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Here are healthy lunch box ideas for kindergarten and beyond that don’t require reheating. Simply follow the basic formula below to make packing a well-balanced lunch box a breeze!

A six image collage of lunch box ideas for kids.
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How to Pack a Healthy Lunch box

When packing lunches, rather than thinking “what foods should I include,” which is very broad and can feel overwhelming, first categorize the foods by food groups.

Then using the formula below, select at least one food from each of the categories.

Using this approach will make incorporating a variety of foods simple and doable while ensuring your child gets the nutrition and energy they need.

Protein/Fat + Complex carb (e.g. whole grains, beans, lentils, starchy vegetables) + Fruit and/or Vegetable

The Best Lunch Box for Toddlers and Kids

Having an appropriate lunch box that suits your child’s age, appetite, and food preferences will make your lunch packing journey so much easier and enjoyable.

Here is a list of good-quality, well-designed lunch boxes for toddlers and kids perfect for daycare, preschool, or grade school as well as road trips and outings.

toddler pushing bowl away

Is your toddler becoming picky?

Arm yourself with these strategies that will transform your mealtimes!

Healthy Lunch Packing Tips

  • Aim for balance. Not every single lunchbox has to be perfect, but do aim to include at least 2 components from the formula mentioned above.
  • Consider your child. Include at least one safe food that you know your child will eat. If they like their bread, veggies, etc. cut in a certain way, honor their preferences.
  • Get your child involved. This is something I’ve been working hard on lately. It’s so much easier for me to do everything by myself, but my toddler absolutely loves to help out in the kitchen.
  • Ask your child. Keep in mind though, you don’t want to give them too many choices. Offer just TWO choices from the same food group. For instance, “would you like pasta or bread? Banana or raspberries? Chicken or beans? They’re more likely to eat what they chose.
  • Try at home first. Try not to pack a completely new food as your child may find it intimidating.
  • Start serving dinner leftovers cold or at room temperature at home. This also includes foods that are normally eaten warm. You may be surprised to find that they taste fine without being reheated. With repeated exposure your child won’t have trouble eating them at school.
  • Don’t give up! There will be days when the lunch box you packed comes back hardly touched for whatever reason. Don’t panic or get upset. Rather, the best thing you can do is keep offering a variety of foods with their food preferences in mind. Your child will get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive over the course of days and weeks.

How to Keep Lunch Cool

I personally don’t like to bother with warming up food or packing in a thermos. Therefore, all of the ideas below can be enjoyed cold with these tips.

  • Get an insulated, soft-sided lunch box 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 1/4 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)
  • Keep cold foods in the refrigerator until the last minute before packing.
  • 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.

Easy School Lunch Ideas for Kids

Here are 4 main categories with specific foods that pack well in lunch boxes. By all means, you don’t have to include all 4 options into every single lunch.

If you find yourself in a lunch rut, I hope this list makes it easy for you to mix and match an endless number of combinations!

You may also be interested in healthy Lunch Ideas for Daycare or Preschool.

And if you are in need of healthy school snack ideas, I’ve got you covered as well ;).

Main Course for Lunch Box

To make things even easier for you, all of these options contain protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. So all you need to do is pick a fruit and/or vegetable. And just like that, you have a balanced meal.

But if you’d like to see specific food items for these 3 food categories, check out my Master list of snack tray ideas!

Note: If your child’s school is peanut or nut-free, seed butters are great alternatives.

Fruits for School Lunch

Tip: Frozen is just as good as fresh fruit. Add straight from the freezer as it will help keep food cold. It will thaw by lunch time.

Vegetables for Packed Lunch

Healthy Store-Bought Items for Lunch Box

There will be days when you rely heavily on packaged foods, and that’s perfectly OK! There is no shame in that! Here are the best store-bought snacks for kids.

Easy Kids Lunch Box Ideas

Here are the actual lunches I packed for my son. I used the exact list above and aimed to incorporate an item from each of the categories as much as I could.

