35 Celebrity Chef-Inspired School Lunch Ideas

Picky kid? Nut-free school? Slow eater? Celebrity chefs forked over 35 simple ideas that take the stress out of packing.

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Jeffrey Saad

Peter Ardito

Jeffrey Saad

Dad of Sebastian, 12, and Isabella, 15; host of Cooking Channel's United Tastes of America; and author of Jeffrey Saad's Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders

Apples & PB (core a small apple, spoon 2 Tbs. peanut butter in middle)

Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheat Crackers

Leftover broccoli

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Peter Ardito

Leftover ham (or low-salt deli ham) in whole-wheat pita with shredded carrot and zucchini tossed in vinaigrette


Surf Sweets natural Gummy Bears

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Creamy mac & cheese (cook pasta—we recommend using Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese Cauliflower to sneak in a ¼ serving of veggies—and put it in a thermos)

Cucumber slices


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Peter Ardito

Half a BLT: lettuce, tomato, and leftover turkey bacon on whole-wheat bread (bit of mayo with a dash of smoked paprika for flavor)

Baby carrots and ranch dip


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Peter Ardito

Egg-salad wrap (chopped leftover hard-boiled egg and chopped bell peppers tossed in vinaigrette; roll up in an 8-inch tortilla)

Sliced pears with lemon juice

Terra Sweet Potato Chips

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Ming Tsai

Peter Ardito

Ming Tsai

Dad of David, 10, and Henry, 12; host of PBS cooking show Simply Ming; author of four cookbooks; and owner of Blue Ginger restaurant, in Wellesley, Massachusetts

Turkey Sloppy Joe on slider bun (keep meat warm in a thermos)

Apple wedges

Cucumber slices

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Peter Ardito

Ramen noodles (minus the seasoning pack) in chicken broth with veggies

Rice crackers


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Peter Ardito

Turkey, lettuce, and Dijon mustard pinwheels on a whole-grain tortilla

Baby carrots

Vegetable chips

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Peter Ardito

Lettuce wraps with grilled teriyaki chicken and carrots

Air-popped popcorn

Mandarin orange

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Lunch Monitor: What Are Kids Throwing Away?

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Peter Ardito

Soba-noodle salad

Bell pepper strips and ranch dip


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Josh Capon

Peter Ardito

Josh Capon

Dad of Amanda, 6, and Max, 3; guest judge on Food Network's Chopped; and executive chef of Lure Fishbar and B&B Winepub, in New York

PB&J heart-shaped sandwich on whole-wheat bread

Baby carrots

Banana with silly sticker

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Peter Ardito

String-cheese stick

Rolled-up turkey lunch meat

Fruit kabob (cut off pointy end)

Whole-grain crackers

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Peter Ardito

Tuna-fish sandwich stars


Edamame in shells (more fun to pop!)

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Peter Ardito

Oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon

Green-bean letters

Applesauce cup

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Peter Ardito

Brown Spanish rice and ground beef in a thermos

Tortilla chips

Green grapes

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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Marcela Valladolid

Peter Ardito

Marcela Valladolid

Mom of Fausto, 8, and host of Food Network's Mexican Made Easy

DIY tostada: shredded chicken, cheddar cheese and refried beans, and 2 corn tortillas

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Peter Ardito

Grilled-chicken sandwich with mayo

Guacamole for dipping sliced cucumbers, jicama, and carrots

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Peter Ardito

Tortilla soup in a thermos



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Peter Ardito

Veggie and black-bean burrito on whole-wheat tortilla with salsa

Watermelon wedges

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Peter Ardito

Half an egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread

Roasted cherry-tomato and mozzarella salad in olive oil-balsamic vinaigrette

Melon slice

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Tyler Florence

Peter Ardito

Tyler Florence

Dad of Dorothy, 4, and Hayden, 5; host of Tyler's Ultimate on Food Network; and creator of Sprout, a line of organic baby and toddler foods


Tortellini salad (cook pasta; add peas in last 2 minutes; toss with pesto)


Small tossed salad

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Peter Ardito

Goat cheese and grape jelly sandwich on a small cinnamon-raisin bagel


Raw sugar snap peas

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Peter Ardito

Half a sunflower-butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread

Low-fat fruit yogurt

Grape tomatoes

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Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

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Peter Ardito

Soup (heat rotisserie chicken, broth, pasta, and veggies for 15 minutes)

Animal crackers


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Peter Ardito

Rice balls (cook short-grain rice; roll with chopped cooked veggies into 1-inch balls)



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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

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Andrew Zimmern

Peter Ardito

Andrew Zimmern

Dad of Noah, 7; host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods; and author of the upcoming Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods: An Intrepid Eater's Digest

Pork salad

Cucumber sticks with yogurt-dill dip

Fruit salad

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Peter Ardito

Pasta salad

Roasted broccoli

Berry and vanilla yogurt

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Peter Ardito

Chicken-salad sandwich with grapes, scallions, and celery on roll

Cheese stick

Dried peaches

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Peter Ardito

Chili in a thermos

Mini corn muffin

Pineapple chunks

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Iain Bagwell

Bonus recipe: Parents advisor Elisa Zied, R.D, recommends this yummy chicken & brown rice soup.

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Peter Ardito

Leftover meat loaf on a roll

Santa Cruz Organic applesauce cup

Leftover steamed asparagus