The ultimate list of over 30 healthy and easy school lunch box ideas for kids! In this guide, you will find 30 real-life school lunch ideas, 25 of our favorite school lunch recipes, a list of our favorite lunch boxes, tips on how to make packing school lunches easier, as well as allergy substitutions for gluten, dairy and nut-free lunches. Great for daycare, preschool or elementary school-aged kids!

Graphic for post – 30 lunch box ideas, healthy kids lunches for school or home. Images are in a grid of colorful lunches in lunch boxes with healthy foods.

Medically reviewed and co-written by Jamie Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), and Lauren Braaten, Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT).

School Lunch Box Ideas for Kids

Are you burned out from packing the same pb&j and apple in your kids’ lunch day after day?

Then you’ve come to the right place! Here are over 30 real-life lunches that will help you find some school lunch inspiration. Plus, you will find over 25 easy lunch recipes, FAQs, our favorite lunch boxes and accessories as well as our top tips for making packing lunches even easier!

I refuse to spend a ton of time making school lunches so all of these lunches were packed in roughly 5-10 minutes⏲, all while I was making dinner. I usually pack school lunches at night while I’m making dinner because I just can’t get my sh*t together enough in the mornings.

TIP: To make simple, easy and fast school lunches I utilized leftovers and simple ingredients I can pull out of my fridge – no fancy labor-intensive recipes involved.

So if you see nachos in one of the lunches, we probably had taco night for dinner and I used the leftovers for a fun nacho lunch. Muffins – I had those leftovers from the weekend when I did have some time to make some fresh muffins, but you could also use store-bought. Same with pasta and pizza – all leftovers.

All the extra cute Pinterest-worthy items – animal or eyeball picks, sandwiches, fruit and veggies cut into shapes are ALL OPTIONAL. Please 🙏 do not feel like you have to go the extra mile here; they are just kids’ lunches, after all. I have a slight bento box accessory shopping problem 🙈, so I add in a few extras. But you will still be a fantastic parent and lunch-maker if you skip them altogether.

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 Recipes50 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

Take a look at this video that features a fun back-to-school lunch for your kids.

Reasons to Love these School Lunch Ideas

  • full of real, wholesome foods that your kids will love
  • easy to pack lunches
  • great for lunches at home
  • healthy
  • colorful
  • full of nutrient-dense foods to boost learning
  • can be made allergy-friendly – Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free or Nut-Free (see notes for each recipe)
  • no fancy recipes – I used leftovers or simple ingredients to make these lunches
  • great for daycare, preschool or elementary-aged kids
  • can be packed in any bento box style lunch box or any containers you prefer
  • healthy versions of school lunch food – pizza, nachos, and burritos – so your kid doesn’t feel left out
  • balanced lunches with a protein, fruit, veggie, and something fun

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 kid 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 Box 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.

School Lunch Tips

  • Find a good time for you to pack school lunches – this may be the night before or the morning of. Find a time and stick to it.
  • Get your kids involved – have them pick a few fruits or veggies they want to eat in their lunches for the week, help chop the veggies, make the sandwich, or even have them pick out the fun dip containers or food picks used.
  • Utilize leftovers – make sure you take advantage of using any leftovers that will work as a cold lunch – cooked chicken, pizza, pasta, sauces, etc.
  • Plan it out – using this handy printable, you can plan your kids’ lunches for the week.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep my child’s school lunch cold?

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 PacksThrive Ice Packs for Lunch Bags, or the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Lunch Ice Packs.

How do you keep kids’ lunches warm in a lunch box?

The best way to keep your child’s lunch warm is to use an OmieBox lunch box, which comes with an insertable thermos.

How should I cut things in my kids lunch?

Depending on the age of your child, you may need to adjust some of the sizes that I have shown below. When in doubt, go with smaller bites for younger kids.

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
A blue lunchbox filled with two uncrustables sandwiches, cucumbers, strawberries, popcorn and gummy snacks, with a small kids hand holding one of the sandwiches.

Kid Lunch Box Recipes

Here are some of our favorite school lunch recipes that are great served in a lunch box for school or at home.

