Take the fuss out of coming up with lunch box ideas for school or daycare with 6 simple methods to customize every which way for your kid’s preferences.
Healthy Lunch box Ideas
Coming up with daily ideas for packing kids lunch boxes is no easy feat, but narrowing the vast options down to five simple methods can go a long way towards making it easier. I hope these ideas help you pack nutritious school lunches that your kids enjoy eating!
Lunch Box Idea #1: Kid’s Cheese Plate
While it may be true that cheese plates are a staple of adult parties, the concept can also make packing school lunches easier!
Combine cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, veggies, and/or sliced meats for an easy-to-eat lunch that toddlers will love. Vary the type of each component for endless variations on this idea to pack all year long.
Lunch Box Ideas #2: Yummy Sandwiches
If you are stuck in a turkey and cheese rut, try these ideas, either packed cold or warm in a thermos. You can pack them assembled or deconstructed with the elements side by side depending on the age of your kiddo and their chewing ability.
- Cream cheese and jam
- Cheddar cheese and apple butter
- Salami and cheese
- Hummus and sliced cucumbers
- Ham and cheese
- Sliced hard-cooked eggs and cheese
- Sunbutter and jam
- Chicken cutlets or tenders and lettuce
- Tuna or salmon salad
- Sliced meatballs with cheese
TIP: You never know what the kids will like so don’t “yuck” their “yum”. My oldest likes lettuce and cheese sandwiches—why not?!
Lunch Box Idea #3: Breakfast for Lunch
Who says breakfast foods can’t served for other meals? Not me! And they are often ones that kids love, and are easy to pack. Try these ideas for healthy school lunches:
- Overnight oats
- Leftover pancakes with maple syrup or sandwiched with nut or seed butter or cream cheese.
- Muffins with a side of fruit and cheese.
- Hard-cooked eggs with fruit, veggies, and crackers
- Egg muffins with simple sides
- A snack box with dry cereal, fruit, veggies, and a simple protein source like a cheese stick or turkey lunchmeat
- Banana bread with simple sides and milk
- Scrambled eggs with cheese in a thermos with simple sides
- French Toast Sticks with nut or seed butter and syrup
- Breakfast burrito
TIP: I love using a kids thermos to pack warm foods for school and preschool.
Kids Lunch Box Idea #4: Pasta
Pasta is easy to make ahead and in bulk, and it packs up so well in a thermos. Add whichever simple sides your kids like to these go-to lunch ideas for pasta. You can also swap in any other grains in place of pasta too!
- Pasta and Peas with Spinach Pesto
- Pasta with Broccoli Pesto
- Noodles with Peanut Sauce (use Sunbutter if needed for peanut-free)
- Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Sausage Pasta with Green Beans
- Broccoli Pasta
- Stir Fry Noodles with Veggies
- Citrus Noodles with Shrimp
- Boxed mac and cheese with broccoli or peas
TIP: I often set aside some dinner for the next’s days lunch, then simply warm it up and pack it for lunch in a thermos.
Kids Lunchbox Concept #5: Snacky Lunch
You can assemble your little one’s favorite snacks into a nutritious and balanced lunch very easily if you cover the food groups. Try to include at least one carbohydrate and one protein, then 1-3 produce options.
- Complex carbohydrates that we like include whole grain crackers, flat bread, toast, dry whole grain cereal, a granola bar, or whole grain pretzels.
- Favorite proteins are sliced meat or poultry, hard-boiled egg, cheese, beans, edamame, nuts, puffed or roasted chick peas, seeds, or nut butter.
- Good fruits for lunch boxes include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, sliced kiwi, grapes, small bananas, dried fruit and freeze-dried fruit.
- Easy veggies for kids lunches include cucumbers, snap peas, roasted zucchini, carrot sticks, Roasted Carrot Fries, cherry tomatoes, thawed frozen peas, thawed frozen corn, and whatever else your kids enjoy!
TIP: Halve grapes as needed for little kids.
Healthy Lunch Box Ideas #6: Leftovers
If you have a kids thermos and pack leftovers with simple and yummy sides, it’s a great way to use up the food you have and nourish the kids. Try not to pack foods that the kids didn’t eat the first time around and check in with them when packing to make sure the lunch sounds good to them! Some leftovers we love to pack:
- Pasta and meatballs
- Chicken soup
- Pancakes or waffles
P.S. Here are my best lunch boxes for kids.
I’d love to hear what your kids like to take for school lunch so please comment below to share!