Find easy, nutritious, and delicious packed lunch ideas for kids and adults for daycare, school, work, and travel. You’ll find a mix of assembly-only ideas, ones you can prep ahead, and ones that take just minutes to pack before heading out the door.

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Packed Lunch Ideas

Deciding what to pack for lunch can feel like such a challenge, especially when we have to do it day in and day out. But with a few easy ideas, you can take some of the work out of it because you’ll never have to start from scratch again.

The ideas in this post will give you basic categories and options to start with, so you can always have a firm base to then build on with what you have in the house and the foods your kids prefer.

These ideas work for kids at daycare, preschool, and elementary school. And you can use them for yourself, too.

Healthy Packed Lunch Ideas

My aim here is to offer a range of ideas that include a mix of food groups. And to give you visuals so you can have that reference. But I also hope that you adjust these for your own family and think of them as starting points.

My view on a “healthy” lunch is that it offers kids and adults a chance to fuel their bodies, enjoy a mix of flavors and textures, and to eat a mix of food groups that will keep us full until the next time we get to eat. That will look a little different for everyone.

Add water or milk to these lunch ideas as you like, and always adjust portions according to the unique hunger of your family members.

egg sandwiches in lunchbox

Sandwich Lunches

Sandwiches are a go-to lunch since they’re so easy, but remember there are lots of options for fillings and types of breads. Consider filling options including turkey, ham, cheese, hummus, peanut butter or sunflower seed butter and jam, sliced hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, cream cheese and jam, butter and jam, tuna or salmon salad, or grilled chicken or chicken tenders.

12 Best Easy Sandwiches for Kids
Below is the recipe for the Avocado Egg Salad, with the other ideas in the Notes section for easy reference. Add fresh fruit, an applesauce pouch, canned fruit cup (in 100% juice), easy veggies for lunch, milk, and/or water to any lunch to round it out.
Get the recipe
sandwiches for kids in grid
wraps-for-kids-on-plates-on-countertop

Wraps for Packed Lunches

Try these easy wraps for kids as an easy lunch or meal when you want to change up the usual sandwich options. They’re quick, full of nutrition, and have lots of kid-friendly flavor. Plus: you can customize them as needed for food allergies for the chewing ability of your child!

10 Easy Wraps for Kids
Try these easy wraps for kids as an easy lunch or meal when you want to change up the usual sandwich options. Nutrition info will vary according to the ingredients you use.
Get the recipe
wraps-for-kids-on-plates-on-countertop
pesto pasta packed lunch in container

Pasta Lunches

Warm pasta can be sent in a thermos for lunch or you can go with a cold or room temperature pasta salad. Either option can be made ahead of time and warmed up or packed as needed. You can use protein pasta, bean-based pasta, or traditional pasta to vary the nutrition, too.

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
Pancake lunch in lunchbox

Breakfast-for-Lunch Ideas

Packing breakfast foods for lunch is both fun and easy, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers you may have in the fridge. Ideas for this one include pancakes, waffles (sweet waffles or savory ones), muffins, breakfast burritos, hard-cooked eggs and bread, a mini bagel sandwich, and egg muffins.

Favorite Yogurt Pancakes
With just a few ingredients and the option to make these on the stovetop or in the oven as a sheet pan pancakes, these Yogurt Pancakes are versatile and so yummy!
Get the recipe
yogurt-pancakes-on-three-plates
two snack boxes for kids lunches

Snack Lunches

This type of lunch is one of the easiest since you can use up whatever random mix of foods you have in the house. Think of it like a cheese plate and go from there. I aim to include a fruit and a veggie and a protein and/or a fat to ensure the foods are filling enough. Ideas include:

  • Cheese, crackers, bell pepper strips, and oranges.
  • Thinly sliced salami or turkey with rice cakes, applesauce, and sliced cucumbers.
  • Dry cereal, yogurt, berries, and matchstick-sliced carrots.

It really works with anything you have!

pumpkin-muffin-lunch-with-fruit

Muffin Lunch Ideas

Bake a batch of muffins on the weekend and then use them for lunches throughout the week. Consider them the “main dish” and add simple sides to round out the meal. These Pumpkin Muffins are made with a base of oats, so they are very filling and nutritious.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins
These store well in the fridge so you can make them a day or two ahead if you prefer—or bake and serve warm from the oven. These taste like a cross between baked oatmeal and a traditional pumpkin muffin (they don’t have any flour, so they’re a little denser than a traditional muffin, but still super moist!).