  1. Homemade Uncrustables
  2. Easy Spinach Muffins
  3. Beet Hummus
  4. Easy Pizza Pinwheels
  5. Veggie-Loaded Hummus 
  6. Back-to-School Lunch Idea
  7. DIY Heart Pizza Lunchable
  8. Freezer-Friendly Spinach Waffles
  9. Rainbow Fruit Skewers
  10. Blueberry Avocado Mini Muffins
  11. On-The-Go Granola Bars
  12. Healthy Strawberry Yogurt Dip
  13. Valentine’s Day School Lunch
  14. Halloween School Lunch for Kids
  15. Avocado Tuna Salad in Mini Pita Pockets
  16. Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Bites
  17. Easy Veggie “Fried” Rice
  18. Kale Pesto Chicken Quesadilla
  19. Easy Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread Dippers
  20. Mini Chicken + Carrot Meatballs
  21. Pesto Summer Salad
  22. Mini Bagel Pizzas with Pepper “Sprinkles”
  23. Turkey + Carrot Roll-Ups
  24. Tortellini-on-a-Stick with Marinara Dipping Sauce
  25. Caprese Salad on a Stick with Basil Dipping Sauce
  26. Veggie-Loaded Rainbow Pizza
  27. Harvest Chicken Salad

30 Lunch Box Ideas

A kid friendly school lunch inside a bento box.

Chicken “Fried” Rice

Chicken, rice, corn and carrots sautéed in a drizzle of sesame oil and coconut aminos. Edamame, peaches, broccoli and ranch, raspberries with apples cut out in the shape of hearts, and a few dark chocolate-covered raisins.

Allergy-Friendly – GF and NF. Use DF ranch and treat to make DF.

Colorful and healthy, this school lunch features healthy foods for kids.

DIY PB&J with Crackers

Crackers are served with a container of peanut butter (or almond butter) and another container filled with jam as well as carrots, olives, golden kiwi, mini grapes, cut strawberries and raspberries and mini dark chocolate chips. Eye picks can be found here.

Allergy-Friendly: GF – use gluten-free crackers, DF – use dairy-free chocolate chips, NF – use sun butter instead of peanut butter.

Colorful and healthy, this school lunch features healthy foods for kids.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin + Cream Cheese Sandwich

Pumpkin pancake sandwich with cream cheese and raspberry jam, cut yellow peppers, mini grapes, Chobani yogurt tube and a piece of dark chocolate. The pancakes were leftovers from a weekend breakfast, the pancakes were made from a gluten-free pumpkin pancake mix from Trader Joe’s, but any homemade, mix or frozen pancakes would work in this lunch box.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NF. Use a Dairy-Free brand of yogurt tube (like Kite Hill).

Rainbows & Chocolate

Rainbow fruit skewer, plain Greek yogurt with a jam heart, and healthy chocolate zucchini mini muffins.

Allergy-Friendly: already NF, use a Dairy-Free yogurt and make the muffins with Gluten-Free Flour.

Colorful and healthy, this school lunch features healthy foods for kids.

Lunchable-on-a-Stick

Turkey + Cheddar + Salami on a Stick, cut kiwi, red pepper, and carrot sticks with a side of ranch, strawberries, blueberries, and dye-free candy. Sandwich sticks can be found here and ranch containers -here (similar).

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NF. To make Dairy-Free use a Dairy-Free ranch and cheese.

A kid friendly school lunch inside a bento box.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Applesauce with cinnamon, salami with dinosaur pick, sliced and cubed cheese, turkey roll-ups, almond crackers, orange pepper slices, kiwi slices, mini grapes and chocolate raisins.

Allergy-Friendly: NF and GF. To make Dairy-Free use Dairy-Free treats and cheese.

DIY Hummus and Veggies

Build your own Hummus Lunch – carrots, broccoli, snap peas, peppers and pita chips with hummus, strawberries and chocolate coconut cookies.

Allergy-Friendly: NF and DF. To make Gluten-Free make sure to use Gluten-Free crackers.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids - featured in a school lunch box.

It’s Friday and I’m Over School Lunches

Cream cheese with honey star sandwich, lentil puffs, cut grapes, cut carrots and dye-free candy.

Allergy-Friendly: NF and DF. For GF use GF bread.

Pink school lunch box filled with healthy and colorful school lunch ideas for kids.

Tortellini and Chicken

Spinach Tortellini, chicken and snap pea dippers with a pesto ranch sauce, grape, blackberry and blueberry fruit salad and a couple of dark chocolate-covered pretzels.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Dairy and Gluten-Free use Gluten-Free pasta and a Dairy-Free dip.

Blue school lunch box filled with easy and colorful school lunch ideas for kids.

Pesto Pasta and Avocado Pudding

Spinach pesto pasta salad with chicken, mozzarella, corn and tomatoes, cut strawberries and raspberries and chocolate avocado pudding.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use Gluten-Free pasta. To make Dairy-Free, use a Dairy-Free cheese or omit the mozzarella.

Colorful and healthy, this school lunch features healthy foods for kids.

Green Monster School Lunch

Pesto gluten-free pasta with parmesan, cut kiwi, grapes and avocado salad, roasted seaweed, cut cucumbers, and dye-free candy.

Allergy-Friendly: GF, NF and DF. If Nut-Free, make sure your pesto is nut-free.

5-Minute Lunch

Ground turkey and cheese quesadilla with homemade guacamole, try-color pepper slices, fruit salad (grape, pear and kiwi), and a couple of yogurt-covered cookies.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Dairy-Free, use a Dairy-Free cheese and dessert. To make Gluten-Free, use a corn or Gluten-Free tortilla.

bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

Mexican Fiesta

Bean and cheese burrito with guacamole (I wrapped the burrito in the foil before packing the lunch up), corn, sliced carrots, watermelon balls, and dye-free candy. I used a frozen burrito for this lunch, but any homemade or frozen variety you prefer would work.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free you can use DF cheese and a GF tortilla.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids - featured in a school lunch box.

Hidden Veggie for #thewin

Beet applesauce, cut tomatoes, sliced string cheese, snapeas, cut mild Italian sausage with outer-space picks, mini container of mustard, and a dye-free gummy.

Allergy-Friendly: NF and GF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese or omit.

Blue school lunch box filled with pizza and a salad - a kid favorite.

English Muffin Pizza

DIY Pizza Lunch – mushroom pizza on an English muffin, simple salad with carrots and tomatoes, blueberries and blackberries and a juice box.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Dairy-Free use DF cheese. To make it Gluten-free, use a GF English Muffin.

School Lunches - bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

Gluten-Free Pesto Pasta with Chicken + Corn

Gluten-Free pesto pasta with chicken and corn, Pure Organics Apple Strip, cut cucumbers, blackberries and walnuts.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and DF. For Nut-Free, omit the walnuts and make sure you use nut-free pesto.

Pink school lunch box filled with breakfast for lunch. kids love this school lunch!

Breakfast for Lunch

A favorite in our house! Cinnamon maple syrup steel cut oats, hard boiled egg, spinach chocolate waffles, kiwi and blueberries and some orange slices.

Allergy-Friendly: DF, NF and GF.

bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

DIY Cheese & Crackers

Laughing cow with two types of crackers in silicon muffin liners, chopped broccoli, chopped red and green pluots, snapeas, and a chocolate pretzel.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use GF crackers and treat. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese and treat.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids - featured in a school lunch box.

Healthier DIY Nachos

DIY Nacho Kit – organic corn chips, lettuce, shredded cheese, taco turkey and guacamole all in silicon cups. Also in the bento is grapes with mandarin orange sections and allergy-friendly chocolate chips.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese.

Pink school lunch box filled with healthy and easy school lunch ideas - cheese, crackers, fruit and carrots and ranch.

Healthy Lunchables

Crackers, turkey rollups, salami and 2 types of cheese cut into flowers (I used this cutter), apples and blueberries, olives and carrots with ranch dip.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use GF crackers. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese and ranch.

School Lunches - bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

Tortellini + Chicken Dippers

Cheese tortellini and chicken dunkers with pesto dip, cut cantaloupe, cut cucumbers, popcorn and chocolate pretzel.

Allergy-Friendly: NF and DF. To make Gluten-Free, use GF tortellini and treat.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids.

