Save this list of kids lunch recipes to make packing and serving healthy kids lunches a little easier each week. With make-ahead and freezer-friendly options to serve to the kids at home or packed, these ideas will take some of the challenge out of the midday meal (or I hope they will at least!).

recipes for kids lunches in grid of 6

Kids Lunch Recipes

Making healthy foods ahead of time for lunch is one of the best ways to ensure our kids are eating well throughout the week—and that we’re not scrambling for lunch when everyone is hungry. These recipes are great to meal prep and they can be served to toddlers and big kids alike.

And even if you don’t find time ahead to make these recipes, you can prepare them in the morning or right before lunch to serve up a healthy meal.

TIP: You can of course eat these foods yourself too—parents deserve yummy food too!

Lunch Ideas for Kids at Home

With kids who are home for lunch, having this stash of healthy recipes to make ahead of time can be a big win. I always find that lunchtime comes so quickly when I’m home with my kids, so the more I can have at least one healthy option ready and waiting, the better able I am to serve them healthy lunches.

I have these broken up my type of food to help you easily scroll through to find options that will work for you.

TIP: These lunches work at home, as well as packed for daycare or preschool.

packed lunch with muffin, cucumber, kiwi

Muffin and Quick Bread Recipes for Lunch

One of my very favorite ways to get ahead for lunches is to rely on healthy muffins or quick bread as the main, then add simple sides like fruits and veggies, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, or even a smoothie to round things out.

Easy Apple Bread
This bread is free from gluten and nuts, and has an alternative if your little doesn’t do dairy. This bread is delicate when warm, so let it cool fully before you slice it with a serrated knife.
Get the recipe
sliced-apple-oatmeal-bread-on-cutting-bard
Mini Applesauce Muffins
We like these on their own, topped with nut or seed butter, or even with a smear of cream cheese. See what your littles like!
Get the recipe
mini applesauce muffins on pink plate
Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
These muffins are best with very ripe bananas (they should have a lot of brown spots, which indicate sweetness). Then, simply stir everything together in one bowl and bake up a batch of delicious Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins to share with the kids.
Get the recipe
banana chocolate chip muffins
Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins (Low Sugar, SO Good)
These are delicious served warm soon after baking, at room temperature or even chilled, so see what your family prefers. They are naturally dairy-free and can be made gluten-free and egg-free as well. See the Notes section for details.
Get the recipe
carrot-cake-muffins-in-white-bowl
Chocolate Protein Muffins (With Veggies!)
These simple blender muffins pack a serious nutrition punch and are dairy-free, with a nut-free option. I prefer the flavor of these once they are fully cooled and chilled in the fridge.
Get the recipe
healthy chocolate muffins cooling on wire rack
Sweet Spinach Muffins with Banana
These healthy muffins taste like a delicious banana muffin, but with the added nutrition of a big handful of spinach. These store well, so you can make them ahead of time and pull them out of the fridge or freezer to serve.
Get the recipe
spinach banana muffins on pink plate
Favorite Yogurt Muffins (6 Ways!)
This is an epic of a basic muffin recipe that you can then add flavor to in all sorts of ways—from fruit to veggies to chocolate chips. The batter is packed with protein too, so the muffins are great for breakfast or snack. (The allergy-friendly substitutions are listed in the Notes section at the bottom.)
Get the recipe
yogurt-muffins-in-flavors-on-countertop
Healthy Chocolate Chip Muffins
Loaded with whole grains and protein, these healthy Chocolate Chip Muffins are a really great standard recipe to turn to whenever you're in the mood!
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chocolate-chip-muffins-on-white-plate
Easy Veggie Muffins
I like to grate the carrot on a box grater and cut the top of each broccoli floret off and finely dice with a knife. Avoid the stems since they won’t blend into the batter as well.
Get the recipe
veggie muffins on gray towel
Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)
These work well to make ahead and warm up for an easy lunch or dinner. These taste best served warm.
Get the recipe
pizza-muffins-on-wire-rack-with-kids-hand

TIP: You can find all of my best Healthy Muffins here.

zucchini egg cups with berries and crackers

Breakfast for Lunch Ideas

Mix up when you serve favorite breakfast foods by serving them for lunch. It’s an easy way to keep the kids interested and also make it easy on yourself to prepare their lunch!

