One of the best ways for teens to meet the energy and nutrients you need is by eating healthy lunches. In this blog post, I’ll explore some delicious and nutritious healthy lunch ideas for teens.
Whether you’re packing a healthy school lunch or eating at home, these lunch ideas are some that most kids love. Not only are these recommendations delicious but they’re also packed with the essential nutrients teens need to meet your active lifestyle.
Read on for more!
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Importance of balanced lunches for teens
Teenagers are in a phase of rapid growth and development, and the food you eat plays a vital role in supporting your overall health and energy levels. A balanced lunch contains these essential nutrients:
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy. Including complex carbs like whole grains in your lunch provides sustained energy throughout the day.
- Protein: Protein is crucial for muscle growth and repair. A lunch with adequate protein helps you build and maintain their muscle mass.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats support brain development and overall health. They also help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables: Colorful fruits and veggies provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital for their growth, recovery and overall health.
Tips for packing nutrient-rich healthy lunch ideas for teens
Use bento boxes or divided containers
For days when you’re packing a lunch for school, use bento boxes or containers with compartments. These make it easy to include a variety of foods in your lunch with mix and match options, ensuring a well-rounded meal.
Meal prep ahead for convenience
Save time by prepping ingredients in advance. Wash and chop veggies, cook grains and marinate proteins on the weekends to streamline the lunch-making process.
A little bit of meal prep can go a long way to making sure you have the foods you need at your fingertips.
Engage teens in planning
Engage in planning and preparing your lunches. When you have a say in what you eat, you’re more likely to enjoy and finish your meals. You can use our grocery list for a good place to start with planning and trying some new foods.
Easy and nutrient-packed healthy lunch ideas for teens
We’ve included some ideas for main meals for healthy lunches. Mix and match your favorite fruits and veggies as sides. You may also want to toss in a granola bar or fig bar as well to double as a healthy snack or dessert.
Turkey and avocado wraps
Start with whole-grain wraps as the base. Spread a layer of mashed avocado, which is rich in healthy fats and fiber. Add lean turkey slices for protein and top with crunchy veggies like lettuce, tomato, and cucumber.
Roll it up and cut into bite-sized pieces for easy handling.
Quinoa salad with chickpeas
Quinoa is a superfood packed with protein, fiber and essential minerals. Mix cooked quinoa with chickpeas for an extra protein boost. Add chopped vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and cucumbers.
Drizzle with a light vinaigrette dressing for added flavor.
Veggie-packed pasta salad
Choose whole-grain pasta and toss it with a variety of colorful vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers. Add some diced grilled chicken or tofu for protein. Finish with a light Italian dressing or pesto sauce.
Peanut butter and banana sandwich
A classic sandwich with a twist! Use whole-grain bread and spread natural peanut butter on one side. Slice bananas and place them on the peanut butter. You can also drizzle a touch of honey for sweetness.
It’s a perfect combination of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates.
Rice and bean burrito bowl
Prepare a burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, grilled chicken or tofu, and a variety of toppings such as salsa, shredded cheese, and avocado. It’s a balanced meal that offers a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
Chicken and veggie stir-fry
Stir-fries are a great way to incorporate colorful vegetables and lean protein into a meal. Use boneless, skinless chicken breast or tofu, and stir-fry with an assortment of veggies like bell peppers, broccoli, and snap peas. Season with a flavorful sauce and serve over brown rice.
Tuna and avocado salad
Combine canned tuna (packed in water) with diced avocado, red onion, and a squeeze of lemon juice. This makes for a creamy and protein-rich salad that’s loaded with healthy fats and flavor. Serve it on whole-grain bread or as a wrap and add a side of fresh fruit.
Fill a whole-grain wrap with grilled chicken or falafel, cucumber, tomato, red onion, and a dollop of tzatziki sauce. This wrap is bursting with flavor and offers a mix of protein, veggies and healthy fats.
Couscous and veggie salad
Toss cooked couscous with a mix of colorful diced vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and diced cucumber. Season with lemon vinaigrette and fresh herbs for a light and refreshing salad.
Make homemade sushi rolls with brown rice, avocado, cucumber, and your teen’s choice of protein like cooked shrimp or smoked salmon. Include soy sauce and pickled ginger for dipping.
Fill whole-grain tortillas with sautéed bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. Add a sprinkle of shredded cheese and fold in half. Cook until crispy and serve with salsa.
Hummus and turkey pita pocket
Stuff whole-wheat pita pockets with hummus, lean turkey slices, spinach, feta cheese and sliced bell peppers. It’s a quick and nutritious sandwich alternative.
Stuffed sweet potatoes
Bake sweet potatoes until tender, then stuff them with black beans, diced avocado and a sprinkle of feta cheese. This dish provides complex carbs fiber and healthy fats.
Quinoa and black bean bowl
Combine cooked quinoa with black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, guacamole and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt or salsa for added flavor and a calcium boost.
Egg salad sandwich
Make a healthier version of egg salad using Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Spread it on whole-grain bread and add lettuce and tomato for a protein-packed sandwich.
Tofu or chicken teriyaki bowl
Cook tofu or chicken in teriyaki sauce and serve over brown rice. Add steamed broccoli, carrots, and snap peas for a balanced and flavorful meal.
Grilled cheese sandwich
Enjoy a classic grilled cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with your choice of either a fresh fruit salad or a crisp garden salad.
Healthy lunch ideas – mini meals
Greek yogurt parfait
Greek yogurt is high in protein and calcium, making it an excellent choice for teen lunches. Layer it with fresh berries, honey and granola for added texture and flavor. This parfait is not only delicious but also provides essential nutrients for growth.
Sometimes you’re looking for a smaller balanced mini meal or a side to round out your lunch and we have some teen favorites that pair well with any lunch.
Colorful fruit salad
Create a vibrant fruit salad using a variety of fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, mango, kiwi, and oranges. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped nuts for added texture and nutrients.
Hummus and veggie bento
Pack a container of hummus and an assortment of sliced veggies like carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers. Also, adding a side of pita bread triangles to dip in the hummus for a satisfying and nutritious snack.
Caprese salad skewers
Thread fresh mini mozzarella balls, ripe tomatoes and basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and olive oil for a refreshing salad that’s rich in vitamins and healthy fats.
When it comes to feeding active teens, the key is to provide balanced meals that are both delicious and nutritious.
These lunch ideas not only cater to many taste preferences but also offer the essential nutrients they need for growth and energy.
Experiment with these recipes and adjust them to suit your needs.
Eating a healthy lunch can go a long way in supporting your overall well-being.
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.