Detail image for August 2023 Damaris story.

With the kids heading back to school, it’s time for columnist and Food Network Star Damaris Phillips to serve up some creative ideas for lunch box lunches – which, she points out, are not just for children. Here, her fun feasts to go for all ages.

By Damaris Phillips | Photographed by Kylene White

Hey, y’all! It’s that time of the year again when we bid farewell to summer fun and embrace the back-to-school hustle. And you know what that means– packing lunches! But, fret not, because I’ve got some fantastic ideas and tricks up my sleeve to make those lunches a scrumptious success for kids, teens, and adults alike.

Kids’ Lunches: Turning Picky Eaters into Adventurous Foodies

Oh, we all know the struggle of dealing with picky eaters, but fear not, my foodie friends! We’ve got some tricks to transform those little fuss-pots into brave culinary explorers:

  1. Colors Galore: Kids are drawn to bright and vibrant colors, so let’s make their lunchboxes pop! Add a medley of colorful fruits and veggies; think cherry tomatoes, juicy berries, and crunchy bell peppers.
  2. Bento Bliss: The key to getting kids to try more things is variety, and bento-style lunch boxes are our secret weapon! Pack those compartments with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and watch the magic happen.
  3. Kitchen Sidekick: Get your little ones involved in the kitchen action! When they have a hand in prepping their lunches, they’re more likely to gobble it all up. Plus, it’s a fun bonding experience!

Teens’ Tastes: Bold and Flavorful Eats

Teenagers, ah, they’re a whole different ball game when it comes to food. Bland won’t cut it for these taste adventurers, but worry not, my friends. We’ve got some lip-smacking ideas for their discerning palates:

  1. Wrap it Up, Baby: Teens love handheld eats, so wrap it up! Load up tortillas with grilled chicken, veggies, and a dollop of zesty sauce. It’s a party in every bite!
  2. Snack Attack: Teens need fuel for their active lives, and they love to munch. Create DIY snack packs with a mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips — energy-packed and seriously delish.
  3. Global Flavors: Take their taste buds on a world tour! Introduce them to flavors from around the globe, like sushi rolls, rice bowls, or tantalizing Mediterranean salads.

Eco-Friendly Lunches: Good for You, Good for the Planet

Now, listen up, folks! It’s time we do right by Mother Nature and choose reusable bento-style lunch boxes. Not only are they earth-friendly, but they’re also super-practical and fun! They keep portions in check and prevent sogginess– all while reducing plastic waste. It’s a win-win! And you might as well carry your lunch to work in something cool as well. 

Swap those basic lunchboxes for stylish purse coolers– oh yeah, they’re a thing! These babies come in all sorts of chic designs and colors, giving your lunch game a major upgrade. Mine came from Joyhill.

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Grown-Ups:

  1. Salad Jars: Let’s get fancy with layered salad jar — it’s a party in a jar! Pile up those greens, add some protein, nuts, and drizzle with your favorite dressing. Lunchtime just got a whole lot yummier!
  2. Mason Jar Meals: Beyond salads, try out mason jar meals with wholesome quinoa, roasted veggies, and a lip-smackin’ savory sauce. It’s like a deconstructed masterpiece!
  3. Soup on the Go: Don’t let those chilly days dampen your lunch spirit. Invest in an insulated food jar, and you can carry a cozy, piping hot soup wherever you go!

Detail image for August 2023 Damaris story.

In the Kids’ Lunch: Creamy Ranch Dressing 

This homemade ranch makes everything yummier.


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup chopped herbs, such as parsley, basil, cilantro or dill leaves 
  • 2 chives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • Salt 


  1. To blender or food processor, add the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, herbs and lemon juice. Blend until the herbs are chopped.
  2. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Detail image for August 2023 Damaris story.

In the Teen Lunch: 7 Layer Dip Wraps or Pinwheels 


  • 1 15.5 oz. cans refried beans
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives or banana peppers
  • 1 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 guacamole or avocado 
  • 4 large flour tortillas


  1. In a large bowl combine the refried beans and taco seasoning. 
  2. Lay out a tortilla, and spread on beans, then sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, olives, diced tomatoes, and guacamole, leaving a 1/2 inch empty on 1 side. 
  3. Roll the tortilla tightly and repeat until all wraps have been assembled. Serve whole, cut in half or cut into 8-10 pinwheels. 

Detail image for August 2023 Damaris story.

In the Adult Lunch: Spicy Smoked Salmon Salad


  • 16 ounces hot smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I love Duke’s)
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional) 
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 chopped banana pepper or dill relish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • fresh cracked pepper 


  1. Remove any skin from the salmon and gently flake the flesh using two forks. Look for any small bones that might have been missed and remove them. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sriracha, sesame oil, celery, banana peppers and lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the salmon and gently toss to coat. Taste and season with pepper as needed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
  4. Enjoy as a sandwich or on a bed of greens.