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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!).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.)
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!
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.
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!