Looking for easy lunch ideas for kids? This is the ultimate list of kid-friendly lunch recipes! Use the mix-and-match Lunch Printable OR one of the bento box suggestions to create a lunch that packs well and helps to meet the nutritional needs of your growing children.
Once you get a handle on packing lunches, don't miss looking over my collection Healthy Snacks For Kids. You know your kids will be hungry after school!
When it comes to school lunches, most parents and caregivers can agree upon a few things.
- We want our children to eat a balanced lunch.
- We want our children to actually EAT the lunch we send with them to school.
- We do NOT want to spend a lot of time or money making lunches for school.
These creative school lunch ideas for kids are just what we all need. From a printable lunchbox planner to mix and match hundreds of lunch combinations to simple DIY Lunchables and Bentos, these lunch ideas are both kid-approved and parent-approved!
My #1 Tip for Packing Lunches
Let your kids choose their own lunch.
I know, I know, you are fearful that if you let your child pack their school lunch without your help, they may end up with nothing more than a brownie and potato chips. However, if you give them healthy options and allow them to choose from those options, your child will be much more likely to actually eat their lunch.
So whether they are packing their own lunch or you are packing their lunch for them, allow your child to have a say in what they will be eating--within reason😉
Mix and Match Lunch Ideas
If you don't know where to start when it comes to packing a balanced school lunch, use my printable lunch graphic to start. It is designed so that you or your child select one item from each category to create a lunch that features protein, grain, fruit, and vegetable. This is a great way to help your child make wise choices on their own while learning that meals should be balanced.
Print the Lunch Box Planner HERE, hang it on your refrigerator or in your pantry, and then let your child help you pack their lunches using this list as a guide. This list is limited in options, but it is a great starting point. Feel free to add your favorites to the list!
Lunch Box Ideas for Kids
Do you still need some inspiration for lunches? I have tons of kid-friendly recipes to share that are perfect for packing in a school lunch. These wholesome, easy lunch ideas for kids will ensure your kids gobble up their school lunch and you will feel good about what they are eating!
Lunch Box Option 1: Pizza Lunchable: What kid can resist pizza? Prepare your own Pizza Lunchable by packing an English muffin, a container of pizza sauce, and shredded cheese in your child's lunch. Alternatively, make a large batch of English Muffins Pizzas or Air Fryer Bagel Pizzas and use them to make quick work of packing school lunches. Add in some veggies and fresh fruit and watch your kids get excited about lunchtime!
Lunch Box Option 2: Cheese & Crackers Lunchable: This is one of the easiest lunches to pack for your child--and it is so much more affordable to make this lunch yourself rather than purchase a pre-made Lunchable. Pictured in this lunch are crackers, a cheese stick, grapes, pea crisps, and mini bell peppers. Feel free to change it up using your favorite crackers or swap out the cheese stick with sliced cheese or cubed cheese.
Lunch Box Option 3: Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups: Skip the bread and wrap deli meat with sliced cheese for tasty non-sandwich school lunch. I pair this with pretzels, fresh cherries, and a homemade yogurt tube for a simple lunch.
Lunch Box Option 4: Copycat Starbucks Protein Bistro Box: Pair 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs with grapes, apple slices, cheese, nut butter, and some whole grain pretzels (or roll), and this simple lunch travels well and can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature. Pro-tip: Be sure to slice your hard-boiled eggs and season with salt and pepper or Everything Bagel Seasoning before packing.
Lunch Box Option 5: Bean Burritos: Bean burritos are SUPER easy to make and freeze well, making this a great recipe to make in bulk. Store them in the freezer, pull one or two out at a time, throw them into a lunch box with fruit and a chocolate bar, and by lunch, they have defrosted and are ready to eat. Bonus: There are "hidden" veggies in these simple bean burritos!
Lunch Box Option 6: Turkey Club Wrap: These turkey wraps are always a huge hit. Turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, are all wrapped up for a delicious lunch that features whole grains, veggies, and protein. Add in some berries and some pea crisps and lunch is good to go!
Lunch Box Option 7: Cheese Quesadilla: This is not your average quesadilla recipe. This is a Healthy Quesadilla made with hidden veggies. Trust me, it works and the KIDS love it! Serve with sour cream or a cup of guacamole for dipping and some fresh fruit to round out the meal.
Lunch Box Option 8: Hummus Snack Box
Pair store-bought or homemade hummus with veggies and pita chips or pretzels for dipping. Add in fresh strawberries and almonds for one tasty lunch.
Lunch Box Option 9: Chicken Nuggets: Whether you have leftover chicken tenders or chicken nuggets, they make a perfect non-sandwich lunch for kids. Add a side of ketchup, honey mustard, or BBQ sauce for dipping, and finish with fresh fruit and vegetables. This is another easy, kid-favorite lunch.
Lunch Box Option #10: Chicken Sausage: I think it is a proven fact that kids enjoy food more when it is served on a stick. Even better with a dipping sauce on the side. Serve precooked, sliced Italian chicken sausage with a side of pizza or spaghetti sauce for dipping, a side of snap pea crisps, and plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries or homemade granola.