Get the recipe
healthy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins on rack
pizza-bites-in-lunchbox

Leftovers Lunch

Whether you have leftover chicken and sweet potatoes, pasta, chicken nuggets, meatballs, or another food, you can pack it cold or warm in a thermos according to what your family prefers. Add a simple lunch snack to go with it and you’re done.

We love these Pizza Bites packed in a thermos.

Pizza Bites (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
hummus-and-cheese-roll-up-lunch

Vegetarian Packed Lunch Ideas

It’s both easy and affordable to rely on vegetarian lunch ideas, and one of our favorites is to use hummus in all sorts of ways. We love it as a dip with crackers and veggies, as a sandwich filling (even in an Uncrustable), or in a roll-up. It has plenty of vegetarian protein, and you can use homemade hummus or store-bought.

Other favorite vegetarian lunch ideas include rice and beans, Sandwich Roll Ups, Alphabet Soup, Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt with granola, and Pizza Quesadillas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I make for my packed lunch?

You can make sandwiches, wraps, pasta salads, snack lunches, leftover lunches, muffin lunches, or breakfast foods for lunch in a packed lunch. So many easy options!

What do you pack for a quick lunch?

For a quick lunch, you can make a snack box with cheese, crackers, fresh veggies, and fruit. Or you can start the lunch with muffins and add fruit on the side. You could also rely on leftovers to make a fast lunch.

What to eat for lunch that’s not a sandwich?

Non-sandwich lunch ideas include muffins, wraps, salads, breakfast foods including pancakes and breakfast burritos, pasta salad, egg muffins, and more.

What can I pack my lunch in for work?

You can use a lunch box, a bento box, or a thermos to pack your lunch. You can also use any food storage container that you have that’s large enough for your food.

Packed Lunch Ideas for Work

Any of the ideas here can be used to make a lunch for work, whether to eat while working at home or in an office. There are more work lunch ideas in this post, and you can also check out my How to Meal Prep for Lunch story for more tips, too.

Packed Lunches for School

Each of these ideas works for daycare, preschool, or elementary school, so you can pack any of them in a kids lunch box and send off for their day.

How to Store Packed Lunches

To keep packed lunches safe, I recommend packing in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack if the lunch won’t be kept in a fridge.

Best Tips for Success

  • Do your best with portions and include a mix of food groups to help the kids stay full until their next chance to eat.
  • Pack the food in a lunch box in an insulated bag with an ice pack to keep it safe and cool until lunchtime.
  • Add milk or a water bottle as needed.
  • Adjust any of these for allergies and include Peanut-Free Snacks as needed.

Related Recipes


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

packed-lunch-ideas-featured

Easiest Packed Lunch Ideas (Plus Hummus Roll-Ups)

Find easy, nutritious, and delicious packed lunch ideas for kids and adults for daycare, school, work, and travel including this Hummus Roll-Up recipe.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Cuisine American
Course lunch
Calories 201kcal
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1 whole wheat tortilla (fajita size)
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • 1-2 slices cheddar cheese (optional)
  • ¼ cup vegetables (thinly sliced, such as bell pepper, lettuce, or carrot; optional)

Instructions

  • Place the tortilla on a clean work surface or cutting board. If it's not at room temperature, warm it on a heat-safe plate in the microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Spread on the hummus to about ¼-inch away from the outer edge.
  • Add the cheese and veggies, if using, layered on one side.
  • Working from the side of the tortilla with the fillings, tightly roll it up. Slice it in half or into rounds using a serrated knife.

Notes

  • This is best made on the day you plan to serve it. Keep cool in a lunchbox with an ice pack or in the fridge as needed.
  • Use homemade hummus or store-bought.
  • Do your best with portions and include a mix of food groups to help the kids stay full until their next chance to eat.
  • Pack the food in a lunchbox in an insulated bag with an ice pack to keep it safe and cool until lunchtime.
  • Add milk or a water bottle as needed.
  • Adjust any of these for allergies and include Peanut-Free Snacks as needed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1roll-up, Calories: 201kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 366mg, Potassium: 250mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 0.1g, Vitamin A: 2499IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 155mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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