100 Lunch Ideas for Kids (Free Printables!)
An ultimate list of over 100 Lunch Ideas for Ideas will help you keep your kids lunch at school or home fresh and interesting all year long! In this guide, you will find homemade and store-bought lunch ideas, our favorite lunch boxes, tips on how to pack more filling lunches as well as a free printable for easy reference. Great for kids 2 – 12 years old.
Medically reviewed and co-written by Jamie Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).
School Lunch Ideas
Looking to send your kid to school with a healthy homemade lunch, but you are all out of ideas?
Then you are in the right spot! This guide to lunches for kids is everything!
It’s a one-stop shop for easy, healthy and delicious school lunch box inspiration.
Over 100 of our favorite school lunch ideas that are both kid and mom-approved! 🙌
And because I know you will have a ton of other amazing school lunch ideas of your own 😎, I made a blank cheat sheet for you (or your kids) to fill out with your own favorite go-to things to pack for school lunches.
Feeding kids can be tricky! But, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Here you will find 40 Family Dinner Ideas, over 100 Healthy Snacks for Kids, great Hidden-Veggie Recipes, 50 Cooking with Kids Recipes and so much more! Plus, don’t miss my best-selling cookbook Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunch for Kids for more recipes and ideas!
Back To School Lunch Video
Watch this video to see a fun lunch idea for back to school!
Reasons to Love these Lunch Ideas for Kids
- easy to pack lunches
- great for lunches at home
- full of nutrient-dense foods to boost learning
- can be packed in any bento box or lunch box
- so many options, your kid will never get bored
- great way to introduce new foods
Tips for Picky-Eaters
- Have your child pick out food – sit down with your child and highlight all of the foods on the list below that they would love to have in their lunches, and then highlight (in a different color) 2-3 items that they want to try over the next couple of weeks. Go slow and let them be in charge of it.
- Have your child help make their lunch – kids that help prep and make food in the kitchen are more likely to eat a variety of foods. Have your kid help chop veggies, wash and slice fruit, make a sandwich or simply place the items in their lunchbox.
- Always serve something you know they’ll eat- when serving unfamiliar foods, or foods that are not your child’s favorite, always serve it alongside something that you know they will eat. And just because they may not like something, it doesn’t mean you have to stop serving it. The more exposure they have to a food and become familiar, the more likely they are to eat it. Plus, their friend at school might happen to have the same food in their lunchbox, which could entice your kid to eat it. Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing 😉
Favorite Lunch Boxes
I tested out the top 6 lunch boxes to help you find the perfect lunch box for your toddler, preschooler, or big kids that can go anywhere they go – school, preschool, a school pod, lunch at home, a playdate, or a fun outing. Here are my top 3 lunch boxes for kids:
Best Overall Lunch Box: OMIEBOX
We love the OmieBox because it has a built-in thermos that can be inserted into the lunch box for warm or cold foods that can be removed if needed. How brilliant is that? Plus, you can insert dividers in the 2 smaller sections to separate the food, and each section is leakproof.
Best Eco-Friendly Bento Box: PLANETBOX ROVER
We have been using the Planetbox Rover for years, and we all absolutely love it! The Rover holds a good amount of food for both my 5 and 7-year-olds, and I know I can pack it with even more food as they grow. My girls love the fun magnets, the carrying case, and the small colorful pods you can add into the bento for small amounts of food. This lunchbox is made completely without plastic – it is made with only stainless steel and food-grade silicone.
Best for Younger Kids: Bentgo
This is a great little lunch box for younger kids or kids who don’t eat very much. I loved that it is a compact, lightweight, and completely leakproof lunchbox. My kids loved the fun designs on the front. Plus, this lunchbox is super easy to open and shut for younger kids.
Best Value Lunch Box: Easy Lunch Boxes
A very basic bento that comes in a 4-pack with different colored lids. This set of Bentos comes with the smallest price tag, and you can get all 4 boxes for under $20. This bento is a great size for both kids and grown-ups which means you can use them for the entire family. They aren’t made with the highest quality of materials (BPA-Free Plastic), but we have had our bento boxes for over 6 years, and they are still going strong. I think every family should have a set of these. They are also a great option if your kid tends to misplace everything in their life;).
Lunch Packing Tools
Besides having a lunch box, it’s great to have some of these tools on hand to make it easier to pack fun lunches.
- Silicone Cupcake Liners: not just for muffins, these holders are great for sectioning off different foods from each other (i.e. crackers in one and cheese in another).
- Small Cutters: these are great for fruits, veggies, cheese and small sandwiches.
- Sandwich Shape Cutters: an easy way to turn any sandwich into a fun shape.
- Uncrustable Cutters: just like the store-bought, at a fraction of the price.
- Small Dip Containers: great for dips, sauces or small treats.
- Ice Pack: helps keep your child’s lunch cold.
- Water Bottle: to send cold water for lunch. Read my Buying Guide: Best Kids Water Bottles for a more in-depth look at our favorite brands.
Frequently Asked Questions
We recommend adding in a small ice pack into your child’s lunch bag along with their lunch box. We love the Bentgo Buddies Reusable Ice Packs, Thrive Ice Packs for Lunch Bags, or the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Lunch Ice Packs.
The best way to keep your child’s lunch warm is to use a OmieBox lunch box, which comes with an insertable thermos.
Ideally you want to include at least 3 food groups in your child’s meals so that they are eating from all 5 food groups (grains, protein, dairy, fruits, and vegetables) throughout the day. Always include something you know they’ll eat if you are also adding in a new food.
Really anything kids eat at school is also good for at home, but you may have more options at home. For instance, things that need to stay frozen, need to be heated up, may get smushed in a lunchbox, or are messier are more suited for home. Lunch ideas that get kids involved in making it are great, as it can double as an activity to pass the time.
Always include something you know your kid will eat, whether it’s their favorite sandwich, a yogurt pouch, fruit, or a treat. And then include variety to help with exposure. It may be helpful to serve foods in fun ways, like different shapes, with dips, or with a new utensil. Have them help you make their lunch or give them choices to help them feel more in control of what they are eating.
Kid Serving Sizes
Serving sizes will vary from child to child but generally, kids need a quarter of the portion an adult does. Parents tend to overestimate servings for their children. I recommend starting small not to overwhelm your kid and give seconds if your kid wants more. Keep in mind it’s totally ok if your child eats more or less of these serving sizes. Here are some examples of typical serving sizes for kids ages 2-12:
- 1/4 cup dry cereal
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 banana
- 1/4 -1/2 slice of bread
- 1/2 egg
- 1 oz. meat
- 1/2 piece of fresh fruit
- 1/3 cup of yogurt
- 1-2 tablespoons of cooked veggies
How to Build a Healthy Lunch for Kids
- Try to include at least 3 food groups
- Make one food group protein to help keep them full
- Avoid sugary drinks like soda, juice, lemonade, etc.
- Serve foods in an age appropriate way (cut up v. whole) and in age appropriate serving sizes
- Include different colors to make the meal more appealing
- Limit high sugar and sodium foods
- Serve a variety of foods instead of the same ones to encourage them to try new foods
Here are some of our reader-favorite homemade lunch recipes for kids.
Main Course Lunch Ideas for Kids
These filling main courses are easy to make and are kid-approved. These recipes are versatile and just a starting point, so feel free to substitute your child’s favorite ingredients if needed.
- bagel with cream cheese and hemp seed “sprinkles”
- cheese tortellini with marinara dipping sauce
- nut butter & jelly rollups*
- nut butter, banana & honey sandwich*
- cheese, bean & corn quesadilla with mild guacamole on the side
- cold pasta salad
- Homemade Uncrustable
- cheese pizza with olives & peppers on bagel or flatbread
- udon noodles with veggies and nut butter sauce*
- grilled chicken nuggets with pesto dipping sauce
- pancakes, hard boiled egg and turkey bacon
- waffles & cream cheese sandwich
- tuna fish in mini pita bread
- turkey & cheese roll-ups with a pickle
- baked chicken nuggets with honey mustard dipping sauce
- hummus, chopped veggies and pita bread wedges
- bean & cheese nachos
- sliced apple & nut butter “sandwich”*
- veggie nuggets with ranch dipping sauce
- healthy Lunchables – rolled turkey, salami, sliced cheese and crackers
- yogurt, granola and berries
- chicken salad with crackers
- baked crispy tofu cubes
- cream cheese & carrot pinwheels
- veggie-loaded pizza rollups
Warm Main Course – great in Omiebox or served in a thermos
- tomato soup with cheese bread dippers
- chicken noodle soup
- beans & rice with a sprinkle of cheese
- mini bean & cheese burrito
- macaroni & cheese with chicken chunks and peas
- meatballs with BBQ toppings on the side
- oatmeal with DIY toppings on the side
- chili with broccoli & cheese cornbread
*use sunflower butter for nut-free schools
Fruits & Veggies Ideas for Lunch
Chopped fruits and veggies are a healthy and easy thing to add to any lunch box. Pack whichever fruits and veggies are in season, your child prefers or you have in the fridge.
