No Fridge Necessary: 5 Ways to a Fresher Lunchbox

By: Emily Lee


Food Network Kitchen’s Honey-Nut Cereal Treats for KIDS/THANKSGIVING/CAMP CUTTHROAT, as seen on Food Network.,Food Network Kitchen’s Honey-Nut Cereal Treats for KIDS/THANKSGIVING/CAMP CUTTHROAT, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

With another summer heading toward its end, it’s time to start thinking about lunchbox-friendly foods — namely, foods that can withstand a morning without refrigeration. Insulated lunchboxes do their part to keep meals fresh, as do ice packs. But ice packs are heavy, and they tend to go missing. A few judiciously frozen items can do double duty, keeping your lunchbox cold while slowly thawing in time to eat. Frozen water bottles, or frozen packs of applesauce or yogurt, should do the trick. But as a general rule, it’s best to steer clear of meat and dairy if you can’t guarantee refrigeration. Just in time for another school year, here are some no-fridge foods that kids — and adults — can look forward to opening.

Nuts, Berries and Seeds

Lunchtime feels eons away without a midmorning snack to hold you over, and trail mixes, granola bars and cereal treats are all tasty fuel sources. Food Network Kitchen’s Honey-Nut Cereal Treats (pictured above are loaded with protein and fiber in the form of peanuts and almonds.

If your kids appreciate sweet and chewy dried fruits, try Claire Robinson’s easy Pumpkin Seed-Dried Cherry Trail Mix. Alton Brown’s classic rendition of crunchy Granola Bars is another snack you can feel good about packing. This lower-calorie option studded with sliced almonds, dried apricots and berries. Before you pack any of these in your child’s lunchbox, err on the side of caution and make sure no one in the class has a nut allergy.



Chef Name: Food Network KitchenFull Recipe Name: Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and MintTalent Recipe: FNK Recipe: Food Network Kitchen’s Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Mint, as seen on Food NetworkProject:, CINCO/SUMMER/FATHERSDAYShow Name: How to Boil Water

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Grains and Greens

Most veggies fare pretty well away from the fridge for a few hours. But then again, most kids won’t be too happy upon opening a container full of lettuce. Keep it interesting (and appetizing) with noodle- or grain-based salads. If you get the green light on peanuts, try Ina Garten’s Crunchy Noodle Salad. This hearty mix of thin spaghetti and chopped vegetables coated in a savory sauce will easily tide your kids over until dinnertime.

For more adventurous eaters, try a grain salad like this Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Mint (pictured above) or a Quinoa-Tomato Salad mixed with fresh herbs.

Wrapped and Ready

You knew it was coming. But really, what could be easier than tossing hearty fillers into a pita, tortilla or wrap, and then rolling it up for later? Save meat and sour cream for days when you know there will be a fridge in sight. This vegetarian Brown Rice and Bean Burrito (pictured above) is plenty filling without those perishables. Ellie Krieger’s Hummus and Grilled Vegetable Wrap is another low-calorie option for kids who aren’t scared off by the sight of zucchini or bell pepper.

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

All the Fiber

Whole fruits like bananas and oranges are guaranteed to stay fresh throughout the morning, but for a more exciting fruit experience, try Ellie’s Radiance Fruit Salad (pictured above), packed with sweet cantaloupe, kiwi and strawberries.

If you’re attempting to mollify to a picky eater who shuns fruits and vegetables that are in plain sight, you can make fiber more appealing by packing one of Melissa d’Arabian’s Magic Fruit and Veggie Cupcakes sweetened with brown sugar. These cupcakes have a dense, springy texture, thanks to the whole-wheat flour and oats, and the finely grated veggies will go virtually undetected. Sneaky, sneaky.

CLASSIC HUMMUSKatie LeeThe Kitchen/The Kitchen HelplineFood NetworkChickpeas, Lemon Juice, Tahini, Cumin, Garlic, Olive Oil, Smoked Paprika,CLASSIC HUMMUSKatie LeeThe Kitchen/The Kitchen HelplineFood NetworkChickpeas, Lemon Juice, Tahini, Cumin, Garlic, Olive Oil, Smoked Paprika

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Dairy-Free Dips

Unlike cream-based dips, hummus can withstand a few hours in a lunchbox or locker and still retain its freshness. Katie Lee’s Classic Hummus (pictured above) is for anyone who loves the traditional combination of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice.

For an ultra-healthy spin on the classic, try Food Network Kitchen’s Edamame Hummus and see how the kids respond to the smooth, pureed beans. Melissa d’Arabian’s Black Bean Hummus is another beautifully rich and creamy option, sans any actual dairy. All three go great with sliced vegetables or pita chips for dipping.

Next Up

Pork 5 Ways

It’s a common misconception that all pork products are bad for you. While you may want to keep your intake of fatty and salty bacon modest, lean cuts of pork are just as low in fat and calories as chicken breast (that’s where the slogan “the other white meat” came from). Pork is also one of the best sources of thiamin – an energy producing B-vitamin. So if you’re tired of the same old chicken recipes, give these five a try.

Potatoes 5 Ways

There’s no need to shy away from potatoes. They’re high in fiber, protein, iron and even vitamin C – and pretty darn tasty too! Since they’re so easy to work with, we could probably give you 50 healthy recipes – let’s start with 5 of our favorite ways to enjoy them.

Avocado 5 Ways

This fruit is packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium, but these babies are also heavy on good-for-you monounsaturated fat. To make them a part of a healthy diet, consume in reasonable portions—about one-fifth an avocado contains 50 calories. Here are 5 delicious and portion-friendly ways to make them part of your day.

Eggs 5 Ways

Eggs are budget-friendly and a delicious meatless alternative for protein. If you're worried about cholesterol, don't -- according to the American Heart Association, an egg a day is a-okay. Try our five favorite healthy egg recipes.

Salmon 5 Ways

Add some heart-healthy salmon into your weeknight meal plan. Here are 5 easy ways to prepare this healthy and sustainable, omega-3-packed fish.

Casseroles 5 Ways

A one-stop meal, casseroles make an easy weeknight dinner (and next day lunch). But many recipes call for cups (yes, cups!) of mayo, cans of creamy soup or lots of heavy cream—you may as well have “911” on redial for the after dinner coronary. Here are our top 5 lighter casseroles that’ll keep your waist slim and your heart in tip top shape.

Melon 5 Ways

Nothing says summer like biting into a wedge of juicy melon. While simple snacking is tasty, we’ve got 5 more ways to devour this seasonal goodie.

Parsnips 5 Ways

Parsnips might look like pale versions of carrots, but these root veggies have a nutty, sweet flavor all their own. Here are five recipes to help you get better acquainted with this intriguing fall veggie.

Basil 5 Ways

The basil plants in my garden are getting ready to explode – in a few short weeks I’ll have bunches and bunches on my hands. Here are 5 different ways to use this fresh and flavorful herb.