If you need healthy and easy kid lunch ideas, look no further! This ultimate list of snacks and meals will keep your kids happy all year.
These easy and fast kid lunch ideas will allow you to feed even the pickiest eaters! Use these ideas to get started.
Why Homemade Meals are Better
Parents love making homemade meals for their kids for a variety of reasons. When it comes to lunchtime, making boxed lunches allows you to save money and introduce healthier foods. Various benefits of homemade lunches include:
- They’re easy and fast to make.
- They save you time during the day.
- You can meal prep ahead of time.
- Healthier options keep kids healthy and happy.
- Families save money on food costs.
Healthy Substitute Kid Lunch Ideas
Making healthier choices is easy when you know exactly what changes to make. For healthier meals, swap out:
- Milk – Skip the fat-free or full-fat milk and go for a 2% milk that offers some vitamins. You can also try healthier choices instead of daily such as almond milk or a lactose-free option like Lactaid.
- Bread – Try using tortillas or lettuce wraps rather than traditional white bread. If you must use bread, buy a whole grain bread.
- Chips – Leave the fried foods at home and select baked versions, tortilla chips, or opt for your own homemade baked sweet potato fries.
- Boxed cereal – Most cold cereals are loaded with sugar, whereas whole grain cereal has more fiber and hot cereals with oats are healthier.
- Fries – Don’t fry up a side. Try baked fries or ask for a different side, like a side salad, fruit, or carrot sticks.
- Cream cheese – Use a smaller portion of cheeses or select low-fat cheese without stabilizers or preservatives listed in the ingredients.
- Red meat – Try to go for more veggies, tofu, or white meat instead. There are black bean or veggie burger substitutes.
- Sour cream – Greek Yogurt works well in both flavor and consistency.
- Condiments – Select healthier choices like hummus as a spread on sandwiches.
- Sugar – Use natural sweeteners such as honey or agave. If you need sugar, opt for raw cane sugar rather than refined white sugar.
- Soda and juice – Drink water. There are naturally flavored options available if your taste buds need something more than plain water.
- Salad dressings – Choose fat-free dressings or olive oil and vinegar instead of a creamy salad dressing loaded with fat.
- Potatoes – Sweet potatoes or yams are much healthier than russet potatoes, and they’re high in fiber and antioxidants.
Why Not Play with Your Food?
Your mother always said not to play with your food, but why not? Using fun foods can encourage kids to have fun while they eat, try new things, and maybe even get a picky eater to demolish their veggies with new fervor. Parents of picky eaters say making fun finger foods encourages their kids to enjoy lunch. Use your creativity here!
Here are some helpful ways to make lunch more fun:
- Put the food on sticks – Using skewers, kebabs, or toothpicks to string foods together is fun for kids and allows mom to make shapes such as animals or hearts.
- Blend your favorite meals together – If you love breakfast and lunch, why not have breakfast for lunch or fuse the two meals into one by making breakfast pizza?
- Think outside the box – Trying something new result in some meals that surprise your kids, so there’s no harm in thinking up combinations of their favorite foods to introduce a new veggie into the mix.
The Ultimate List of Easy Kid Lunch Ideas
Whether your kids head to school during the day with their lunchboxes, go to a daycare, or stay at home with you during the day, these kid lunch ideas are easy to make in advance.
No Heat Required
Lunch is a meal that’s commonly served chilled, especially if you send your kids to school or daycare with a lunch box. These meals won’t require heat before your kids can eat, although some of the options may need preparation in advance.
Lunchables are a kid favorite treat because they come with an assortment of delicious foods that allow kids to put together their own meal while they munch. They’re also super simple to make at home as long as you have crackers, sliced cheese, and turkey deli meat. You can also attempt fun lunches similar to this that use flat toothpicks to make lunch box kebobs using veggies, deli meat, and cheese instead.
Hummus and Pita Tray
Make your own hummus tray rather than paying for a pre-packaged one. Hummus is a healthy and flavorful option, depending on the type you buy, and it pairs well with pita bread or tortillas and veggies like carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, and more.
Skip the wrap or bread entirely! This lunch uses deli meat to directly roll up into your kids’ favorite new lunch. You can use turkey, roast beef, or ham and pair the meat with fresh greens and cream cheese or a slice of cheese. Hummus or Greek yogurt can also make great substitutions, and the process only takes as long as making a sandwich.
Similar to a roll-up, turkey pinwheels are easy to make in advance and allow you to cut back on the amount of bread you use. All you need to do is find a tortilla, add in some turkey, cheese, and your favorite veggies, and wrap it up. Then cut the wrap into smaller, bite-sized pieces. You can use hummus for a spread as well.
