Here's a list of easy cold lunch ideas to spice up your child's lunchbox! With these ideas, you can introduce exciting new flavors and keep your child's lunchtime experience enjoyable and diverse.
Cold Lunch Ideas
I find packing cold lunchboxes much easier than packing hot lunches. Mornings are hectic as is and I could do away with the extra step of heating food and ensuring it stays warm until lunchtime.
Cold lunches also offer more flexibility in terms of preparation. You can assemble sandwiches, salads, and snacks ahead of time or pull items such as baked goods, frozen yogurt, fruit, and pouches straight from the freezer!
Not to mention, my kids schools don't offer the option to reheat lunch.
While peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a classic favorite, there are plenty of other delicious options to explore. Here are some fun ideas to help get you started!
Packing Tips for Cold Lunch
- Pack the night before. the longer it stays in the fridge the longer it will stay cold when taken out of the fridge.
- Get an insulated, soft-sided lunch box (here are the best lunch boxes for toddlers and kids) and use at least 2 cold packs (one on top and one on bottom of lunchbox).
- You can also freeze water bottles. Fill it about ¼ full and lay on its side to freeze. This is especially great for those with narrow openings. In the morning fill it to the top with water and pack alongside the lunch box!
- Prepare cooked food (e.g. chicken, vegetable, pasta) ahead of time so that they're chilled in the refrigerator (make sure it's set at 40°F or below).
- Put the most perishable foods right next to the ice pack.
- Freeze foods like sandwiches, muffins, fruit, squeezable yogurt tubes, applesauce containers, etc. to keep the food cold.
Best Cold Lunch Box Ideas
1. Banana Sushi
Spread peanut butter (or any nut butter of choice) or sunflower seed butter onto a tortilla, add banana, roll it up, and slice!
I know it may sound strange, but I like to add some grated carrots or zucchini in the mix too. Here's how to make veggie banana sushi.
Tip: Add frozen edamame straight from the freezer. It will thaw by lunchtime.
2. Vegetable Roll Ups
These veggie roll ups are super easy to make and customizable! I like to spread Thai peanut sauce over the tortilla but you can use hummus (like this beet hummus or broccoli hummus), cream cheese, sugar free pizza sauce, or whatever you have on hand!
And here's how to make any pinwheel sandwiches
3. Banana French Toast Sandwich
My kids LOVE this banana French toast for breakfast! And with leftovers, I turn them into sandwiches with cream cheese and no added sugar strawberry jam filling. It's a delicious change of pace from plain bread.
4. Curry Chicken Salad
You can make sandwiches and wraps with this simple curry chicken salad. However, they tend to get soggy when prepped in advance. So instead, try serving deconstructed with sliced bread, pita, naan, quinoa tortilla, or even crackers!
5. Hard-boiled Egg + Pancakes
Try any of these healthy pancakes for babies and toddlers!
You can simply add the pancakes as is or turn them into sandwiches by spreading peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, Greek yogurt, mashed avocado, jam, mashed beans, etc. and then pressing another one on top.
You can do the same thing with waffles too!
And here's how to freeze pancakes so you'll always have them on hand.
6. Vegetable French Toast
If you've never tried savory French toast before, oh I can't wait for you to try this recipe! It's such a great way to use up leftover vegetables in a form that your child will love.
There's no need to reheat. In fact my son actually prefers it cold!
7. Vegetable Omelette
8. Egg Oatmeal Balls
The addition of eggs makes the oatmeal creamy and fluffy while boosting nutrition! Be sure to whisk it really well before mixing it in to oatmeal. I like to shape into balls to make them finger friendly.
9. Pesto Pasta
Pesto pasta is flavorful, convenient, customizable, and a balanced cold lunch! Here are some veggie-loaded pesto recipes to try:
10. Deconstructed Pasta Salad
This is a great option if your child doesn't like mixed foods. Pack a lunch box with separate containers or compartments containing cooked pasta, some type of sauce or dip (here I've added mango salsa), protein, fruit, and fresh veggies.
Pictured: spinach muffins
11. Pasta Sauces without Tomato
Speaking of pasta, here's a collection of veggie-loaded pasta sauces without tomato that will elevate your child's lunches.
12. Sweet Potato Patties
Made with sweet potatoes, quinoa, cheddar cheese, and almond flour, these sweet potato patties are filling and delicious! They freeze really well too. I like to pack alongside yogurt or some type of dip, crunchy veggies, and fruit.
13. Sweet Potato Tots
14. Crackers and Cheese
Simple. Familiar. Always a hit! This was for my preschooler so adjust the quantity depending on your child's needs.
Here are the best crackers for babies and toddlers
Muffins are a great cold lunch option! Include a protein, fruit, and a packaged snack.
Here's a master list of healthy muffins for babies and toddlers.
16. Mini Pizza
These mini pizzas are so fun and are the perfect size for lunch boxes. If your child hasn't had cold pizza, I suggest serving it at home first so they can get used to it.
My kids weren't a fan at first but now they love it!
17. Mini Bagel Sandwich
Here are some iconic, as well as unique, bagel toppings or fillings to try!
Butternut Squash Cream Cheese Sandwich
This lunch idea is super fun and your kid's going to love it! And you're going to appreciate how quick it is to assemble. It's such an engaging meal option that encourages creativity, customization, and a balanced combination of flavors and nutrients.
See the recipe card below for guided instructions.
More Lunch Box Ideas
- Master list of lunch box ideas for kids
- 60 healthy school lunch ideas
- Bento box lunch ideas
- Toddler lunch ideas
Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!
Cold Lunch Ideas - DIY Nachos
- 1 serving tortilla chips
- ¼ cup protein (black beans, shredded chicken, ground beef)
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheese
- ½ cup vegetables (cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, lettuce, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons guacamole, salsa, or sour cream
- 1 small apple or fruit of choice
- Pack all the components in separate compartments of bento-style lunch box.