Find the best lunchbox ideas for kids (and adults) with this go-to list of favorites. With ideas that work sent cold in a lunchbox or warmed in a thermos, these ideas are versatile, quick to assemble, nutritious, and easy.

top ten lunchbox ideas in grid of 6 images.

Lunchbox Ideas

When packing lunches for the kids or ourselves, these are my go-to packed lunch ideas for easy, delicious meals that work well on the go. There is a range of ideas here to cover a variety of preferences and appetites, so scroll down to see what appeals. Each of these is shown in a kids lunch box, but you could also use a thermos to pack warm foods.

Remember to adjust the amount of food for the child you have—make your best guess based on how they usually eat—and pack milk or water as a drink to round out the lunch. And as always, adjust for allergies as needed with allergy-friendly swaps.

These are some of our top picks for kid-friendly meals for lunch. And these lunchbox ideas work for toddler lunches for daycare, preschool snacks and lunches, kindergarten lunches, and school lunch ideas, too. And you can use them for yourself, too.

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Mac and Cheese in pink lunchbox for a vegetarian lunch idea.

Mac and Cheese

Whether from leftovers or cooked to pack on purpose, mac and cheese is a great lunchbox idea. You can add peas to a box of mac and cheese or try a homemade option like my Butternut Mac and Cheese. Add easy sides to this pasta lunch idea (such as cucumber, diced fruit, a muffin, or hard-cooked eggs) as you like.

Mac and Cheese with Peas (Fav Shortcut Toddler Meal)
With an easy method and a yummy, satisfying result, this quick toddler meal is one of our go-to shortcut kids meals.
Mac and Cheese with Peas (Fav Shortcut Toddler Meal)
pesto pasta lunch in container.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta salad is an all-time favorite kids lunch recipe since it’s so versatile (you can make it very basic or add tomatoes, white beans, diced cucumber, or chicken). Pair with a side of fruit, use whole-wheat pasta for more whole grains, and enjoy.

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.
Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Pizza Muffin

This savory toddler muffin works really well to make ahead and to warm and pack in a thermos. It has carrots right in the mix and pairs nicely with simple sides such as raspberries, blueberries, and a yogurt pouch. You can freeze the muffins and warm as you need, too. (More pizza lunch ideas are here for you too.)

Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)
These work well to make ahead and warm up for an easy lunch or dinner. These taste best served warm.
Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)

Turkey Wrap

Pair turkey, cheese, and lettuce with a whole grain tortilla for a super simple wrap lunchbox idea. Add freeze-dried strawberry slices, a banana, sliced apples, or edamame on the side. (You could also do a classic turkey sandwich or a turkey sandwich on a bagel.)

Easy Turkey Wrap Recipe
Roll up a few simple ingredients to make this delicious Turkey Wrap recipe in minutes. It's a great lunch wrap for home or school, and you can easily adjust the ingredients to suit the preferences of your child. This makes one wrap, so scale up as desired.
Easy Turkey Wrap Recipe
vegetarian lunch ideas on counter.

Hummus and Pita

Pack a fast lunch relying on hummus and pita—or hummus and crackers, tortilla, or even pretzels. Add applesauce, raisins, thinly sliced celery, or another favorite lunch snack or side to go with the main dish.

Easy Hummus Wrap (to Share with the Kids)
Quickly combine a few simple ingredients to make a really yummy lunch wrap. This recipe makes one wrap, so increase the serving size as necessary.
Easy Hummus Wrap (to Share with the Kids)
hummus wraps on white plates with apple slices
easy lunchboxes for kids

Snack Lunch

Think “cheese plate” when assembling this lunch and include a mix of food groups to satisfy. Fresh veggies such as snap peas and bell peppers, fruit including diced watermelon and clementine, cheese, and crackers can be packed together for a range of ages. Add thinly sliced salami or even chicken salad as you like.

Easy Snack Dinner (to Share with the Kids!)
You can do a big family-style platter or individual ones for the kids depending on your preference. Add anything else that sounds appealing and know that the nutrition info will vary according to what you use.
Easy Snack Dinner (to Share with the Kids!)
chicken meatball lunch box.

Chicken Meatballs

These meatballs are great cold or warm and are one of our favorite easy lunchbox options. You can pair with roasted sweet potato, diced kiwi, sliced peaches, diced pineapple, fresh berries, or mangoes as you prefer.

4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
With just four simple and affordable ingredients, you can make tender Baked Chicken Meatballs to share with the kids. Bonus: You can tuck a veggie into the mix, and they are perfect to batch-cook and stash in the freezer!
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
baked chicken meatballs on cookie sheet.

Sandwich Roll Ups

Change up a classic sandwich lunch idea into these fun roll-ups. Add easy sides to round out this meal including cucumber slices, vertically halved grapes (for little kids), cottage cheese, avocado with a little lime juice to prevent browning, and crackers.

Quick Sandwich Roll Ups (2-Minute School Lunch)
Pair a soft sandwich bread with your filling of choice to make this easy toddler lunch or school lunch. You can even make them the night before.
Quick Sandwich Roll Ups (2-Minute School Lunch)
Pancake lunch in lunchbox.

Breakfast for Lunch

We love pancakes for dinner and for easy lunchbox ideas and you can pack them at eat cold or packed in a thermos to eat warm. Add a dip on the side and include milk or another protein option as needed to ensure that the meal is filling.

Fluffy Greek Yogurt Pancakes
With the most delicious fluffy texture and protein from Greek yogurt, these Greek Yogurt Pancakes are a breakfast win. You can add any fruit you like to the batter, too!
Fluffy Greek Yogurt Pancakes
Greek yogurt pancakes on various plates with sides.
quinoa salad and strawberry yogurt lunch prep.

Grain Salad

A make-ahead grain salad can feed a family lunch throughout the week and this quinoa salad is our favorite. Add diced ham and corn if you like, omit or add other ingredients as you like, and try packing with a Drinkable Yogurt or a simple container of Flavored Milk.

Easy Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Mix up this grain salad to have lunches prepped for the week for yourself, or to have a dinner side or vegetarian main dish to share with the family.
Easy Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
mediterranean quinoa salad on two plates

Best Gear for Packing Lunches

Below are my favorite products for packing lunches for kids and adults of all ages.

meal prepped lunches in containers on countertop.

Lunchbox Ideas for Work

Feed yourself well during the day with these easy, nutritious lunch ideas for work. Each can be made ahead, stashed in the fridge, and eaten whenever you need a meal. And you can share them all with your kids, too.

Lunchbox Ideas for Toddlers

To make any of these ideas work for a one or two year old, simply dice the food up into bite-size pieces to ensure that it’s easy to eat. Cut any grapes or cherry tomatoes vertically into thin pieces and check my toddler lunches post for more information and ideas.


Lunchbox Ideas for School

When packing lunches for school, my two goals are to pack food that the child usually likes to ensure that they always have enough to eat and to pack food that is easy to eat. Yes, they may need some help opening packages, but since lunch periods are short, it can help to try to pack foods the child can eat on their own. Some favorite ideas are in my Kindergarten Lunch post and in these No-Cook School Lunch Ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I pack for lunch instead of as sandwich?

You can pack pasta, pasta salad, wraps, pinwheels, roll-ups, cheese and crackers, homemade lunchables, breakfast foods, and more for easy non-sandwich lunches.

What are 10 good lunch foods?

Sandwiches, wraps, pinwheels, leftovers, yogurt and granola, cheese and crackers, pasta, pasta salad, burritos, and more are great lunches for kids.

Is it safe to pack hot foods for school lunch?

Yes, if you pack the food hot according to the thermos manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, it’s best to heat the food up right before packing and you can even rinse the thermos with boiling water to bring the overall temperature higher.

Best Tips for Success

  • Pack cold lunches with ice packs in an insulated lunch bag to keep them cool and food safe.
  • Pack hot lunches in a kids thermos so they stay safely warm.
  • Add milk or water on the side as needed.
  • Ask the kids for feedback on what they liked and disliked, what easy or hard to eat so you can adjust for them.
  • Recruit them to help you pack their lunch!

I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please comment below to share.

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luncbox ideas in grid of 6 images.

Top Ten Lunchbox Ideas for Kids (Easy, Healthy)

Find the best lunchbox ideas for kids (and adults) with this go-to list of favorites. With ideas that work sent cold in a lunchbox or warmed in a thermos, these ideas are versatile, quick to assemble, nutritious, and easy—including this snack box.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Cuisine American
Course lunch
Calories 120kcal
Servings 1


  • ½-1 cup fresh fruit (such as diced berries, pineapple, mango, or melon)
  • ½-1 cup fresh vegetables (such as thinly sliced carrots, bell pepper, or cucumbers)
  • ½-1 cup protein (such as cheese, deli lunch meat, shredded chicken, edamame beans, yogurt, cottage cheese, or hummus)
  • ½-1 cup whole grains (such as whole grain crackers, pita bread, tortilla, roll, rice cakes, or snack bar)
  • Condiments, sauces, or dips (as desired)
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  • Prepare the fresh fruits and veggies as needed. Swap in a puree for a younger child or as desired.
  • Pack in a lunchbox with the rest of the ingredients.


  • Try to make sure that any raw vegetables are sliced in a way that is easy for little kids to eat. Matchstick-size slices are often a great option as they have a low choking risk.
  • Use applesauce or a vegetable pouch as desired.
  • Do your best with the portion size and include enough food for your child.
  • Include a drink as needed.
  • Pack the lunchbox with an ice pack in an insulated bag to keep it cold.


Serving: 1g, Calories: 120kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 15mg, Potassium: 199mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 754IU, Vitamin C: 29mg, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published January 2018.

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  1. 5 stars
    Great article! WHAt are the cupcake looking liners in the pictures? That’s a great idea for small things. Thanks in advance.

  2. 5 stars
    THANK YOU for this amazingly detailed resource! My son just started daycare at 17 months old, and I have been in a panic about what to send him with for lunch–that he will actually eat. No one tells you all the seemingly no-stress things–like eating and meal prep–that will keep you up at night when you have a toddler. Your site–and this post in particular–has really helped me figure it out!

    1. I’m so glad that you found this helpful and I hear you about how hard this packing for daycare business is! I hope that it gets a little easier (and that he eats what you send with him!)