Lunch ideas for teens please! If your tween or teen is in need of some fresh lunch inspiration, here are 10 satisfying ideas. (They also work just fine for the adults in the house too!)
Whether at school or at home, if you have a growing adolescent you know they need a substantial lunch. If your teen is tired of turkey sandwiches and grilled cheeses (two of our go-to’s), it’s time to elevate your game.
In this post, I share lunch ideas that may even inspire you to break out of your own lunchtime rut. I also give suggestions on how to get your teen to make their own lunch. If you need even more inspiration, check out this reader favorite guide: 50+ Lunch Ideas for Teens.
While many of the below lunch ideas are arguably the most delicious when hot, they can all also be made ahead of time and either eaten cold or kept warm in a thermos. For example, the meatball sub could be eaten cold at school or you could keep the meatballs warm by putting them with sauce in a thermos that has been preheated with hot water.
Help Your Adolescent Learn to Make their Own Lunch
I encourage you to have your teen make what they can themselves. Why not talk it over with them, see what, if any of these or other lunch ideas interest them, and how you can help set them up so that they can do most of the prep on their own.
Here are some ways you can help your adolescent make their own lunch:
- Have them get inspired by searching for lunch ideas online. Favorite lunch spots, whether Chipotle or your local cafe, can also be a great source of inspiration.
- Help them decide on 2-3 new lunches to try. (Keeping it simple is key. You can add more as needed, but it would be overwhelming to try 10 new ones at once.)
- Make a list of the ingredients you already have and the ingredients you need.
- Shop for ingredients. (If you can get them to come to the store with you it’s a plus as it may make them more committed to this effort.)
- Store ingredients in easy to find and access locations. Buying pre-rinsed lettuce or chopping produce ahead of time will also make them more likely to use these.
- Post list of lunch ideas (and instructions if needed) in the kitchen area. You can also share recipes links so they can pull up the instructions themselves.
- Have them help you make a new lunch the first time or even first several times.
- Eventually, encourage them to make it on their own. Let them know how much you appreciate their help and that they are really helping you out.
Perhaps they just need you to buy the ingredients and leave out the recipes. Or, perhaps they need you to make the lunch with them the first few times. Either way, I can assure you that getting your teen to help out will make your life easier while also making them more likely to eat their lunch and teaching them life skills.
10 Satisfying Lunch Ideas for Teens (and Adults)
1. Black Bean and Avocado Burrito Wrap
This has recently become a new favorite at our house. Inspired by a local cafe, my 15-year old liked the idea of a vegetarian burrito wrap featuring black beans.
To make this you will need a large tortilla, avocado or guacamole, black beans, a bell pepper, green onion, chopped tomatoes or salsa, and shredded cheese. Simply mix the black beans with diced bell peppers and green onions and then layer everything on and wrap. If you prefer to follow a recipe or want more instructions, we found this recipe by Gimme Delicious to be super tasty.
2. Meatball* Pita Sub
All the credit for this one goes to my kids’ old first-grade teacher, who we ran into at Whole Foods. I commented on the need for lunch ideas for my hungry teen boys and she said meatball subs were a favorite of her young adult boys. She recommended buying frozen meatballs so they could easily make them themselves. Genius.
While my kids love homemade Swedish or Turkey meatballs, I don’t always have the time (or desire) to make these. Keeping store-bought, frozen meatballs on hand is super convenient. The only change we made was using whole wheat pita bread instead of sub sandwich bread. My 13-year old son also liked this sandwich served in a brioche hot dog roll.
To assemble these, simply heat the meatballs in the microwave, heat sauce (we like Rao’s), and add to the bread. If you are sending this to school you could keep the meatballs and sauce warm by putting them into a thermos and then assembling the sandwich at lunchtime.
3. Grilled Chicken Ceaser Salad Wrap
Simple, but delicious. Use leftover grilled chicken or buy premade grilled chicken such as Applegate Farm’s version. My younger son likes his chicken wrap with just chicken, cucumbers, and lettuce, no dressing. That works too! Need inspiration or recipe guidance? Check out this recipe from Little Sunny Kitchen.
4. English Muffin Pizzas
Do I even need to write anything about these? They are just such a classic and sometimes I forget about them! Best for lunches at home, but can also be eaten cold. Need more energy-providing carbs? Make them on a bagel instead.
5. Mozarella, Tomato, Spinach, and Basil Panini
Ok, so this is one of my favorites (not my boys), but I hope there are some teens who will love this too. It’s a timeless combination. To make this, simply pick out your favorite bread, I recommend sourdough. Then top with sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, and basil. Butter the outside sides of the bread and then cook on a panini maker or saute pan until the bread is golden and cheese is melted.
6. Pulled Pork Burrito Bowl
Ok, so this was also inspired by our first-grade teacher. It turns out Niman Ranch makes delicious pre-cooked pulled pork. We found this in the refrigerator section of Whole Foods. (If you would like to make your own pulled pork, try this simple slow cooker recipe by 100 Days of Real Food.)
While many teens will no doubt love the classic pulled pork sandwich, my kids preferred to make this into a Chipotle-like burrito bowl. To make this you could use some or all of the following: cooked brown rice (also available frozen, one of my go-to convenience foods), pulled pork, black beans, frozen corn, baby spinach or lettuce, guacamole or avocado with lime juice, salsa.
You could enjoy cold as a salad or heat the beans, pork, corn, and rice and keep them warm in a thermos until lunch. It’s also worth mentioning that these “bowl” type of meals are so versatile–you could easily make this one vegetarian or use another type of meat or sauce.
7. Bento Boxes
So sometimes we need to bring it back to the simpler days of preschool. When you are in the mood for something lighter or more “snacky”, bento boxes are it.
Here are a couple of tasty combinations to try:
- Meatballs*, greens, cherry tomatoes, berries, and naan bread.
- Smoked salmon, cucumbers, seedy crackers, grapes, and dark chocolate.
8. Chicken or Chickpea Curry over Rice
Keep this delicious concoction warm in a thermos. This is one that may require a little help from an adult…but it’s also a great use of leftovers. There are many simple, delicious recipes for chicken curry. Here is one of our favorites, which also has chickpeas; you could make it without the chicken if you have a vegetarian in the house.
9. Chickpea Salad Sandwich or Wrap
While a hummus sandwich is always tasty, a chickpea salad sandwich makes it a little more special. This is convenient to pack as a wrap since it’s probably less messy that way.
10. Veggie Chili
A favorite dinner in our house and the leftovers make a great lunch. That said, it used to be a lunch favorite of my 15-year old, but these days it doesn’t work so well because he has track or cross-country practice 2-3 hours after lunch and this meal takes a little longer to digest! (Need ideas for how your teen should eat before sports practice? Check out this guide!)
*Make it plant-based with veggie meatballs!
I hope these lunch ideas for teens inspire you and your family to try something new. If you make any of these let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram!