Need easy lunch box ideas for kids? Here’s exactly what a Registered Dietitian mom packed her son for the first month of elementary school, with real life photos.
*Originally published 10/2021. Updated Aug 2023*
I’m often asked to share healthy lunch box ideas for kids so I put together a guide – A Month of Packed Lunches for Kids. It’s been a huge hit and given lots of parents quick and easy lunch box ideas for kids. The thing I’ve heard most frequently is that the pictures are SO helpful. A lot of you are visual people! In the packed lunch guide, there are 24 lunch ideas with photos. But I wanted to add more! So, when my oldest was in first grade, I photographed the lunches that I packed for the first month. I wanted to share some of the real-life lunch box examples.
School lunch and snack ideas:
Before we start, I do have several posts with snack ideas that can be helpful when packing school lunches:
- Peanut and Tree Nut Free Packaged Snacks
- 60+ Healthy Packaged Snacks for Kids
- Healthy Amazon Snacks
- Healthy Snacks At Costco For The Whole Family
- Best Healthy Walmart Snacks
- Best Trader Joe’s Snacks
- Healthy Snacks At Target
- Best ALDI Healthy Snacks
And if you need after-school ideas check out Healthy After School Snacks here.
How To Pack Easy Lunch Box Ideas For Kids
At first, I was alternating between bentgo box lunch ideas in the Bentgo Fresh lunch box and a Lunch Bots lunch box (aff links) but I now use just the Bentgo. While I like that the Lunch Bots one is stainless steel, it’s not completely leakproof even with the silicone cup inserts and my son found it a little hard to get open.
I pack the Bentgo box every evening and store in the fridge. In the morning, I put it inside this Arctic Zone insulated lunch bag and add an ice pack. My son eats all of the foods I send cold/room temperature.
Even things like quesadillas and tortellini that he’s used to eating warm at home. So far it hasn’t been an issue at all for him but some kids don’t like changes in temperature. In that case, you could invest in a thermos or practice eating things at different temperatures at home so they get used to it.
These OmieBox lunch boxes (aff link) have a built-in thermos and would be a great option to invest in if your kids tend to prefer hot lunches.
How To Get Kids To Pack Their Own Lunches
If you’re thinking packed lunches are great but really want your kids to start packing their own lunches, my friend and fellow RD Sally has you covered:
- Teach Your Kids To Pack Their Own Lunch– free printable
- How To Get Your Kids To Pack Their Lunch In 5 Days
- 100 Lunch Box Ideas Your Kids Will Love
Photos of Easy School Lunch Ideas For Kids
So here are some of the actual lunch boxes I packed. I snapped a photo every day and then just used Pixlr to remove the countertop in the background and make them prettier to look at. A few things to note-
- Our school is not nut-free.
- A reminder that even if you kids prefer a similar lunch every day, there are ways you can add variety – try pretzel sticks one day and twists the next. Try peanut butter and jelly on bread one day, then on a sandwich thin or pita the next, etc!
- There’s nothing wrong with hard-boiled egg yolks, my kids just don’t like them.