Happy Tummy School Lunch

Kefir pouch, snap peas and carrots with ranch (similar container here), sliced apples, crackers with cheese and salami, and dye-free candy.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Dairy-Free, use a dairy-free kefir pouch or replace it with an apple pouch and use DF cheese and ranch. To make Gluten-Free, use GF crackers.

bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

Breakfast for Lunch

Gluten-Free cinnamon-sugar pancake muffin, strawberries and raspberries, yogurt and granola, kiwi and avocado, sliced chicken sausage and daily vitamins. I used this pancake mix but turned them into muffins by following the recipe on the back of the bag.

Allergy-Friendly: GF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF yogurt. To make Nut-Free, use NF granola and make sure the pancake muffin mix is NF.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids - featured in a school lunch box.

A Pizza the Puzzle

Leftover pizza cut into puzzle pieces, carrots, pepper slices, and snap peas with ranch in a mini container, strawberries and raspberries, Chobani yogurt tube, and dark chocolate raisins.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese, ranch, and yogurt tube. To make Gluten-Free, use GF pizza.

Blue school lunch box filled with healthy foods for kids.

Sandwich-on-a-Stick

Turkey + cheese bagel sandwiches on-a-stick with cucumber and tomatoes, plum halves, beet strawberry applesauce in squeeze pouch and a few dark chocolate candies.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use GF bread. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese and chocolate.

School Lunches - bento box filled with a healthy lunch for kids.

Almost Out of Groceries Lunch

Bean and cheese quesadilla with smashed avocado, sliced apples, cut kiwis, sliced carrots and chocolate raisins.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use GF or corn tortillas. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese and pack a DF treat.

A healthy and homemade school lunch for kids.

Greek Lunch Spread

Greek Meatballs with feta dipping sauce, pistachios and roasted chickpeas, sliced olives, cucumber, feta and tomato salad, cut watermelon, and dark chocolate. I used pre-made organic Greek flavored meatballs that were gluten-free.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF dip, omit the feta in the salad and pack a DF treat.

Blue school lunch box filled with healthy school lunch ideas.

Chicken Salad & Crackers

Curry chicken salad served with gluten free crackers and cucumber slices, watermelon stars and a mixture of freeze-dried blueberries and dye-free candy coated sunflower seeds.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NT. To make Dairy-Free, use a vegan mayo in the chicken salad.

A kid friendly school lunch inside a bento box.

Is it Friday yet.. ??

Leftover cheeseburger and pickles, sliced mini peppers, raspberries and blueberries, cucumbers with ranch in a mini container (similar), and a piece of dark chocolate.

Allergy-Friendly: NF. To make Gluten-Free, use a GF bun. To make Dairy-Free, omit the cheese and use DF ranch.

Bento box filled with kids lunch.

Gluten-Free Pizza Roll-Ups

Gluten-Free pizza roll-ups with marinara dipping sauce, carrots with ranch dip, grapes, berries, and chocolate-covered gummies.

Allergy-Friendly: GF and NF. To make Dairy-Free, use DF cheese, ranch and treat.

Graphic for post - grid of colorful and silver lunch boxes with recipe ideas for school lunches.

Get the recipe: 30 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: DIY PB&J

5 stars (16 ratings)
A fun twist on the classic – pb&j! Plus, over 30 more easy lunch ideas for your kid and 25 of our favorite lunch recipes.

Ingredients 

  • 2 tbsp peanut or almond butter
  • 2 tbsp jam
  • 6-10 crackers
  • 2-4 tbsp each strawberries and raspberries, chopped
  • 6-8 baby carrots
  • 4 black olives
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and quartered
  • small bunch grapes, can cut lengthwise

Instructions 

  • Place the peanut butter and jam into small containers with lids. Add to one section of container with the crackers.
  • Add in the grapes, kiwi, olives, carrots, strawberries and raspberries to other sections in your lunch box or seperate contatiners.
    Colorful and healthy, this school lunch features healthy foods for kids.

Notes

Notes on Peanut Butter: you can use any nut butter you prefer – sunbutter, almond butter, cashew butter or peanut butter. 
Gluten-Free: to make gluten-free, use gluten-free crackers

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