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, tips + tricks, plenty of kids school lunch ideas, and my favorite items that make packing easy.
Let’s face it, there is a LOT of work when it comes to feeding kids! There’s breakfast (try my apple oat bars, Greek yogurt parfaits, or banana oatmeal pancakes), lunches (that’s what you’re here for!), snacks (check out my Costco snack list for kids!), and then it’s dinner…phew (let the slow cooker do the work with crockpot chicken and potatoes or crockpot salsa chicken). Anyone else need a sweet cream cold foam to get through it?!
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of Contents
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.
In an effort of saving time + energy each week when it comes to planning lunches, 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.
The Healthy School Lunch Components You Need
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.
5 Tips and Tricks for Packing School Lunches
- 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)
Best Products for Packing Lunches
Read the full post of the 5 items you need for packing school lunches here.
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
- ALL healthy lunch box items: Boxes, water bottles, dip containers, and more. You’ll find it all here.
- Stainless Steel Bento Boxes: We have a few different brands (LunchBots trio II and cinco as well as PlanetBox rover) and I love them SO SO much! You’ll want to choose the proper size based on how much food they need throughout the day.
- Dip Containers: I use the leak proof condiment containers for dips and sauces.
- Thermos: Keep foods warm all morning in these thermos containers. Perfect for soups, leftovers, pasta, etc.
- 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!
- Food Picks: These instantly make meals fun and are an interesting alternative to forks.
- Water bottles: Our kids take a water bottle to school every day, we 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 sharing our lunch boxes on IG stories!)
- Ham & Pickle Roll Ups
- DIY Nacho Bento Box
- Japanese Rice Balls
- Quesadilla Bento Box
- Cute Bento Breakfast Box
- Homemade Lunchables (Ham & Cheese Bento Box Lunch)
- Starbucks Protein Box
- Easy Tuna Salad Snack Plate
Healthy Weeknight Dinners
Between breakfasts, packing lunches, snacks…ugh, you need those dinners to be easy: