Back to school means back to the packed lunch routine. I don’t know about you, but I need more than just a main course to get me through the school day. I need SNACKS. So in this post I’ll be sharing with you 8 easy snack ideas that can be homemade or store bought and are perfect for your lunchbox. Of course, don't limit yourself to enjoying these snacks only at school. You can have them at work! In the car! As a midnight snack! The possibilities are endless...
Speaking of lunchboxes...
We need to talk about how to transport all of your food (because you don't want to have random little containers of Tupperware scattered across the bottom of your backpack).
You know those cute little lunch bag you might get at Target or Urban Outfitters? Yeah, that’s not what I have. My lunchbox is pretty ugly, and that’s because it’s all business. You see, I don’t mess around when it comes to packing food for school. When I chose it I was looking for something that had: a shoulder strap, lots of space for lots of food, a plain color that wouldn’t show stains, and a top-opening style for easy access during class. I settled on this dark blue Wildkin lunchbox and I’ve been using it for years.
That doesn't mean you can't get cute tote or a bento box. You do you. I’m just reminding you to consider the practical features that you need.
Why do you need to snack?
To snack or not to snack? That is not even a question. Obviously, the answer is SNACK!
The time from breakfast to lunch can span upwards of five hours, and that's plenty for hunger pangs to hit. These can be distracting, especially when you’re at work or at school. Your brain needs fuel to function!
If you go without snacking and then sit down to eat a huge meal at lunch, you’ll be left feeling sluggish. Small, nutritious snacks are the key to making sure that you get through the day with steady energy.
A small confession here: sometimes I snack at school just to stay awake which isn't really the healthiest but I'm just trying to keep it real here :)
The snack checklist
Obviously not every edible foodstuff is fit to be a snack. Donut holes, fried chips, and those weird cheese crackers come to mind. Aside from their questionable ingredient lists, these definitely won’t leave you feeling full and satisfied.
To curate the best snacks, I focused on the following checklist of requirements:
Balanced - carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you full and satisfied
Healthy - I'm not about labels like "clean" but we're trying to keep the ingredients lists as short as possible here and keep out the processed stuff
Quiet - nothing is more awkward than trying to bite into a carrot quietly during class work time
Not messy - crumbs and stickiness are a no-no, especially when you’re trying to eat and work at the same time
Easy to transport - you need foods that won’t spoil and can be packaged easily in your lunchbox
So let's get on with the ideas!
1. Make your own trail mix
I don’t really like the taste of store bought trail mix, and making your own is so easy that it's just a no-brainer snack option. You can make a big jar and then scoop portions into little containers. Tip: Store your mix in the fridge, if you have room. Nuts can go rancid, especially very fatty ones like walnuts, cashews and pecans.
Here’s what you might consider adding to your trail mix:
Nuts: cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios (I try to avoid seeds just because they’re so tiny and hard to pick out of the bag)
Fruit: dried cranberries, blueberries, and raisins; banana chips; freeze-dried fruits are also delicious but more expensive
Chocolate: I believe chocolate is its own food group… just make sure to choose a dark chocolate to keep the sugar low
Another tip: Be careful about allergies. Make sure no one in your classroom or workplace has a severe nut allergy.
2. Apples and peanut butter
This borders on the messy and loud but it’s a relatively easy snack to eat and it’s definitely much quieter than carrots and peanut butter, so I decided to include it. The sweetness of apples is a perfect match to the creaminess and saltiness of peanut butter. Tip: Again, watch out for allergies.
3. Veggie egg muffins
Basically omelettes in a muffin shape. They're way more filling than sweet muffins, and really easy to prep ahead for the week. It’s a great way to get some veggies in during the day, and the high protein content will definitely keep you full. Here are a few recipes you might want to try:
4. Energy bites
You may also know them as “energy balls” or “bliss balls”. The idea is the same. It’s basically dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, seeds, etc. all blended together and rolled into convenient, snack-sized little balls.
These are a few of my favorite energy ball recipes:
Crispy Sunflower Seed Butter Balls | @holyhealth (pictured above, I subbed peanut butter)
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie Bites | @bewellwithcl (pictured above, I added dates)
Matcha Pistachio Bliss Balls | Downshiftology
Classic Almond and Cacao Energy Balls | Deliciously Ella
5. Fruit and cheese
We’re getting fancy here. This classic party platter item is also a great snack. Fruit alone won’t keep you full long, but pair it with protein-filled cheese and you have a tasty AND filling snack.
Tip: For ultimate finger foodiness (read: no utensils required), cube your cheese and use berries, grapes, or other small fruits.
6. Seasoned nuts
Plain nuts can be a bit boring, so seasoning and roasting a sheet tray of nuts can be the perfect way to spice them up a little. There are recipes out there for both sweet AND salty nuts, so check out a couple of the ones I found online;
Rosemary Garlic Almonds and Maple Cinnamon Pecans | Center Cut Cook
Spicy Nuts (Paleo + Whole30) | Real Simple Good
Spicy Smokehouse Almonds | Sometimes Homemade
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts | Frugal Living NW
7. Energy bars
Energy bars literally have “energy” in the name so you know they’ll help you get through your school day/work shift.
They are also fairly easy to make at home, especially if you make a big batch. I love making these mint chocolate power bars from Green Kitchen Stories. The only downside to homemade bars is that they can be a bit crumblier than store bought but I think the savings, flavor, and control over ingredients are worth it.
8. Hard boiled eggs
One of the easiest snacks on this list. You literally just put an egg in some boiling water (although I'm sure I didn't need to explain that. Here’s a guide for how long to boil your eggs from BasenjiMom. I like to use my little egg-shaped timer that changes colors based on how long it has been in hot water to indicate how cooked your eggs are.
Cut your boiled eggs in half, top with some salt and pepper for flavor (I also added Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel seasoning), and you have a delicious, savory, and filling snack.
All of these snacks can be prepped ahead of time to save time and stress. Try to set aside some time on the weekend to at least make a batch of energy bars and cut up some fruit and cheese. You’ll definitely be thanking yourself later when you have healthy snacks to reach for in the fridge!
Another tip: I’ve learned to bring a few more snacks than I think I will actually need. You might not get home at the time you think you will, or you might just be super hungry for some reason (it happens). You also might be able to save your hungry friend by sharing some of your snacks ;)
That’s all for my snack tips! I hope you enjoyed and found some tasty ideas to bring with you to school or work.
Let me know in the comments - what’s your favorite thing to snack on at school/work? For me, it'd probably be grapes and chocolate!