Easy Kids Lunch Box Ideas
#1 Quick Kids Lunch Box Ideas – with hard-boiled eggs
- Motts Applesauce
- Cheese stick
- Hard-boiled eggs
#2 Simple Kids Lunch Box with turkey sandwich
- Quaker Reduced Sugar Granola Bar
- Turkey & Cheese on Brownberry Sandwich Thin
- Ants on a log
#3 Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids – Homemade Lunchable
- Wheat Thins
- GF Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
- Applegate pepperoni
- Dietz and Watson Originals Organic Turkey
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Chobani less sugar yogurt
#4 Nutritious Kids Lunch Ideas – with Chicken Sausage
- Zucchini Apple Muffin
- Simple Mills Almond crackers
- Buttered Corn
- Al Fresco Chicken Sausage
- Cottage Cheese
#5 Quick and easy lunch box idea for kids with Pepperoni Egg Wrap
- Simple Mills Banana Bread
- Sun Chips
- Pepperoni and Cheese Egg Wrap
- Carrots with ranch
#6 Quick and easy cold lunch ideas for kids with turkey roll-up
- Crinkle carrot, carrot ribbon, mini pepper
- Wheat Thins
- Dried pears (i get them at Costco)
- Bush’s Baked beans
- Turkey wrapped mozzarella cheese stick
- Trail Mix with pepitas, Cheerios, raisins and mini marshmallows
#7 Kiddies lunch box ideas with chicken nuggets
- Cheese and Triscuit thins
- Canned pineapple
- Kidfresh Foods Chicken Nuggets with ketchup
- Stonyfield yogurt tube
#8 Simple lunchbox ideas for kids – Quesadilla
- Tortilla chips with Good Foods avocado mash
- Cheese quesadilla
- Hard-boiled egg
- Reduced sugar fruit snacks
#9 Good lunch box ideas for kids – PBJ Mini bagel
- Peanut butter and jelly mini bagel
- Chomps beef stick + cheese stick + cherry tomatoes
- Fruit salad
- Banana bread
#10 Kids bento box ideas – turkey pickle wrap
- Lentil Banana Muffin
- Graham cracker
- Turkey pepperoni pickle roll-up
- Roasted broccoli
- Dates with peanut butter
#11 – Healthy lunch box ideas for kids – egg waffle and mini pancakes
- Kodiak Cakes mini pancakes
- Egg Waffle
- Carrot Banana muffin
#12- Easy lunch box ideas for kids – mini pizza
- Ants on a log
- Golden kiwi
- English muffin mini pizza
- Wheat Thins
So there you go – There are 12 of the first 30 lunch boxes I packed for my son. Want to see the other 18? Check out my Month of Packed Lunches for Kids guide!
GRAB YOUR COPY HERE!
Fun Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids
HERE’S WHAT’S IN YOUR BEST PACKED LUNCH IDEAS FOR KIDS PDF:
- Product recommendations – I share my favorite lunch boxes.
- Prep ahead tips – A few tips for things you can prep ahead of time in the fridge and freezer to make lunch packing easier.
- Lunch Packing Cheat Sheet – lunch ideas divided into protein, carbs, vegetables, fruits and snacks so you can mix and match from each category to pack a balanced lunch quickly.
- 24 lunch box photos – full-color photos of bento-style lunch boxes showcasing different lunch item ideas
- Nut-free product recommendations – If your school is nut-free, here are some peanut/tree nut-free snacks you can pack for your kiddos.
- BONUS REAL-LIFE LUNCH BOXES PDF! (Where I share the other 18 real-life lunch boxes!)
GRAB YOUR COPY HERE! Packed Lunch Ideas For Kids Guide
Easy Kids Lunch Box Ideas FAQs
What should a kid have for lunch?
When I put together lunches for my kids I always focus on protein first. I make sure to always include a protein source and then build around that. While I don’t serve my kids vegetables for lunch every day, I do try to always include fruit. If your kids are more selective eaters, make sure to include 1-2 safe foods they love, no matter what else you’re serving.
Added bonus points for including something with some fiber and/or healthy fats to help keep them full a bit longer.
Ideas for quick lunch ideas for kids at home? Best home lunch ideas?
If my kids are home for lunch, especially during the school year when most days they eat a cold lunch, I always try to mix in hot lunches for variety. I try to keep my freezer well stocked with healthy freezer snacks that can double as lunch on occasions like this.
Some of my kids favorite warm lunches include mini pizzas, pancakes or waffles, nachos, oatmeal and omelets.
Smoothies are another great option for home lunches because they can be tricky to send to school.
What to make for lunch for picky kids? Easy lunch box ideas for picky eaters?
What do you give kids for lunch that don’t like sandwiches? How do I get my kids to eat sandwiches?
Not liking sandwiches is very common among kids and can take some work on your end to get them to accept and eat them. Sometimes a sandwich can seem large and overwhelming, especially to smaller kids.
You can start by getting them used to eating toast with toppings or an open-faced sandwich. Or try things like build your own mini sandwiches on crackers to get them used to foods being stacked on top of one another. Thinner breads like sandwich thins or tortillas can also be helpful!
Are there any foods parents should not pack in a lunch box?
Be sure to follow any allergy restrictions for your school. In addition, make sure to invest in a good lunchbox with leak-proof containers so you don’t end up with a mess of soggy food, as well has good ice packs and an insulated lunch box to help keep food at a safe temperature until lunch time!
Bento Box Lunch Ideas For Kids
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