If I had to eat a sandwich for lunch five days a week, I’d get tired of it pretty quickly. My kids are the same way. For that reason, I’ve started branching out from the typical sandwich to pack in their lunchboxes. Pasta, breakfast foods, leftovers… they are all easy school lunch ideas and my kids LOVE them!
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School Lunch Ideas
I typically either find a carb or a protein first, and then fill the rest of their lunchbox with fruit, veggies, and a snack. I don’t send veggies often unless I know they will get eaten. I don’t like to think of unwanted carrots tossed in the trash.
We use leftovers whenever possible (because THIS mom doesn’t feel like cooking food at 7:00 AM). The high schooler has access to a microwave but my 3rd grader doesn’t, so most school lunches aren’t foods that need to be warmed.
We try to keep it balanced and healthy, and avoid plastic and prepackaged foods as much as possible. But every now and then life happens.
Here are a few of our favorite school lunch ideas that we keep on rotation.
Breakfast Themed Lunches
- Waffles (with syrup, Nutella, or jam), sausage links, fruit
- Leftover banana pancakes (I make a double batch when we have brinner), bacon, fruit
- Mini bagels with goat cheese and blackberry preserves, greek yogurt, strawberries, Larabar mint chocolate balls
- Boiled eggs, toast strips, jam, cantaloupe
- French toast, syrup, sausage, fruit
- Fruit muffin (berry or banana), yogurt with granola, mixed fruit
- Egg muffins, fresh fruit, sausage
- Yogurt bar – yogurt with a variety of toppings (here are some of our favorite yogurt bowls)
Non-Sandwich Lunches for Kids
- Leftover Annie’s shells and cheese, Annie’s bunny grahams, blackberries, grape tomatoes, organic “nummy bears” for dessert
- Rolled up deli meat, cheese slices, Skinny Pop mini cakes, sweet baby peppers with hummus, blueberries, chocolate chips for dessert
- Cheese quesadilla, mixed fruit, tortilla chips and salsa
- Salami, cheese cubes, olives, grapes, wheat crackers (yes, my 8 year old really eats this!)
- Lettuce tuna wraps, avocado slices, crackers, baby carrots, fruit
- Leftover chicken cubes, broccoli, grape tomatoes, ranch dip, cuties
- Boiled egg, sliced fruit, sugar snap peas with ranch, muffin
- Pinwheels (ham, cheese, and mustard on a tortilla, rolled and cut into wheels), carrot sticks and ranch, apple slices
- Leftover pizza, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, dried mango
- Diced sweet potatoes (sauteed in oil), ham slices, pita chips, strawberries
- Tortellini topped with pesto, salami slices, greek yogurt topped with strawberries
- Chicken nuggets, Terra sweet potato chips, raspberries, almonds
Read more about how to pack school lunches your kids will actually eat!
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids
- One bowl lunch: Pasta salad with diced/shredded chicken, tiny bits of broccoli and carrots, halved grape tomatoes, topped with Italian dressing and feta cheese
- Meatless Monday: Apple nachos drizzled with warmed peanut butter (make sure PB is allowed at school, or use sunbutter) and topped with diced strawberries, wheat crackers and cheese
- Quinoa salad: cooked quinoa topped with diced avocado, feta cheese, halved grape tomatoes, and a sliced boiled egg. Drizzle with Newman’s Own olive oil and vinegar dressing.
- “Snack” lunch: Popcorn, blueberries, cheese cubes, applesauce, graham crackers
- Deconstructed cereal bowl: dry cereal (such as Cheerios or Fruit Loops), vanilla yogurt, sliced strawberries and bananas
- Sushi bento: California rolls, edamame, salad with ginger dressing
Holiday Themed Lunches – Fun Lunch Ideas
- Valentine’s Day: Sandwich cut into a heart shape, heart shaped cheese slices, heart shaped strawberries, dried cranberries, red candies
- St. Patrick’s Day: Chips and guacamole, kiwi slices, broccoli, “green” boiled egg
- Easter (the day after): Deviled eggs, ham slices, baby carrots, Peeps for dessert
- Memorial Day/4th of July/Veteran’s Day: Strawberries and blueberries in vanilla yogurt, apple and cheese slices, blue tortilla chips and salsa, marshmallows for dessert
- Halloween: Sandwich cut into a ghost shape (ok ok, there’s ONE sandwich lunch), purple yogurt (mixed berry), grapes (pretend they are eyeballs), pretzel sticks (bony fingers), piece of candy for dessert
Best Lunchboxes for Kids School Lunches
As you can see, we love to use our Planetbox for packing school lunches! The different compartments make it easy to pack in a variety of ingredients without letting things touch (nobody wants blueberries in their macaroni).
My son loves the magnets that fit into the different lid areas as well, and the matching lunchbox makes him the coolest kid at the lunch table.
We’ve tried out a few other lunchboxes that have also been really good. The Bentgo brand stainless steel lunchbox is really durable (they also make a plastic bento style lunchbox that’s less expensive).
The LunchBots stainless steel lunchboxes are also really good, and come with different colored lids so your kids know which lunch belongs to which child.
Have more school lunch ideas to share? Please comment below so we can keep the ideas flowing!