Call it the lunchtime merry-go-round: you worry about your child’s diet and your budget all day, but when morning comes and it’s time to dash out the door, you’re too frazzled to do more than rummage in your wallet for lunch money. Here are ten kid-friendly lunch box ideas that are perfect for back to school meal-planning and guaranteed to sneak nutrients into your child’s diet without breaking the bank or requiring more than a few minutes in the kitchen.

  1. The BFL (Breakfast for Lunch): A toasted whole-grain waffle sandwich spread with almond butter and low-sugar jam. A variation: cream cheese and maple sugar. Throw in a piece of fresh fruit on the side.
  2. The DIY Yogurt Parfait: pack a single-serve container of yogurt, a baggie full of granola or other high-fiber cereal, a package of raisins or freshly rinsed blueberries and a spoon.
  3. The Californian: spread a spinach or whole-wheat wrap with low-fat cream cheese, shredded carrots, and your choice of raisins, shredded raw spinach, chopped black olives, diced turkey, or cooked black beans.
  4. The Chef: salad, that is. While salty lunchmeat is no one’s idea of health food, chef salad packs a nutritional wallop with lots of fiber and vitamin-rich veggies. Layer bite-size pieces of romaine lettuce with sliced ham and low-fat cheese and as many veggies as possible: diced or shredded carrots, sliced celery or mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, and leftover cooked beets or green beans. Clean baby food jars make ideal containers for salad dressing.
  5. The New Yorker: prepare falafel mix according to package directions. One box will provide lunch for the week and is high in fiber. Pack with a whole-wheat pita cut in half to make a pocket, a baggie full of sliced cucumbers and romaine lettuce, and an individual container of Greek-style yogurt.
  6. The Tea Party: spread whole-wheat bread with sweet butter and sliced hard-boiled egg. Other fillings fit for a queen: thinly sliced radishes, watercress, or cream cheese and cucumber.
  7. The Un-Salad: toss leftover cooked pasta (preferably whole-wheat) with leftover cooked veggies and chicken or frozen peas, carrots and corn. Add diced hard-boiled egg, sunflower seeds, tofu or other proteins as desired. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan and toss with a few tablespoons of Italian dressing.
  8. The (new and improved) Elvis Sandwich: toasted whole wheat bread with a layer of peanut butter and a layer of sliced banana. Lunch fit for a king.
  9. The Hiker: a baggie full of low-sodium almonds, a washed apple, and a cheese stick.
  10. The Mediterranean: a small container of store-bought hummus, a baggie full of carrot, celery, and red pepper strips, and a package of whole-wheat pita cut into triangles. Opa!