Spinach Egg Muffins
Egg muffins will stick to a muffin tin unless you grease it well with nonstick spray. So try not to skimp on that step!
Get the recipe
spinach-egg-muffins-on-blue-divided-plate
Make-Ahead Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins
These soft breakfast egg cups are packed with protein and vitamins—and can be made ahead of time! Add any veggie you like, whether carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, or spinach.
Get the recipe
egg-cups-on-plate-with-toast
Favorite Healthy Toddler Smoothie (with Veggies!)
Learn to customize yummy smoothies for your toddler by starting with one simple recipe, then adjusting based on which fruit and veggies you'd like to use.
Get the recipe
toddler-smoothies-in-mason-jars
Easy Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt
Scale this up or down according to how many servings you're planning to make. The directions here are for one small toddler-size serving. (It's okay if your kiddo wants more or doesn't eat a whole serving though!)
Get the recipe
fruit-on-the-bottom-yogurt-in-containers
Overnight Oats with Yogurt and Berries
This overnight oats recipe makes two toddler-size breakfast portions (or 1 mama-size serving). Double it to make additional servings. 
Get the recipe
overnight-oats-with-yogurt-in-containers

TIP: The egg muffins are super easy to bake and then reheat quickly to serve for lunch. Try them with a side of ketchup or salsa for dipping.

easy spinach quesadillas

Quesadillas and Burritos for Lunches

My oldest kiddo is a super fan of burritos and quesadillas so we tend to have them for lunch often—and I love to make big batches on the weekend to warm throughout the week.

Vegetarian Quesadillas with Beans and Cheese
You can make as few or as many of these easy quesadillas as you like.
Get the recipe
cut up vegetarian quesadillas for kids on plate
Easy Breakfast Burritos
These are called “breakfast” burritos since they have eggs, but you can serve them for any meal of the day!
Get the recipe
breakfast-burritos-on-purple-plate
Easy Spinach Quesadillas
You can also do this with full size spinach if that’s what you’re able to find. Just discard any stems before starting the recipe.
Get the recipe
spinach quesadillas
Sweet Potato and Cheese Quesadillas
Serve these quesadillas with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole as desired. You can leave them as simple vegetarian quesadillas or add in a protein like chicken or beans.
Get the recipe
sweet-potato-quesadillas-on-blue-plate
Refried Bean Taco Roll Ups
This makes 6 rolled up tacos, so you can adjust this as needed for your family.  Taste the refried beans before you make the roll ups and adjust the salt and/or cumin if needed. You can also serve the ingredients in separate bowls and let your family serve themselves.
Get the recipe
easy tacos with refried beans

TIP: You can pack any of these in a lunchbox or thermos as needed.

crispy baked chicken tenders on white and blue plate

Make-Ahead Proteins

Whether meat or vegetarian based, these easy protein options are perfect to prep ahead—either by a few days or a few minutes!

Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets (SO Crispy!)
These chicken nuggets have simple ingredients and a pleasantly crispy exterior. Aim to cut the chicken into similarly sized pieces so they bake evenly.
Get the recipe
baked-chicken-nuggets-on-plate
Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders
To make these with panko breadcrumbs, use 1 cup and stir ¼ teaspoon salt into the flour before you dredge the chicken.
Get the recipe
crispy baked chicken tenders on white and blue plate
Cheesy Stuffed Meat Buns
These meat buns have all of the components of a cheeseburger, but are much easier for little kids to eat! Plus: They store well in the fridge and freezer so can be made ahead of time.
Get the recipe
meat buns
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
Serve with Marinara sauce, Pesto, Cheese Sauce, or with a side of ketchup or any other favorite dip. We like to have these on hand to use an easy lunch component or have them with pasta.
Get the recipe
baked-chicken-meatballs
Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Potato
You can double this recipe to feed a family of 4-6. Or make this smaller batch and serve to your toddler throughout the week. Try serving these with ketchup, ranch, or marinara sauce.
Get the recipe
homemade chicken nuggets
Best Healthy Mini Meatballs
Classic Italian meatballs with kale tucked inside to help toddlers eat their greens! (You can of course use the more traditional parsley instead of kale if you prefer.)
Get the recipe
mini-meatballs-in-skillet-with-sauce
Best Healthy Mini Meatballs
Classic Italian meatballs with kale tucked inside to help toddlers eat their greens! (You can of course use the more traditional parsley instead of kale if you prefer.)
Get the recipe
mini-meatballs-in-skillet-with-sauce
Favorite Salmon Salad Sandwich
This salmon salad is packed with protein, healthy fats, and calcium and can be used as a dip or a spread for sandwiches. We use homemade relish in this recipe but you can use any that you like the flavor of.
Get the recipe
salmon-salad-on-toast

TIP: Meatballs are one of my favorite recipes to batch cook and freeze for future meals.

healthy pasta salad in two bowls

Pasta Recipes for Lunch

I love to make an easy pasta recipe to have ready for the kids for lunch and all of these are great for adult lunches too.

