I’ve rounded up more than 100+ Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas to make packing lunches as easy as possible! Read about my easy framework to simplify packing lunches or download the whole list.
100+ Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas to Simplify Lunches
I’ve written about healthy lunches for kids a few times, but I’ve been wanting to compile a HUGE list for you! This way you have one resource to get you through packing lunches this school year. Here it is! Keep reading, because I’m also sharing my easy framework that takes the guess work out of packing lunches, along with a few tips and tricks to keep those lunchboxes easy and healthy all year long.
Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas: The 4 components you need to include
I break down meals and lunches into four components or food groups with the idea that each healthy lunchbox contains the four components. Now there is certainly overlap between the groups, so you may not always need to include all four. This is a framework that you get to customize – there is wiggle room!
Breaking it down into four components simplifies the process because you don’t need to take a ton of time thinking about what to include in each lunchbox. Include the four components as often as you can and you should be in good shape. You can decide what the components will be based on your child’s likes/dislikes, season, and how much prep time you have – which may all vary week-to-week!
The four components to packing a healthy school lunchbox are:
- Main/Protein: sandwiches, quesadillas, tuna salad, meatballs, etc.
- Vegetable: raw, roasted, sautéed – there are so many vegetables that you can easily pack, but don’t be afraid to include leftovers like roasted vegetables. Always keep it tasty and add dips like hummus, ranch, easy greek yogurt dill dip, or guacamole.
- Fruit: keep this component simple with fresh fruits that are ready-to-eat (berries, apples, etc.) and always have a few applesauce pouches and raisins on hand for rushed mornings.
- Fun/Starch: this can be bagel or pita chips, trail mix with chocolate, a small cookie, chips…anything! If you have a main/protein component like meatballs, I like to include a starch on the side, preferably a whole grain one.
Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas: 5 Tips + Tricks
- Keep the components easy and healthy. If the main component requires a bit of prep or assembly (ex: cheese quesadilla), make sure the other components are ready-to-eat (ex: guacamole cups, grape tomatoes, and trail mix).
- Use leftovers from dinner. Leftover chicken? Add it to little skewers with roasted vegetables, or serve it with bbq sauce and some sides. Roasted vegetables? Pack ’em!
- Get your kids involved. This is always an important piece for me! Ideally, they’ll pack, or at least help pack, their lunch. If they aren’t old enough, have them help pick out components or choose between two main dishes.
- Look at a week of meals. When you’re thinking about nutrition, don’t single out one meal, look at the meals over the course of a week! Try to include components from each of the four groups so there is plenty of variety.
- Don’t stress TOO much about protein. It’s a misconception that kids need a big protein source like chicken at every meal. Their protein requirements aren’t that difficult to reach so if they have a main/protein component of oatmeal, they don’t need a protein smoothie to round out the meal. Again, look at the nutrition over the course of a day/week. (Is my kid eating enough protein? Click here for more info and details)
Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas: My favorite products!
There are only a few items that I use on a daily basis for packing healthy school lunchboxes. (And just lots of yummy and nutritious food.) *links below are affiliate links but does not add any additional charge to you
- Stainless Steel Bento Boxes by LunchBots: We have a few of these (trio II and cinco) and I love them SO SO much! I like the smaller size for kids and the trio II has room for main, vegetable, fruit, and then a little spot for the fun/treat component! For larger kids and adults, the cinco is a great size. I use the leak proof condiment containers for dips and sauces.
- Reusable Silicone Muffin Liners: These are great for keeping things separate within the bento box. I’ll put things like trail mix or crackers in the muffin liner, then squeeze it in the biggest bento section. They also work great for baking whole wheat blender muffins and egg cups!
- Water bottles: I serve water at lunch time, but there is never a time that we are without a water bottle! I love Contigo Kids Autospout and Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Sippy Cups.
There you have it! I hope this list gives you plenty of inspiration for healthy school lunchbox ideas, but more importantly, I hope it makes your life a little easier. What’s your favorite easy and healthy food to pack in a school lunchbox?