Use this list of kids lunches the next time you’re at a loss for what to pack in the lunchbox or for what to serve at home for the midday meal. There are kids lunches and toddler lunch ideas here so you can save time with these quick-reference concepts to make it all easier.
Whether you’re packing lunch for daycare, preschool, or school—or serving lunch at home—these easy kids lunch ideas are here to help. After 11 years of packing kids lunches and almost a decade helping other parents with easy ideas to pack lunches for their kids, I am so happy to share my best tips and ideas here.
This list is meant to inspire you when you run out of ideas, so use these ideas as a starting point and adjust as needed for your kids preferences and the foods you have on hand.
There are ideas that can be served cold, ones that are easy to pack in a thermos (which is great for leftovers), and even ideas that can help you turn a random mix of snack foods into satisfying and nourishing meal.
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How to Make Kids Lunch
Here’s a look at what I aim to include in nutritious lunches for kid over the course of a week.
- Fruit: At least 1 serving of fruit, most of the time. That can include fresh fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit (thawed or used in a recipe), freeze-dried fruit, and dehydrated fruit.
- Vegetables: At least 1 serving of veggies, most of the time. This can include vegetables cooked in recipes, thinly sliced raw veggies like cucumber, carrots, and bell peppers, and vegetables in packaged foods from the store.
- Protein: At least 1 serving of protein, whether it’s in the form of meat or poultry, nuts, legumes, or dairy. Protein helps ensure that the lunch is filling enough to keep the kids full until the next eating opportunity.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates and whole grains are essential for long lasting energy and proper toddler brain development, so they are a great option to include in a kids lunch. They also tend to be easy to eat, which can be helpful with short lunch periods.
- Fats: Toddlers need fats to grow properly, and fat can help us stay full at any age, so choose dairy products with fat and don’t shy away from plant-based fats like avocado and nut or seeds.
TIP: Remember that kids rarely eat exactly how charts show that they will, so not every lunch has to have every one of these every time. It’s always okay if it balances out over the course of a whole week. And adding snacks and/or desserts is always a good idea, too!
Kids Lunch with Pasta
Having a thermos to send hot lunches for school, including pasta, is one of our favorite easy lunch options. Below are our go-to pasta recipes to use for lunch. (This pasta salad is also a n easy option.) We usually add simple sides like fruit, applesauce, yogurt, hard-cooked eggs, or shredded chicken.
Lunch Ideas for Kids with Tortillas
Wrap up a range of fillings, including turkey, banana and peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, cream cheese, thinly sliced apples and cheddar cheese, tuna salad, chicken salad, and more. Or try one of the ideas using tortillas below. (Choose a gluten-free option for the tortilla, if needed.)
Lunch Ideas for Kids with Sandwiches
While not all little kids can handle the mixed texture of a traditional sandwich quite yet, you can still serve the elements in a way that they can enjoy—whether by cutting the sandwich into cubes, sticks, or serving the components side-by-side. Add easy sides like blueberries, diced pineapple, raspberries, cottage cheese, raisins, or thinly sliced carrots with ranch dressing.
Breakfast for Lunch
I LOVE breakfast for lunch (and dinner!) and find that often, classic breakfast foods make for easy meals that the little kids love. And serving them for lunch is a great way to use up leftovers. We love simple options like cereal and milk, waffles, leftover pancakes, yogurt and granola, and the options below.
Kids Lunches with Eggs
Eggs are easy to keep on hand in the fridge and super fast to cook up. Plus, they’re a great source of vegetarian protein and beneficial fats. In addition to sandwiches with sliced eggs and egg salad, these options make easy lunches, too.
Add simple sides such as apple slices, kid-friendly trail mix, pita bread and hummus, strawberries, grapes (sliced vertically if needed for kids under age 4), or oranges.
Grain Bowl Lunch Ideas
Make a batch of grains on the weekend and use them for easy toddler lunches throughout the week. Experiment to see which ones your toddler likes best—sometimes just a simple switch between types of rice can make a huge difference.
Snacky Lunch Ideas
Assembling bits and pieces of ingredients to make a fun snack plate is an easy toddler lunch—and one that you can easily adjust to make an adult lunch for yourself while you’re at it! This works so well at home or in a kids lunch box.
- Simple Cheese and Crackers with your choice of whole grain crackers, sliced or diced cheese, fruit, and a simple veggie like cucumber or snap peas.
- Muffin Lunch with fruit, cheese, and/or other assorted simple sides to round out the meal.
- Pretzels and Nut/Seed Butter Plate with a simple veggie like snap peas or tomatoes and berries. (Trade in cheese for the nut/seed butter to vary this idea.)
- Homemade Lunchables with whole grain crackers, deli meat, cheese, and a treat. And maybe some fresh fruit to round things out. Or Pizza Lunchables.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can stick with the lunches that you already know your kids love most, or try easy sandwiches, wraps or roll ups, leftovers in a thermos, muffins with fruit and cheese, yogurt and granola, or more of the ideas shown in this post.
One of the easiest lunches for toddlers is to simply serve leftovers from previous dinners. Or to assemble fresh finger foods including fruits, veggies, cheeses, soft meats (like cooked chicken), hard cooked eggs, and soft crackers.
There is no one magic lunch that every kid will like so you could make a list of your kids favorites, then have them look at posts like this one with you and pick a few more ideas to try.
Best Tips for Kids Lunch
- Pack mostly food you know they like to ensure they always have enough to eat.
- Create a habit of putting the lunchbox by the sink, rather than letting it linger in a backpack, each night to make sure you can get it clean.
- Pack lunches in an insulated lunch bag with ice packs to keep the food cool.
- Pack a drink as needed for your child. A water bottle, smoothie, yogurt, drink, or milk can all work.
Best Gear for Kids Lunches
- Lunch Boxes for Kids
- Lunch Bags for Kids
- Baby Lunch Box Picks
- Favorite Bento Boxes
- Best Kids Thermoses for Hot Lunches
- Favorite Snack Containers
I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please comment below.