Easy Broccoli Pesto (for Pasta and Pizza)
This will likely make enough for two meals. You can freeze the leftovers for a future meal. (This recipe was updated to improve the taste and method in April 2019.)
Get the recipe
broccoli pesto on spaghetti in blue bowl with pink fork
Easy Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
I like to use a small shape to keep this dish as fast as possible.
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sweet-potato-mac-and-cheese-on-counter
5-Ingredient Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Use yellow or white cheese according to your child’s color expectations!
Get the recipe
cauliflower mac and cheese
Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
This is an easy family dinner or lunch. I like to use Spinach Pesto for this, but any will work if you prefer to buy it pre-made from the store.
Get the recipe
pesto-pasta-salad-in-bowl
Healthy Pasta Salad with Chicken
This works well anytime of the year, but the flavors are particularly great in summer
Get the recipe
healthy pasta salad in two bowls
Favorite Alphabet Soup
You can use ABC pasta, orzo, pastina, or ditalini—or any other very small pasta shape in this recipe!
Get the recipe
alphabet-soup-in-blue-bowl

TIP: Add frozen peas or broccoli to your pasta cooking water for the last two minutes when making boxed mac and cheese to easily add a veggie to the mix.

healthy zucchini fritters

Kids Lunch Recipes with Veggies

Serve up a veggie-packed main dish or add a simple side. We also like no-cook options like sliced cucumbers, sliced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, snap peas, and shredded carrots.

Homemade Cauliflower Tots
With quinoa, cauliflower, and cheese, these healthy little tots are a great finger food for kids. This recipe makes about 20 tots, which is 4-6 servings for toddlers—or 1-2 servings for adults.
Get the recipe
cauliflower tots on white and red plate
Homemade Broccoli Tots (Better Than the Freezer Aisle!)
You can cook the rice up to 5 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake the tots.
Get the recipe
homemade broccoli tots
Homemade Veggie Nuggets (with 3 Veggies!)
I like to prep the veggies and rice ahead of time so that the process of making the nuggets is a little quicker. You can of course do it all at once though!
Get the recipe
veggie-nuggets-on-blue-plate
Easy Baked Zucchini Fritters
If you have a lot of zucchini, you can double the recipe to make a full muffin tin‘s worth!
Get the recipe
healthy zucchini fritters
Easy Cheesy Rice (with Veggies!)
Choose one veggie to add from the flavor options below according to what you have on hand or what your family likes best.
Get the recipe
cheesy rice 4 ways with veggies
5-Ingredient Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Use your family’s favorite shape and type of pasta in this recipe. (We like elbows or mini shells!)
Get the recipe
butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese-with-shell-pasta

TIP: I like to have roasted veggies on hand most weeks since they have natural sweetness and are good at room temp or warmed. Find all of my best recipes for veggies for lunch, including how to serve raw veggies to toddlers, here.

white divided kids plate with grilled cheese

Easy Sandwich Ideas

If your kids aren’t quite able to chew a sandwich with two pieces of bread quite yet, serve them open face or with the components deconstructed.

DIY Pizza Lunchables
You can plan for the kids to eat these cold or you can warm the bread ahead and pack it in a thermos so it’s warm at lunchtime. So easy!
Get the recipe
homemade-pizza-lunchables-on-counter
Easiest Homemade Uncrustables
You can make one sandwich at a time, or make a batch of a few to stash in the freezer. Adjust this as needed for your preference.
Get the recipe
homemade-uncrustable-in-lunchbox
Creamy Hummus Without Tahini
You can use regular plain yogurt, though I like the consistency that Greek yogurt yields a bit better.
Get the recipe
homemade hummus without tahini
Easy Carrot Hummus
Taste the hummus and adjust for salt as needed. You may need more depending on whether or not you started with canned beans, and sometimes after the hummus sits in the fridge, it needs another sprinkle of salt. 
Get the recipe
carrot-hummus-on-plate

TIP: You can find my full list of Kids Sandwich Ideas and more easy lunch recipes in my Yummy Toddler Lunches ebook.

pizza-bites-in-lunchbox

Pizza for Lunch Ideas

Using the flavors of pizza to make easy lunches is fun and kid-friendly. And most of these ideas are super simple too!

Homemade Pesto Pizza Rolls
With just 5 simple ingredients, you can bake Pizza Rolls with delicious flavor from pesto. These are versatile, perfect for any age, and a great make-ahead lunch or dinner option.
Get the recipe
pizza rolls on wooden plate
Pizza Bites (3 Ways, with Veggies!)
Fluffy pizza bites are a delicious lunch or dinner option—and you can customize the filling to please your kids! We like these with a little side of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
Get the recipe
pizza-bites-on-plate-with-pizza-sauce
Favorite Pizza Rolls (with Spinach and Cheese)
Be sure to grease your pan well and roll the dough up fairly tightly around the fillings for best results. (But it's okay if they don't look perfect when they go into the pan!) 
Get the recipe
pizza-rolls-on-kids-plate
10-Minute Flatbread Pizza (Just 3 Ingredients!)
For delicious homemade pizza without the work and in a lot less time, Flatbread Pizza to the rescue. Adjust this for allergies as you need.
Get the recipe
flatbread-pizza-on-plates-with-apple-slices
Pizza Pockets with Broccoli and Cheese
If you’re using Homemade Pizza Dough, make it at least an hour before you plan to assemble the pockets. If using store-bought, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so it’s not super cold when you try to form the pockets.
Get the recipe
pizza pockets with broccoli and cheese

