11 Easy Lunch Ideas Middle Schoolers Can Make Themselves

Updated: May 13, 2022
These easy middle school lunch ideas are tasty and so simple that your kids can make lunch themselves!
11 easy lunch ideas your middle schoolers can make themselves
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Your tween is totally okay with grabbing an ice cream sandwich for lunch and calling it a meal. But you know better. Lunch ideas for middle schoolers should include healthy picks that your kiddo can create themselves. From big-kid bento boxes to rad roll-ups, check out our top easy-to-make, easy-to-take, and healthier-than-from-a-candy-machine lunchtime menu options for the almost-teen set!

Related: Top 10 Packable Lunches Kids Love

Middle School Lunches and Life Skills

Gone are the days when you’d fill your child’s lunchbox with kid-friendly, nutritious foods that you carefully selected as a parent. Now that your little one is a full-fledged tween, they want more than just some say in what they eat. Lunch ideas for middle schoolers should help the almost-teen to develop a sense of independence and learn life skills. 

This means you need to act as a guide and not your family’s line cook. Supervise your middle schooler and direct them in the kitchen. But let them do the meal prep themselves! Before you blink, they’ll head off to college. And if you don’t want them to live off of cold ramen and pretzel bits, use these school lunch ideas to give them a head start on culinary greatness. 

Beyond the life skills they’ll build as they choose their own school lunch ideas, your tween will also get the chance to learn about health—physical and financial. These tasty lunchbox options go above and beyond the classic PB&J, are packed with the nutrients your growing tween or teen needs, and are easier on your family budget than vending machine snacks. 

Tips to Get Tweens Involved In Making and Packing Lunches

How can you get your tween into meal prep mode? 

  • Start with a celeb chef. From Rachael Ray to Bobby Flay, there are plenty of celebrity chefs that can inspire your kiddo to create. Page through cookbooks or watch online clips that feature recipe prep from notable names.
  • Go shopping together. Hit the local grocery store for some parent-child shopping time. Help your middle schooler to select fresh, healthy picks as you steer them away from the candy, chip, and soda aisles.
  • Get creative. Make meals more interesting and encourage creativity in the kitchen. This could include using fun shapes, bold colors, or creating healthy lunch ideas that put a new spin on old-school faves.
  • Take a step back. Let your tween take charge and act as an independent middle schooler.
  • Tally the total. Help your child to learn the value of at-home meal prep. Add up the cost of each kid-friendly, kid-made meal and compare it to what they would spend at school or a restaurant. 
  • Supervise. Even though your tween is well past the little kid years, they still need adult supervision in the kitchen. 

1. Pita and Hummus Roll-Ups

Bowl of hummus with pita slices

This basic Middle Eastern wrap type of lunch is easy to make and just as easy to customize. 

What you need:

  • Pita bread
  • Hummus
  • Veggies - Such as bell peppers, cucumbers, arugula, and cherry tomatoes.

Directions: 

  1. Open the pita bread and place it on a flat surface.
  2. Smooth a layer of hummus on the pita. Choose plain hummus or go for a flavored spread.
  3. Line the hummus with layers of freshly chopped vegetables.
  4. Start at one end and roll the sandwich up. 
  5. Wrap the roll-up in foil to hold it together in your kiddo’s lunchbox or bag. 

2. Take-Along Taco

Friends holding delicious tacos on color background

The overfilled refried bean and beef recipe you use at home for your Mexican-themed Taco Tuesdays won’t stay put in your middle schooler’s lunch-time bag. Lunch recipes for middle schoolers need to travel—minus the mess. This recipe is less liquidy but equally as tasty.

What you need:

  • Taco shells
  • Whole lettuce leaves
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Zucchini, sliced 
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Grill the zucchini strips. Coat the sliced vegetable with olive oil and grill it on your stovetop. If your teen is old enough to handle this task, stand by and assist. But if your 10, 11, or 12-year-old isn’t ready to cook with heat, have them watch you demonstrate your grilling techniques. 
  2. Remove the veggie from the stove and place the strips on a plate. Sprinkle parmesan cheese lightly over the grilled zucchini for taste.
  3. Line each taco shell with a full lettuce leaf. 
  4. Fill the lettuce pocket with the grilled zucchini strips and sliced tomatoes.

3. Whole-Wheat Mozzarella Cheese Sandwiches with Pesto and Veggies 

Grilled sandwiches

Whole-grain bread is a healthy alternative to a refined (white bread) version. This sammy upgrade takes a traditional bread and cheese meal and makes it into a more modern middle schooler-ready lunch idea.

