These healthy lunch box muffins are super easy to make and add so much goodness to any meal or snack! Naturally gluten free, packed with vegetables and naturally sweetened, they can easily be made nut free, dairy-free and egg-free.
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As I am typing this, the laundry is going with my daughter’s new school uniforms. My email is dinging with updates and reminders from her principal. And I am staring down the multiple bags of school supplies purchased and waiting to be brought in on the first day of school, just hanging out next to my desk.
Yes, friends. Summer is over and it is officially back-to-school season.
I don’t know about all of you, but I kinda love the routine and schedules that organically come with the school year. Don’t get me wrong, I will certainly miss the slow mornings, pool afternoons, and beach evenings that come with summer. But I will welcome the flow of alarms, set pick-up and drop off times and fun of after school activities that comes with the academic year. But that’s just me.
However, one thing I can say that I am less then jazzed about is the school lunch box packing. I seriously don’t love it. Even though I often share my (soon-to-be) second grader’s lunch boxes on my Instagram, I often feel like a deer in headlights when it is time to pack her lunch everyday.
Over the years, I have learned a few tips and tricks for helping make lunch box packing a bit easier on myself. And my favorite, go-to, healthy lunch box filler that is always sure to be eaten is a batch of healthy muffins for kids. Which is where the inspiration for these Healthy Lunch Box Muffins came from.
Why these muffins are great for lunch boxes
Let’s face it. When packing a lunch box, there are so many things to consider!
What will my child eat? Are there any allergies in his/her class we need to be aware of? Will this keep until lunch time? Is it healthy? Is this enough food?
It is enough to make one’s head spin, give up and order hot lunch from the school. However, these muffins are great for making ahead of time to toss into your kiddo’s lunches because they take care of all of those issues!
They are loaded with fiber and are naturally gluten free when made with gluten free oats and there are no nuts or nut products in them, something so many schools simply can’t have brought in due to allergies. They are packed with TWO different veggies, naturally sweetened with banana and a little honey or maple syrup, can easily be made dairy-free AND are totally kid approved! Plus, muffins are the perfect size for lunch boxes. So they are easy to grab and toss in your favorite lunch container.
What kind of lunch box is good for kids?
As a mom and former preschool teacher, I have seen (and tried) so many different kinds of lunch boxes. Personally, I feel the bento style lunch box is the ideal way to go! It encourages you to pack variety with their various compartments and it lays everything out in an easily, visually appealing way for your child. Plus, when you use a bento lunch box, it is ONE container for your child to open, versus multiple. And no one wants their kid wasting their precious lunch time trying to open containers!
There are so many bento-style lunch boxes on the market, but I am currently pretty in love with this Flex Bento Container from Packit. Not only does it have all the features I love about every other bento box, but I love that has 2 flexible dividers that you can move to fit whatever it is that you are packing. The dividers don’t prevent things like applesauce and yogurts from migrating, but it does come with a removable leak-proof cup for your wetter foods!
It is plastic, so it is nice and lightweight. However it is PVC-, BPA-, phthalate- and lead-free….all important things I look for when I opt to use plastic. Plus, it is shatter resistant. So when a kid inevitably drops it when running to the bus, it is likely to still make it home in one piece!
How do you keep a lunch box cold?
It can be hard to pack healthy food that can sit out at room temperature for several hours. So, I don’t even try! I just opt for ice packs to keep foods chilled and safe until my daughter can get to eating them.
My husband and I have been using Packit freezable lunch bags to keep our lunches cold for years. We love that the bags have the freezable gel built into the walls of the lunch bag, so we can just store the bags in the freezer and then pop our lunches into them. And they do so well at keeping our food cold for hours.
We like them so much that we scored a Packit Lunch Bag for our daughter this year for the same reason! No only will the lunchbox keep her lunch cold all morning, but she won’t lose the ice packs when taking her food in and out at lunch time (I can’t tell you how many ice packs I have lost over the years).
Tips for making healthy lunch box muffins
- If you don’t have a high-speed blender, blend the oats first. Then add the remaining ingredients before blending again. This will help your muffins to have a better texture without overtaxing your blender.
- Let them cool. If you are enjoying a muffin straight out of the oven, don’t worry if they seem a bit soft in the middle! They will firm up as they cool!
- Don’t skip on squeezing out the zucchini! Zucchini naturally holds onto a lot of water, so it is important to squeeze out as much of it as possible before adding it to the muffins. Otherwise, you might end up with a mushy muffin.
- Store them in the fridge or freezer! They will stay fresh and delicious all week long for easy lunch box packing!
Suggested adaptations for making healthy lunch box muffins?
- Make them egg free! Simply replace the 2 eggs in the recipe with 2 tablespoons of flax meal + 6 tablespoons of water. Mix the flax and water and let it sit for about 5 minutes to “gel”. Then add to the recipe.
- Use whatever kind of milk your family enjoys. These can easily be made dairy-free by using coconut milk (or unsweetened almond milk if nut-free isn’t a priority). But if you want to use cow or goat milk, that works fine in this recipe as well.
- Add some sweetness! Stir in some raisins or chocolate chips for a little extra sweet fun!
- Blend the veggies in. If you have a veggie-resistant eater on your hands, consider blending the veggies into the batter instead of folding them in at the end. Still veggie-loaded, but less obvious! Just be sure to still squeeze out the zucchini before adding!
Other posts you are going to find helpful
- 11 Kid-Approved Veggie-Loaded Muffin Recipes
- The Best Lunch Box Gear for kids
- 3 Tips For Packing A Healthy Balanced Lunch Box
- Cheesy Cauliflower Nuggets
- Kid-Friendly Pink Beet Pancakes
- The BEST Beet Hummus
Did you try this veggie-loaded muffin recipe and now you’re hungry for more?