As a visual person, I find seeing photos of what other mamas pack for their child very helpful. I want to emphasize that this is not meant for comparison.

If you’d like to see more ideas: 60 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Spinach pancake sandwich with hard boiled egg, raspberries, butternut squash, hummus, and fun shaped zucchini and carrot pieces in a green lunchbox.

Spinach pancakes and cream cheese sandwich + raw zucchini and carrots + butternut squash + hard-boiled egg + raspberries + mashed avocado (with lime juice to prevent browning).

Tip: These cookie cutters are a great way to make veggies fun and exciting!

pb banana roll ups in a blue lunchbox with sliced zucchini, bell peppers, apple slices, edamame, and beet hummus.

 Banana pb hemp seed roll ups + frozen edamame + raw zucchini and orange bell pepper + beet hummus + apple slices

pasta tossed in pesto with cubed chicken and raspberries in stainless steel lunchbox.

Zucchini pesto pasta + chicken + fresh berries

roll ups in a blue compartmentalized lunch box with parsnips and clementine.

Vegetable tortilla roll ups + clementine + roasted parsnips

toddler's lunchbox including Indian roasted cauliflower, cheerios, persimmons, bread slices, and chickpeas

Roasted cauliflower and chickpeas + cereal + persimmons + whole wheat bread

sliced vegetable French toast, frozen edamame, watermelon, broccoli, and yellow bell pepper strips in an aqua kid's lunchbox

Vegetable French Toast + frozen edamame + yellow bell pepper + steam roasted broccoli + watermelon

mini bagel sandwich with cream cheese.

Mini bagel and cream cheese + cherry tomatoes + cantaloupe

Deconstructed curried chicken avocado salad.

Deconstructed  easy chicken salad (added cilantro instead of carrots) + pita bread + apple + tomatoes + frozen peas

butternut squash cream cheese sandwich.

Butternut squash and cream cheese sandwich + carrot and cucumber sticks + raspberries + frozen edamame

Crackers and cheese lunch box.

Cheddar cheese and crackers + peaches + cucumber

leftover chicken enchilada with tortilla.

Enchilada chicken + corn tortilla + cheese + avocado + mangoes + broccoli + cucumber

Leftover chicken and potatoes with zucchini cookie.

Korean Instant Pot Chicken and potatoes + tortilla + zucchini cookie + blueberries

Oat balls with chickpeas.

Vegetable oatmeal balls + chickpeas + peas + strawberries + mangoes

Plain pasta with cheese and veggie nuggets.

Plain pasta + cheese + baked veggie nuggets + cantaloupe

Vegetable omelette triangles.

Vegetable omelette + sweet potatoes + freeze-dried strawberries

Peanut butter chickpea sandwich (recipe below) + spinach muffin + hard boiled egg + apple + butternut squash

Meatballs with lentil bars.

Turkey rice meatballs (Tastes great cold) + lentil bars + sweet potatoes + raw zucchini and bell peppers.

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!

5 from 3 votes

Lunch box Ideas for Kids – Peanut Butter Chickpea Salad

Here's a quick and easy lunch box idea for kids as well. You will also find plenty of no reheating required lunch ideas in this post.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, room temperature, (or any nut/seed butter of choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Bread of choice

Instructions 

  • Mash the chickpeas in a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, combine peanut butter and cumin. You may need to add a little bit of water to thin it out.
  • Add to chickpeas and stir to combine. Spread onto your bread of choice.

Notes

  • Can use any nut or seed butter of choice
  • Any white beans will work
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
More lunch box ideas:

Nutrition

Calories: 191kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 10g | Fiber: 5g | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 2mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was SO informative and helpful!
    As my oldest daughter is going into Kindergarten I am starting to feel panicked about everything that will go along with this big step for us.
    Having this post to refer to when making lunches every day of the week is a big relief.
    Thank you for spending the time on it and sharing it with us. I am so grateful 🙏🏼

    1. What a huge milestone. Thinking of you and sending love as you navigate through this phase. I’m so glad that this post will help ease your load!