What you need:

  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Pesto
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Red bell peppers
  • Sliced black olives

Directions:

  1. Toast the whole grain bread to give it a crisp texture.
  2. Spread a thin layer of pesto on one slice. Use a traditional basil pesto or go bold with an arugula-made version.
  3. Slice the fresh mozzarella cheese and place one or two large pieces onto the pesto.
  4. Add a few sliced black olives and red bell peppers.
  5. Finish the sandwich stack with the second piece of whole-grain bread.

4. Nut Butter and Celery Stick Side 

Celery apples and peanut butter stock photo

Your growing middle schooler needs more than just wraps, roll-ups, and sandwiches. Whether you’re trying to fill a bento box or you just want your kiddo’s lunchbox to include extra sides, try this healthy lunch pick.

What you need:

  • Nut butter
  • Celery
  • Blueberries

Directions:

  1. Cut celery stalks into halves.
  2. Smooth a layer of nut butter into the celery’s trench. Go beyond the time-tested fave, peanut butter, and let your child experiment with different types of nut butter such as almond butter). 
  3. Top the simple snack with a row of fresh blueberries.

5. Quick Cranberry Chicken Salad Tortilla Wraps 

Chicken Cranberry Salad Spinach Wraps

The rotisserie chicken you have in the fridge is the perfect starter for your tween’s next healthy lunch. Forget about roasting a chicken for hours just to turn it into a salad. The store-bought rotisserie version is ready to go! Even though this quick pick uses tortillas, your middle schooler can swap out the wrap for a piece of pita bread, a large lettuce leaf, or whole-wheat bread.

What you need:

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • A rotisserie chicken
  • Mayo
  • Dried cranberries
  • Celery 
  • Almond slivers

Directions:

  1. Slice the chicken into strips or cubes. You may need to help your middle schooler with this part.
  2. Place the chicken into a mixing bowl and add the mayo. The number of spoonfuls your kiddo wants to add depends on how creamy (or not creamy) they want to make the chicken salad.
  3. Mix in the dried cranberries, cut celery bits, and almonds. The celery will add a crispy texture and almonds will give the chicken salad a crunchiness.
  4. Spoon the mixed salad onto the center of the tortilla, from the top to the bottom. Spread the chicken out and roll up the wrap.

Note: Chicken salad, like other meat and mayo products, requires a cool temperature. Refrigerate the wraps before you send them to school. Use a freeze-back, insulated lunchbox to keep the wrap at a reasonable temp until your tween eats lunch. 

6. Guacamole Bagel Bites 

Guacamole stock photo

What’s more fun than a big ‘ol bagel? Teeny tiny bites! Scour the bread aisle for mini-bagels (most larger grocery stores have them) and use the petite picks to make avocado-licious sandwiches.

What you need:

  • Mini bagels in any flavor
  • Ready-made guacamole
  • Large tomatoes, sliced 
  • Black beans

Directions:

  1. Slice the bagels in half. 
  2. Spread a layer of guacamole on each half.
  3. Cover the guac on one half with the black beans. 
  4. Smash the sandwich together, crushing the black beans. This creates a smooth, easy-to-eat texture.

7. Waffles and Fresh Fruit Sandwiches 

Viennese waffles, with berries, on a white table

Make breakfast for lunch and turn frozen waffles into a fun, yummy kid-friendly fruit sandwich. Up the health factor and choose a whole-grain waffle. This sweet waffle sandwich couldn’t be easier for your kiddo to make. 

What you need:

  • Frozen whole-grain waffles
  • Your child’s choice of fruit - Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apple slices, and bananas are good picks!
  • Greek yogurt or cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Toast the waffles.
  2. Place the waffles on your kitchen’s work surface and spread a layer of Greek yogurt or cream cheese onto the top of each one.
  3. Add a layer of fruit to one of the waffles. Your child can choose one fruit or mix them up. 
  4. Place the other yogurt-covered waffle face down onto the fruit to complete the sandwich.
  5. Optional: Squeeze a thin layer of maple syrup onto the fruit. Help your child to moderate the maple though. Too much adds a sugary punch. 

Note: Like some of the other healthy lunch ideas for middle schoolers, this one requires refrigeration (in other words, a cold pack and an insulated lunchbox). You can also switch up the waffle sandwich idea and swap chicken nuggets for the yogurt/cream cheese and fruit. This seemingly odd combo gives a Southern fried chicken and waffles vibe.