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Healthy Lunch Box Muffins
- 1/2 cup grated zucchini
- 1/2 cup grated carrots
- 2 cups uncooked rolled oats
- 1/4 cup honey* or maple syrup
- 2 very ripe bananas (the riper, the sweeter they will be)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (or any neutral tasting oil)
- 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy milk will both work)
- 2 large eggs see above for egg replacement suggestion
- Preheat oven to 350℉ and line a 12-hole muffin tin with liners.
- Take the grated zucchini and place it in the middle of a clean dish towel or large paper towel. Wrap the zucchini in the towel and squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can. Set aside.
- Pour oats into your blender. Pulse until very finely ground and the oats resemble flour.
- Add remaining ingredients except zucchini and carrots to the blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides and continuing to blend as needed.
- Add drained zucchini and carrots to the batter. Fold them in.You can pour the batter into a bowl before adding carrots and zucchini if you want to. However, I was looking to make as few dishes as possible, so I just poured them into the blender with the batter and stirred them in.
- Portion the batter out between the 12 lined muffin tin holes.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool for 15-20 minutes before enjoying. Allow the muffins to cool completely before transferring to an air-tight container. Store in fridge for 4-5 days or in freezer for up to a month.
The nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and may vary based on the product type, servings and other factors. If you are following a diet, please consult with a professional nutritionist or your doctor. Stay healthy!
Looks like the perfect healthy muffin recipe. Can’t wait to try it!
You’ve always got the best muffin ideas that kids and adults love!
So good! Made them for breakfast this morning and they were a hit!
Loved these! Would it be possible to leave out the maple syrup/honey?
Yes! They would be less sweet, but if your family is okay mildly sweet baked goods….the bananas can bring the sweetness!
Your recipes never fail in our house. When I made these I was out of carrots so I substituted with beets instead and then held my breathe while my 6 year old tested them. Still a win!!
Wow! Now that is an awesome little switch and even better to hear it was a hit!!
Any chance I could sub applesauce for the bananas? My daughter can’t tolerate bananas but these look great! Thank you!
I totally think that would work and often do that in recipes
Sorry… followed the recipe exactly but like it at all. Won’t make it again. Maybe because we don’t need to be gluten free.
Sorry to hear they didn’t work out for you. The texture of oat flour can be different if you are used to regular flour, so maybe that was it. Also, they do have less sugar than most muffins, which is how I prefer things but I can understand it is not everyone’s preference.
Love this recipe. Always a hit with our daughter in her lunches
I am so glad! They are a great addition to lunches for sure!
Great recipe. I make it with just carrots and do up the honey a bit for my son.
Another successful recipe!! My two young boys loved them. We added raisins.
These look so good! What a perfect breakfast meal prep to send the kids out the door with!
Thanks for sharing! Can I add any other mix ins like berries or chocolate chips?
Sure! If you add berries, they might add some extra moisture to the muffin. Just FYI!
I made these today, and they are awesome!!! (I added in some chocolate chips). Perfect, moist texture, absolutely delicious, and kid approved! Yaaaaay!
I love adding chocolate chips to these too! I am so glad they were success and got some bonus veggies in!
Would it still work ok if I blend the carrots into the batter or would it change the moisture/texture too much? My child hates carrots and any food he can see them in.
It would totally work just fine! Just maybe blend them with the wet ingredients first so you don’t find yourself over blending….that can result in really dense muffins.
Would it be possible to use all-purpose flour and add in some ground flax seed for added protein?
I haven’t tried these with regular flour, but maybe? You will probably need to add a bit more flour since oats are “thirsty” and tend to absorb more liquid than APF. If you give it a try, let us know how it goes!
Yummy! I replaced the honey/maple syrup with date paste and my one year old loves it!
I am so happy to hear that, Lunaria! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
How much date paste did you use?
Greetings! My son is a huge fan of these muffins! However, we’ve come into needing an oat free and sugar free diet. Can these muffins be made with almond flour? And can I use monk fruit or stevia to replace the maple sugar? Thank you!
Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier! Just in case you don’t see my other answer:
I haven’t tried making these with almond flour but you might like these carrot Paleo muffins that are! I haven’t tried swapping the maple syrup for stevia or monk fruit. It would work for the sweetness, but you’d like need to replace the moisture that maple syrup brings to the muffins with maybe some pumpkin puree or applesauce.
Big fan! Can these be made with almond flour? Can I sub maple syrup with stevia or monk fruit?
Hi Marissa! SO glad you enjoy TNN recipes! I haven’t tried making these with almond flour but you might like these carrot Paleo muffins that are! I haven’t tried swapping the maple syrup for stevia or monk fruit. It would work for the sweetness, but you’d like need to replace the moisture that maple syrup brings to the muffins with maybe some pumpkin puree or applesauce.
Thank you for your quick response! My son is obsessed with these muffins and we are needing to eliminate grains and sugars from his diet to help with some help issues. I will try out the other muffins and experiment with adding some applesauce. Thanks again! We love your recipes!
If. I sub applesauce for the banana, is unsweetened applesauce ok? You mentioned the ripe bananas bring sweetness to these muffins, if I’m using unsweetened applesauce do I need to make other adjustments?
I always use unsweetened applesauce when subbing banana in a recipe. I find that it brings sweetness to a baked good too and often don’t add anything different to a recipe.
Can you substitute the rolled oats for flour? My kid is allergic to oats.
I haven’t tried this specific recipe with oats but try this muffin recipe out. It has a similar vibe but is made with whole wheat flour https://thenaturalnurturer.com/whole-wheat-carrot-zucchini-muffins/