Lunch Box Option #11: Muffin or Quick Bread: Think outside the sandwich and serve lunch meat and cheese on the side of a whole grain muffin or quick bread, like Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, Peanut Butter Banana Muffins, Applesauce Muffins, or Zucchini Bread. Add a side of yogurt with homemade granola and strawberries and a side of grapes. YUM!
Lunch Box Option 12: Nachos: Pair tortilla chips with lettuce, beans, tomatoes, and cheese for a quick and healthy version of nachos perfect for school lunch. And some fruit and a cup of salsa, sour cream, or guacamole on the side if desired and this is sure to be a favorite! This is a great lunch to prep after you enjoy tacos for dinner. Swap out the beans for leftover taco meat or refried beans to use up any leftovers you may have.
Lunch Box Option 13: Breakfast for Lunch: If your kids are like mine, they LOVE breakfast! So why not serve it for lunch? Kids love pancakes cold or warm, so they work perfectly for school lunch and can even work in place of bread on a cream cheese or peanut butter sandwich. When you make pancakes, whether Whole Wheat Pancakes or Banana Oat Pancakes, set a few aside for school lunches. Add a couple of pancakes to the lunch box along with a side of maple syrup or chia jam. Round out the lunch with berries, a hard-boiled egg, and yogurt topped with homemade granola.
Lunch Box Option 14: Veggie Wrap: What kid does not like to dip their veggies into ranch dressing? This easy recipe for a Veggie Wrap puts the veggies and ranch right into a handheld wrap and provides them with vegetables, whole grains, and calcium. Pair this tasty wrap with a bag of whole-grain popcorn and a fruit cup.
Lunch Box Option 15: Butterfly Snack Bags: These Butterfly Snack Bags are not only fun, but they are also customizable, and depending on what you use to make them, they can stand alone as a completely balanced meal. Shown below are snack bags prepared with grapes, peanut butter crackers, and a cheese stick.
Lunch Box Option 16: Leftovers: Never underestimate the power of leftovers when it comes to packing a school lunch. Pack a thermos with leftover Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Tortellini Soup, Buffalo Chicken Casserole, Cheesy Chicken and Rice, or any other main course your child loves. Pair it with a side of fruit and a square of chocolate, for a lunch you know your child will love.
Tips for Packing School Lunches
- Be aware of any food restrictions in place at your school and/or your own child's food allergies when packing school lunches. If you find yourself dealing with food allergies, be sure to check out Nut-Free Lunch Ideas and my collection of Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas.
- Pack lunch immediately after dinner. That way you can utilize leftovers if desired, you only have to clean up the kitchen once, and it will be one less thing to stress about in the morning rush.
- Print the Lunch Box Planner HERE, to hang on your refrigerator or place it in your pantry for easy reference and to make easy work of packing school lunches.
- Opt for whole grains when you can. Select whole wheat bread over white bread, a whole wheat muffin over a muffin made with refined flour, or brown rice over white rice, etc for a dose of fiber and whole grains.
- Adjust portions accordingly. Keep in mind whether the lunch is for a kindergartner or high school student and/or whether your child is active in sports.
- Have the right tools. You do not need expensive or fancy bento boxes to make healthy lunches for your kids, but having reusable containers does cut back on waste, and having a thermos allows the option of taking a hot lunch or leftovers to school. I have a collection of BPA-free meal-prep containers that fit well into standard-size lunch boxes. I use silicone muffin liners when I need to divide the larger compartments. I also recommend having a good-quality thermos and stainless steel water bottle.
More Kid-Friendly Lunch Recipes
Just in case I haven't shared enough ideas for lunches, I still have more ideas that will round out lunch and make it that much tastier!
- Southwestern Veggie Tostadas: This baked tostada is like a mini Mexican Pizza and is so fun for kids to make and eat! It checks off a whole grain from the tortilla, vegetables from the toppings, and protein from the refried beans. Serve with a side of fruit for a lunch that is perfectly balanced!
- Mac and Cheese Muffins: Use leftover macaroni and cheese and turned it into a portable muffin that is loaded with veggies and packs well in school lunches. These muffins have carbohydrates, veggies, and protein and kids LOVE them! They freeze great and can be served warm and packed in a thermos or cold. Add in a fruit cup and lunch is done!
- Homemade Snack and Granola Bars: You will save so much money by making your own granola bars AND you will ensure they are good for you! Try out my easy, no-bake recipes for PB Oat Bars, Homemade Granola Bars, and Homemade Larabars.
- Healthy Dips: Including fruits and vegetables in each lunch is so important, and we all know that when served with a dip, kids are much more likely to make that produce disappear. Serve Peanut Butter Chocolate Dip or Cream Cheese Apple Dip with fruit and/or Homemade Ranch Dip and watch your kids devour their fruits and veggies.
- Homemade Cheese Crackers: So much better than what you get in a box! These crackers are perfect to add to your child's lunch for a serving of whole grains or just a yummy snack.
- Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups: Super easy to make and super fun to eat, these homemade fruit roll-ups are a great way to enjoy fruit!
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Oatmeal Cups: Made with whole grains, fruit, and protein, these Oatmeal Cups are not just for breakfast! They are perfect to use in place of a classic PB&J sandwich.
I hope that these ideas and tips for kid-friendly lunches help make the task of packing school lunches less daunting for you!