8. Pasta Salad with Veggies 

Pasta salad with olives and feta cheese stock photo

Boiling water is new to your kiddo. But cooking pasta is a lesson they can learn right now. Instead of plain spaghetti, choose a fun shape or green spinach, red pepper, and orange tomato pasta for this savory lunchtime treat.

What you need:

  • Pasta
  • Red, green, and yellow bell peppers
  • Chickpeas
  • Broccoli
  • Basil 
  • A lemon
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta. Cool the pasta completely before putting the salad together.
  2. Cut and cube the peppers.
  3. Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Mix one-quarter cup of olive oil with juice from the lemon. If you don’t have a juicer, cut the lemon in half and let your kiddo squeeze (just make sure to remove the seeds). Chop the basil and add it to the mix. The more basil your child uses, the stronger the flavor. They may need to experiment with the proportions of the ingredients to find a happy medium. Your middle schooler can also add a dash of pepper and a hint of garlic powder.
  5. Add the veggies to the pasta and coat with the olive oil dressing.

Note: This lunch idea also requires a chilly storage setting. If you want to add a dairy kick to the pasta salad, help your child to cut fresh mozzarella and add the cheese to the mix.

9. Trail Mix with Granola and Pretzels

Trail Mix with Granola and Pretzels 

Your kiddo craves candy. But a bag of gummies isn’t exactly a healthy part of any middle school lunch. Instead of prepackaged snacks, your tween can make their very own trail mix treat!

What you need:

  • Plain granola 
  • Thin pretzel sticks
  • Raisins 
  • Dried cranberry, apple, cherry, blueberry, or other fruit bits
  • Shredded coconut
  • Almond slices

Directions:

  1. Pour the granola into a zipper baggie.
  2. Break the pretzel sticks into pieces and add a few to the granola.
  3. Mix in the dried fruit and shredded coconut.
  4. Add almonds for extra protein.

Note: This recipe couldn’t be easier for your middle schooler to make. But they should learn how to limit their trail mix consumption. A gallon-sized baggie of the mix has too much sugar. But a partially filled sandwich-sized version is just enough for a pick-me-up snack.

10. Awesome Apple Slices Bento Box

Awesome Apple Slices Bento Box

An apple by itself is healthy—but kind of boring. Spice things up with a few fun toppers. Create a bento theme and use a partitioned lunchbox to create an apple buffet side or snack.

What you need:

  • Apples
  • Peanut butter, almond butter, or another nut butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Yogurt
  • Raisins or dried cranberries
  • Sliced bananas 

Directions:

  1. Choose a few different types of apples for this lunch idea. Slice some of the apples and cube the rest. Place each type of apple into a different compartment of the bento or lunch box.
  2. Add sliced bananas to the box (in a separate section).
  3. Fill another section with raisins or dried cranberries.
  4. Spoon yogurt and nut butter into their own compartments.
  5. Sprinkle the cinnamon lightly over the yogurt and nut butter for an extra kick of flavor. 

Note: Your middle schooler can assemble small apple sandwiches or dip the cubes into the yogurt/nut butter. They can top the apples with bananas or dried fruit. 

11. Tuna Salad Pinwheels

Tuna Salad Pinwheels

Turn up the traditional tuna salad recipe with this creative lunchtime idea. Instead of tuna and mayo, this healthier salad uses olive oil and lemon! The best part is that your middle schooler can customize the ingredients to fit their palate.

What you need:

  • 1 can chunk tuna in water
  • A whole-wheat tortilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  • Your child’s choice - Cilantro or basil
  • Optional ingredients - Arugula, cherry tomatoes, almond slivers, chopped bell peppers, sliced olives, chopped red onions, or sliced grilled veggies.

Directions:

  1. Strain the tuna and mix in the olive oil. If the tuna seems dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Juice the lemon and add the liquid to the mix. 
  3. Stir in cilantro or basil.
  4. Now it’s time for the fun part! Let your kiddo choose their fave add-ins. They can mix their choice of veggies.
  5. Spread the tuna salad onto a whole-wheat tortilla. Roll the tortilla and slice into sections to create individual pinwheels.

Note: Yes, this tuna treat also requires refrigeration. Pack this one in your child’s cool insulated lunch sack. 

Now that your tween is ready to eat, are you looking for lunch ideas for your toddler? Check out these healthy snack picks.