- apple slices
- applesauce: homemade or store-bought, cinnamon, carrot, strawberry applesauce and 8 more easy flavors
- mandarin oranges
- dried fruit: strawberries, mango, berries, banana, etc
- cantaloupe chunks
- orange sections
- honeydew balls
- fruit cup
- pomegranate seeds
- fruit kabob
- broccoli florets
- celery sticks
- carrots – sticks, baby, coins
- snap peas
- sliced peppers
- cherry tomatoes
- avocado (squeeze of lemon keeps it from browning)
- green beans
- cauliflower florets
- sliced zucchini
- cucumber slices
Something Fun (optional)
While a small treat, chips or store-bought foods are completely optional items to pack in your child’s lunch, a little bit of fun food does go a long way. If you prefer, you can also send a handwritten note or opt for foods that are on the healthier side (popcorn, mini chocolate chips, pirates booty, etc).
- mini chocolate chips
- trail mix
- chocolate covered raisins
- mini marshmallows
- graham crackers
- veggie sticks
- pirates booty
- mini muffin
- 2-bite brownie or cookie
- chocolate covered pretzels
- yogurt covered raisins
- yogurt covered pretzels
- rice crispy treats
- chocolate-covered nuts, seeds or dried fruit
- baked chips
- corn chips with mild salsa
- gummy treats
- homemade treat
- kale chips
- energy bites
- seed crackers with guacamole
- yogurt tubes (frozen or cold)
- cheddar snacks
- string cheese
Dips are usually loved by kids and is fun side to add to cut veggies, fruit or crackers.
- nut butter*
- cream cheese dip
- yogurt dip
- honey mustard
- BBQ sauce
- laughing cow cheese
- mild salsa
*use sunflower butter for nut-free schools
Kid Lunch Recipes
Here are some of our favorite school lunch recipes. These recipes are great served in a lunch box for school or at home.
- Beet Hummus
- Easy Pizza Pinwheels
- Veggie-Loaded Hummus
- Back-to-School Lunch Idea
- DIY Heart Pizza Lunchable
- Freezer-Friendly Spinach Waffles
- Rainbow Fruit Skewers
- Blueberry Avocado Mini Muffins
- On-The-Go Granola Bars
- Healthy Strawberry Yogurt Dip
- Valentine’s Day School Lunch
- Halloween School Lunch for Kids
- Avocado Tuna Salad in Mini Pita Pockets
- Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Bites
- Easy Veggie “Fried” Rice
- Kale Pesto Chicken Quesadilla
- Easy Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread Dippers
- Mini Chicken + Carrot Meatballs
- Pesto Summer Salad
- Mini Bagel Pizzas with Pepper “Sprinkles”
- Turkey + Carrot Roll-Ups
- Tortellini-on-a-Stick with Marinara Dipping Sauce
- Caprese Salad on a Stick with Basil Dipping Sauce
- Veggie-Loaded Rainbow Pizza
- Harvest Chicken Salad
Download your FREE Printables HERE!
Get the recipe: 100 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids: Pizza Rollups
- 1 pound pizza dough at room temperature, homemade or store-bought
- 1/2 cup hidden veggie pizza sauce, or any homemade or store-bought brand
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
- 1/3 cup parmesan
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
- Lightly flour a cutting board or counter. Roll out the dough into a rectangle shape roughly 18 inches by 12 inches. If the dough is not staying rolled out, leave it on the counter for 5-10 minutes to reach room temperature.
- Spread the pizza sauce over the entire pizza dough, leaving an inch margin on the top and bottom of the dough.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pizza sauce. Add any extra toppings. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the parmesan.
- Starting at the bottom of the long side of the pizza dough, roll tightly upwards until you have a log shape. Gently push the seems together. Using a serrated (bread) knife, slice the dough into 2-inch sections. For thicker pinwheels, aim for 12 slices. For thinner pinwheels, aim for 16 slices.
- Place the pinwheels on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until just golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.
- Serve and enjoy!