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These lunch ideas for picky eaters will get you through this endless school year

Did you start the school year off feeling creative and enthusiastic about making a variety of healthy lunches for your kid? If those perfect lunchboxes with the little food compartments are long buried in the back of your pantry, don’t fret. These lunch ideas for picky eaters will get you through the rest of this seemingly endless school year.

Healthy lunch for kids
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Easy lunch ideas for picky eaters

Keep it simple when figuring out lunch ideas for your picky eater. Instead of including a wide variety of foods, stick to one main item and two or three sides. When making lunch, try to find ways to include protein to help your kid feel full.

Don’t feel guilty about repeating lunches or foods. If you find specific lunches or foods your picky eater will eat, keep offering those foods to them. You could even make a list of your picky eater’s favorite foods and include one or two favorites with each lunch.

If you’re worried about your kid getting bored with their lunch, think of different ways to mix up the same meals. For instance, instead of always making the same sandwich, you could substitute the bread for a tortilla or crackers instead.

Kids lunch ideas for picky eaters

For your elementary-aged picky eaters, you’ll most likely need to pack food that doesn’t need warming up. Typically, finger foods and packaging that small hands can easily open are best. Buying in bulk and using your own reusable packaging helps guarantee your kid can quickly chow down.

When planning your picky eater’s lunch, consider including a protein, fruit, vegetable, and complex carb. You can rotate cheese sticks, yogurt pouches, and popcorn snacks throughout the week. For fruits and vegetables, consider apple slices, berries, cucumbers, bell peppers, and baby carrots.

Sample lunches

  • Homemade Lunchable: You can cut up your own meat and cheese squares and pack crackers for your kid to make their own little Lunchable. Mix it up by including different meats and cheeses. Add in your child’s favorite fruits and vegetables, like grapes, cucumber slices, or apple slices.
  • Peanut butter and jelly burrito: Peanut butter (or a substitute allergy-friendly butter-like sunflower butter) and jelly is a classic lunch choice. If you’re feeling burned out with traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you can slather the ingredients onto a large tortilla instead and then wrap it up like a burrito or cut it up into pinwheels. Include favorite sides like cheese sticks or popcorn.
  • Quesadilla: Cheesy quesadillas are a simple lunch that you can easily cater to your kid’s preference. You can keep this super basic with just cheese, or you can try to sneak shredded chicken or vegetables inside. Add to this lunch choice by including a dipping sauce like salsa or even ranch dressing. Offer healthy sides like beans and avocado slices.
A mother and son smiling while she is packing his lunch
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Lunch ideas for picky teenagers

Packing lunches for your picky teenager may feel more daunting than when they were elementary-aged. Now, your teen is picky and requires a lot more food than they did when they were in second grade. Although keeping your teen feeling full takes some more effort, there are several ways to help keep them fueled for their school day.

When making your teen’s lunch, be sure to include protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs to keep them feeling full and having the energy to meet their daily demands. Avoid refined sugar and highly processed foods. You may want to pack a second sandwich or a few extra snacks if your teenager stays after school for sports or other activities.

Sample lunches

  • Chicken wraps: Fill a large tortilla with chicken and cheese. Try to include any preferred vegetables, like lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. You can add more nutritional value by smearing a hummus or avocado spread on the inside. Snacks could consist of pita chips, granola bars, and fruit.
  • Breakfast for lunch: Breakfast foods are arguably the best foods. For your teen’s lunch, you could include pancakes with the syrup cooked in or with peanut butter (or allergy-friendly butter) spread onto the pancake. Hard-boiled eggs, fruit, or yogurt and granola can all add more protein to the lunch.
  • Burrito bowl: Burrito bowls are a quick way to meet your picky eater’s preferences while providing a filling meal. Have your teenager pick a type of meat, beans, and other toppings for their bowl, such as lettuce, peppers, guacamole, sour cream, or cheese. Add chips and salsa as a side.

Packing your picky eater’s lunch can feel tedious and repetitive. Remember to include your child in the conversation. Have them make a list of their favorite lunch foods and ask them what foods may go uneaten. You can even consider rotating through the same five or so lunches each week.

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Whitney Sandoval
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Whitney Sandoval is a freelance writer and educator living in the Midwest. She writes about parenting, accessibility, and…
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