School Lunch Ideas + Sweet Potato Energy Bars

It’s that time of year again… packing kids lunches (or our own) and trying not to repeat the same old recipes.  Even with the best intentions, I tend to get in a rut for L… I like sending her the things I know she’ll eat (anything nut butter related) but I also want her to get a variety of nutrients.

Here are some lunch ideas to help spark your creativity:

Roll-ups (our favorite, with endless combinations)

  • Hummus and shredded Veggies (carrot, zucchini, beet)
  • NB &B (peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter with sliced bananas)
  • Melted Cheese and Tomato
  • Black Bean + Spinach Spread +Cherry Tomatoes
  • Avocado (mashed) and shredded cheese

Finger Food Leftovers

Breakfast for Lunch

For more inspiration, check out Lindsay’s 50 Packable lunch ideas, Michelle’s School Lunch series and Lisa’s Smart Lunch box ideas.

We created a new favorite granola bar this week, using sweet potatoes, dates and nuts.  The measurements make enough to fill a bread pan, or 12-14 squares.


Sweet Potato Energy Bars (print recipe)

  • 1/2 c. oat groats (steel cut oats)
  • 1 c. walnuts, almonds or peanuts (I combined almonds and peanuts)
  • 1 1/4 c. dates (or combination of dates and raisins)
  • 1/2 c. mashed, cooked sweet potato
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt

Combine steel cut oats, nuts and dates in a food processor and combine until chopped finely.  Add sweet potato, vanilla and salt and continue to blend until the mixture is well blended and begins to pull away from the sides. 

Line a bread loaf pan with wax paper, and spread mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until done.

The steel cut oats give the bars a little crunch, and the dried fruit is sweet enough that no additional sugar is needed.  This recipe is gluten and dairy free, and an excellent project for little hands to help dump in the ingredients.  It’s also a safe batter to eat straight from the bowl.  🙂

Final tip: If do-it-yourself bars and snacks are are intimidating, remember that the freezer is your friend! Make large batches at a time and freeze the rest to have for the month.  Recipes that freeze well include muffins, granola bars, pancakes, mini-frittatas, homemade pizza dough, spanokopita triangles, homemade crackers, etc).

Thanks to Jenn, at Peas and Crayons, for the encouragement to set September goals, (like more variety in lunches!) I’m also linking up with Munchkin Meals for picnic ideas!

What are your go-to lunches?

56 thoughts on “School Lunch Ideas + Sweet Potato Energy Bars

  1. Thanks for the shout out. I was checking my email this morning and when I saw your headline “sweet potato Energy bars” I immediately checked the recipe out. I’m trying to bake something healthy for kids today after school snack. then I noticed you mentioned my blog! 🙂 Thanks again and now I’m off to check out the other bloggers lunch ideas!
    Lisa {Smart Food and Fit} recently posted..Shaved Cucumber Feta SaladMy Profile

  2. I am so boring when making lunches. Mornings go by so fast and it is just as easy to throw the same thing in their lunchbox. I am just happy they get healthy options such as fresh fruit and Chobani everyday since I know of many kids who get nothing healthy.
    Robin recently posted..Pumpkinman Half Iron Race Report 2012My Profile

  3. I love those ideas for lunch! I too am trying to avoid ruts and we’ve been migrating to doing school lunches more “bento-style” now, to keep it interesting and not boring. I am finding so many sources of new lunch ideas now and finding my child is actually eating her lunches better this way 🙂
    Christina recently posted..How to pack a healthy school lunchMy Profile

  4. All looks good but I just bought a sweet potato so I will certainly be trying these bars later today!! Thanks for the good ideas. 😉

  5. There are a ton of great ideas here! And thank you so much for including my quinoa cakes! I am so inspired to make more interesting lunches this year (but then, it is only the 2nd week of school!) 🙂 This will be a big help. Thank you!
    Candy @ Healthy In Candy Land recently posted..Fall CleanupMy Profile

  6. Wanna come pack some lunches for me? I love these ideas! My girl got leftover ravioli in her lunch today – I love when leftovers work for cold lunches. It buys me enough time to get a couple of extra sips of tea in the morning, 🙂

    Thanks for the shout out!
    Michelle {lively kitchen} recently posted..What I Ate on My BirthdayMy Profile

  7. Yum! I was reading up a little about how many calories my friend’s two year old daughter needs and it is more than I do! Those little kids really are a bundle of energy!
    Travel Spot recently posted..Tried ItMy Profile

  8. Man! I should not be on a foodie blog unless I have eaten. Is there a rule against that? There should be!

    These are great ideas for lunch. I am glad you think outside the box and share your thoughts 🙂 Sushi at home sounds so yummy.
    Raina recently posted..Good workouts.My Profile

  9. You have some great lunchbox suggestions! Right now, the girls’ school provides them a lunch and snacks during the day but next year I’ll be responsible for their lunches. A part of me is super excited about it…I love putting together meals for my family and sending them to school with a lunch of items I made with love makes me happy!
    Karen recently posted..Trying To DecideMy Profile

  10. I never thought about baking with my steel cut oats…we are having a lazy (well switching in fall clothes for both girls so i guess pretty busy!) day at home tomorrow so we may try and do some baking. These look like good breakfast bars for those mornings we have to eat on the way to dropping off Alyssa at preschool. we like to sleep in 🙂
    Lindsay @ Fuel My Family recently posted..Picnic Lunch OptionsMy Profile

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  13. WOW! Love your list and that sweet potato bar sounds delish! I’m featuring you today at Noon on my Facebook wall!!
    Have a great day!

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