I’m sharing my HUGE list of healthy school lunch ideas to make packing lunches EASY! (100+ ideas on one sheet!) Read below for the four components you need, and plenty of kids school lunch ideas.
This healthy school lunch list (aka lunchbox download) came out of the need for answering the what to pack in school lunches question that comes up every week during the school year.
I’m packing lunches for the first time, and so I wanted a ton of simple lunchbox ideas for school – all in one place! I’ll be using this list for myself and I hope it gives you plenty of kid friendly lunch ideas for those weekday lunches. (Full disclosure: I packed these lunches long before anyone went to school – they work well for adults, picnic lunches, or lunch at home.)
The Healthy Lunchbox: 100+ Healthy School Lunch Ideas
I’ve written about easy school lunch box ideas
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. 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 simple school lunches easy and healthy all year long.
How do You Pack a Healthy School Lunch?
Here are 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 for a healthy kids school lunch 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.
Kids School Lunch 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 Lunch 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.
More Kids School Lunch Ideas:
If you’re looking for lunch ideas that are already themed a bit, try some of these favorite bento box lunches. (And I’m always adding more to the list!)
- Easy BBQ Meatball Bento Box Lunch – Just 5 ingredients for this protein-rich and easy lunch.
- Quesadilla Bento Box Lunch – The best family-friendly and vegetarian lunch. Serve these quesadillas at room temperature or cold.
- Cute Bento Breakfast Box – All of the best breakfasts, packed in an easy bento recipe.
- Homemade Lunchables (Ham & Cheese Bento Box Lunch) – Add a little more nutrition to your lunchables! (And for a fraction of the price.)
- Lunch On A Stick Bento Box Recipe – This themed lunch always goes over well with the kiddos!
- Healthy Israeli Breakfast Bento Box – MY favorite bento box recipe…but also great for kids!
- Starbucks Protein Box – All of these components can be made or prepped ahead of time, so this lunch can be packed in a minute or two.
- Easy Tuna Salad Snack Plate – Packed with protein and nutritious ingredients.
It’s time to make a healthy lunchbox!