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7 kids’ school lunch ideas you can put together in no time

Tasty lunches kids won't want to trade or toss

Parent putting together a colorful lunch
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Do you dread packing lunch for the kiddos during the school year? You’re not alone. This evening ritual can be daunting, especially when your children keep begging you to let them buy the school lunch. Even though creating lunches during the week can be a chore, parents know bringing food from home is healthier and cheaper than purchasing a meal from school.

The problem is lunches can get boring. There are only so many things you can put in a lunchbox or bag for kids. The grass is always greener, too, because someone usually seems to have a cooler lunch or a better snack than your kids. So, if you need some delish and healthy kids’ school lunch ideas, we’ve got the inspiration you need to take the bore out of this nighttime chore.

School lunch tips

A child eating her school lunch.
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Whatever kind of lunch for the kids you put together, always try to include the four basics. Have a main component like a sandwich or yogurt. Add a side of a crunchy veggie like carrots or cherry tomatoes, along with some fruit. You can toss in a dip, too, like humus or guacamole, if your children will eat it. Make sure to incorporate something fun snack items such as chips, pretzels, or a cookie.

Get your kids involved in school lunch preparation to keep food from ending up in the trash or in someone else’s tummy. Listen when your child tells you the tuna sandwich stunk up their locker or was a puddle by lunchtime. Containers that keep cold food cool and hot lunches warm can fix those things.

Finally, keep the portions small, especially for younger kids. Children don’t need a huge lunch. They’re not heading to the construction site for the day. Kids are more apt to eat an assortment of smaller portions than a large sandwich.

Kids’ school lunch ideas

Group of kids at a table in school eating lunch
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Creating interesting, tasty, and nutritious lunches for school isn’t an easy task, especially if you have multiple children. Busy parents also don’t have a lot of time to put together complicated lunches for kids to take on the go. It’s also tough if you have picky eaters. Here are some go-to lunch ideas for school that aren’t time-consuming meals to pack and give your kiddos healthy food to keep their energy up all afternoon.

Bento boxes

Making lunch for picky eaters is really difficult. Try using a bento box and enlist the assistance of your kids. Fill each section of the bento box with something your kids like to eat. For example, you can cut up cheese cubes for one section. Carrots for another, along with some cut-up strawberries. Be sure to leave a section for a sweet treat. Other bento box ideas include lunch meats, mini sandwiches, Cheerios, nuts (if they’re allowed), or crackers and hummus. If you need some more bento box inspiration, check out Yummy Toddler Foods. Bento boxes are a great option for kids of all ages, including teens. They just have to remember to bring it home.


This is a tried-and-true school lunch staple. The trick is to avoid packing sandwiches every day. Even adults get bored eating a ham and cheese sandwich day after day. You can also shake up the traditional sandwich by using different breads. Sandwiches can be made using bread slices, rolls, Italian bread, and bagels.


Another way to change up the boring sandwich is to make it a wrap instead. You can pretty much make a wrap out of anything your kids enjoy eating. Just avoid anything that will end up turning into a soggy mess by lunchtime. A turkey, spinach, and tomato wrap is a healthy and yummy lunch. Pair it with a banana and carrot sticks. For a fun switch, chop up some bacon for a turkey/bacon, spinach wrap. If you need some more lunch wrap ideas, try Family Food on the Table’s easy wrap recipes.

Pita pocket

For a yummy school lunch option, try filling a pita pocket with your kiddo’s favs. Cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes make a kid-friendly pita pocket. You can also stuff a pita pocket with leftover chopped chicken. Tuna salad is another tasty pita option, just be sure to send in a container with an ice pack to keep it from getting mushy.

Peanut butter and …

Not all schools allow peanut butter because of allergies, but if your child’s school does and your kiddo loves PB&J sandwiches, this is a quick and simple school lunch. Just like the traditional sandwich, having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day can get tedious. So, spice it up, so to speak, by changing up the combo. You can skip the jelly and use fruit instead. Peanut butter and bananas are delish, or go for peanut butter and blueberry or strawberry sandwiches. How about peanut butter and pickles? You can also ditch the bread and spread peanut butter on apple slices packed in an airtight container.

Yogurt parfait

Packing yogurt for lunch, especially Greek yogurt, is a healthy alternative to a sandwich. Jazz up a plain cup of yogurt by making a parfait with some granola and your child’s favorite fruit. All you need to do is spoon half of a container of yogurt into a small thermos. Top with blueberries, strawberries, or your kiddo’s go-to fruit. Then, spoon in the rest of the yogurt and sprinkle granola on top. If you don’t have time to make the night before, pack a yogurt cup with cut-up fruit and granola in small airtight containers. Always put a cold pack in the lunchbox to keep the yogurt cool if you’re not using a thermos.

Hot lunch options

If your kids aren’t into cold lunches or you’re just looking to mix things up during the week, buy a thermos. The Thermos Funtainer comes with a reusable spoon and keeps food hot for up to five hours. With a thermos, you can send the kiddos to school with their favorite soup, pasta, mac and cheese, fried rice, chicken nuggets, or last night’s leftovers. The only issue with sending the kids to school with a hot lunch is that you need to have the time to heat it up in the morning before school.

Sending the kids to school with lunch is a healthy and budget-friendly option. Despite attempts to improve the quality of school lunches, many districts miss the mark, and buying lunch all week adds up. School lunches also aren’t an ideal choice for picky eaters. Sure, packing lunches each day for the kids can become tedious. To avoid boredom in the bag or box, try to change things up with these tasty and simple kids’ school lunch ideas. Bento boxes are an easy and kid-friendly way to mix up the foods your children take to school. Don’t forget to get your kids involved in shopping and making lunches. They are more apt to dig in when they have a say in what gets packed.

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