make her own lunch every night. She usually includes carrots and hummus or she will make a green salad with black beans and corn!
Street taco sized tortillas with turkey, salami, cucumber and red peppers. on the side sliced apple with PB & either green beans or a cheese stick. She’s been in scho 4 days and has other kids asking her if they can have some (pre-k)
Our kids are allowed to have a snack at “break” time at school, so we usually give them carrots or celery and a small container of ranch. They also have a snack cake for their dessert, but I suspect that is also eaten at break!!!!
That’s terrific Tim!
Our favorite back to school recipe with veg is actually carrot and oat muffins or zucchini brownies, both taste like treat but have a lot of veg packed in
My favorite is Hummus Mini-Pita Pockets with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
Hi Cheryl! You’re the winner of our Back to School giveaway! Congrats. Check your email for details. Laura
Thank you Laura! We look forward to using the back to school prize pack.
I love to give my kids a thermos of hot food with a veggie side. Their favorite is tomato cucumber salad!