TIP: Find my full list of Pizza Ideas for Lunch.

snack-lunch-in-clear-container

Best Snack Recipes for Lunches

I’m a HUGE fan of snack lunches for the kids, where you assemble a mix of snacks to make a lunch (sort of like a kid version of a cheese plate). You can do it with any store bought snacks, but these homemade ones make nice options too.

Homemade Granola Bars (to Share with the Kids!)
We like to have these granola bars as a snack or toddler breakfast with milk or a smoothie—and they're an excellent lunch box component too. You can make them plain or choose a flavor to add!
Get the recipe
stack-of-homemade-granola-bars
Quick and Easy No-Bake Granola Bars
You can make these ahead and store in the fridge or freezer and have grab and go snacks on hand for days/weeks!
Get the recipe
no bake granola bars sliced
Healthy Pumpkin Bars Recipe
These bars are tender when warm out of the oven, so do be sure to let them cool completely before slicing.
Get the recipe
sliced pumpkin bars on cutting board
Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins (Little Bites Copycat)
Moist tender Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins that taste as good as store bought, but have a little extra nutrition? Sign. Me. Up. These muffins are seriously delicious and are a must-make if you have fans of Little Bites in your house!
Get the recipe
mini-chocolate-chip-muffins-on-counter
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Balls
These no-bake bites taste like a cross between oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookie dough. I use natural creamy peanut butter (like the kind from Smuckers) and it works really well. (Recipe updated slightly in June 2021 to ensure the best texture.)
Get the recipe
peanut-butter-oatmeal-energy-balls
Easiest Animal Crackers Recipe
If you use larger cookie cutters, you may need to bake on the longer end of the baking time—and mini cookie cutters on the shorter end. This makes a relatively small batch, so double it if you want extras to last all week!
Get the recipe
mini-animal-crackers-on-wire-rack

TIP: Learn more about making healthy snack meals here.

mac-and-cheese-in-pink-lunchbox

Helpful Tips for Packing Lunches in a Lunchbox

Packing leftover chicken, meatballs, pasta, and more can bring up some questions, so these tips should help!

  • Pack leftover cooked chicken, chicken nuggets, or tenders to be eaten chilled or warm in a thermos.
  • Pack quesadillas, burritos, or any other dish that’s better warmed in a thermos.
  • Cut up muffins, sandwiches, and any other baked goods or breads into cubes if it’s easier for your child to eat them that way.
  • Pack smoothies in a reusable pouch to send with lunch. (You can also make them right before lunch to serve at home.)

Kid-Friendly Lunch Ideas for School

Packing lunches for kids will vary according to your own unique child, so do keep in mind the preferences of your kiddo and adjust your lunch plan accordingly. I try not to send any brand new foods in a lunchbox since the kids don’t have much time to eat them AND they are likely very busy chatting with friends.

TIP: And aim to pack foods that are easy to eat—put yourself in your kid’s shoes as you pack everything and make things easier to open, access, and eat as needed.

yogurt-and-granola-lunch-in-teal-lunchbox

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

One last consideration for pickier kids: Keep their lunches simple. It’s also okay if they don’t have a huge variety at their midday meal since they may also be dealing with the demands of socializing—which is a lot of work for some kids!

You don’t need to make Pinterest-worthy lunches. Just ones that your kids will eat and enjoy!

You May Also Like

I’d love to hear any lunch tips you have so please comment below to share. I love hearing what works for your families and I appreciate all feedback!

This post was first published July 2018.

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Comments

  1. I’ve used several of your recipes and so far my picky 18 month old has loved each one. Super excited to try some more and thanks so much for offering such a wide range of foods and recipes. You rock.

  2. I love this list but I do have a question about packing non liquids in a thermos to keep warm. I’ve read it is not safe because the thermos cannot keep foods at a safe temperature unless it’s liquid.

    1. Interesting—I’ve not heard that. Do you remember where you heard it? I’ll look into it though!

    2. Per the USDA, hot foods packed in a thermos should be safe if they are put into an insulated lunch bag and kept closed until lunchtime (the temp should be 140 degrees F so it should be hot when it goes in). There’s more here

      1. I do my best to offer a wide range of options. There’s no way to make a list that will please every kiddo since they’re all so unique:)