Use chicken or smoked sausage to create kebabs for your kid’s lunch, using flat toothpicks to hold the meal together. You can include some veggies like bell peppers and onions for a real kebab meal, and pair it with sides like fruit, veggies, or rice.
Peanut Butter Burritos
Grab a tortilla and roll up some peanut butter. You can add honey, bananas, or chocolate chips into the mix for a fun flavor. This is a great way to boost protein. Try pairing this lunch with tortilla chips or carrot sticks or pretzels.
Cold pasta salads or cold noodle salads are an easy and healthy lunch idea, especially if you use options like plain udon or soba. There are so many options for this idea! You can make a Greek chicken pasta, topped with feta, olive oil, and olives. Or, you can try something simple like spaghetti noodles and Italian dressing topped with diced tomatoes and basil. The options are endless!
If you have leftover rice and fish from dinner, try making sushi for lunches. You can skip on the sandwich, although the process is just as easy, and you don’t have to watch your leftovers go to waste in the fridge. Even better, kid loves to help roll up their own sushi. Learn how to make kid-friendly veggie sushi, where you can add in any of your favorite vegetables.
Make your own spring rolls at home using rice paper wrappers or a large piece of lettuce. Add in tofu, veggies, and noodles and roll them up. These veggie spring rolls are perfect for lunch because they don’t need heat and taste great when served chilled (if you keep your kid’s lunchbox in the fridge overnight).
A healthier alternative to sandwich bread, lettuce wraps are a nice treat with tons of options. For the filling, you can use chicken, tofu, beef, turkey, or even cream cheese. Romaine lettuce works best for the wrap and adding a nice soy dipping sauce and some veggies can make the wraps special.
Kids love quesadillas because they don’t need to be hot to eat and you can use your fingers. Cheese quesadillas are an easy option to make with just tortillas, and you can pair the meal with toppings like pico de gallo, guacamole, avocado slices, or tortilla chips. Some people prefer meat on their quesadillas, which may be better served hot.
For the Thermos
Some foods taste much better when they’re warm. A thermos is perfect for transporting hot food, and you can use them for much more than soup or stew.
Veggie Alphabet Soup
Perfect for a thermos, soup is a great lunch on cold days. Try this alphabet soup, which allows kids to spell out words while they eat their veggies. While any type of soup is easy to transport for lunch, veggie soup is perfect fuel for growing kids.
Stew or Chili
If you have leftover stew or chili from your favorite crockpot dinner, throw some in a thermos for lunch. This is a great way to keep leftovers from going bad, and there are many recipes you can choose from depending on your family’s preference.
You probably never thought to put pancakes in a thermos before, but they work surprisingly well at keeping the cakes just warm enough for lunch. All you must do is fold them in half or make smaller pancakes. Breakfast for lunch is a kid-favorite, and you can pair this meal with hard-boiled eggs or leftover breakfast meat.
Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets
Some kids only want to eat chicken nuggets and fries. If you want to introduce a few more green vegetables into their meals, try making broccoli and cheese nuggets. They look like chicken nuggets, tempting picky eaters to tackle all their veggies. Follow the recipe to make about 6 servings at once and use it as an excuse to meal prep healthier options for school lunches all week.
Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Pizza
Breakfast and lunch roll together with this easy idea. The base of the pizza is made using eggs and you just add a bit of ham and cheese for a fun treat. You can always chop up some veggies to add for a health bonus and use this meal as a breakfast or lunch. This pizza allows picky kids to warm up to eggs and transporting it in a thermos is easy if you fold the slice in half.
Mini Pizza Quiches
If your kids love pizza, try introducing them to these bite-sized pizza quiches. They’re a healthier alternative to pizza, a great way to add protein to your child’s diet, and easy to make for lunch or breakfast. Add in your favorite toppings and store them in a thermos for transport.
Healthy and Fun Snacks
All the following snacks pair well with most meals, and they can make mealtimes especially fun if you use them to make fun animals or kebabs using flat toothpicks.
Fruit – fresh, freeze dried, or frozen
- Grapes or raisins
- Baby carrots
- Black olives
- Snap Peas
- Grape Tomatoes
- Bell peppers
A few final healthy snacks that pair well with lunchbox meals include:
- Granola bars
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Mini Muffins
- Homemade trail mix
Easy Substitutes for Picky Eaters
Picky eaters can make meal times a horror, but not if you have a few helpful go-to choices for your kid. It’s completely normal, and ever picky eater is different. Some kids won’t eat white meat or meat at all, others won’t touch green vegetables. As your child ages, you may notices their pickiness subsides. You should always encourage your children to try new things and praise them for giving it a try, even if they don’t wind up enjoying the food.
For many picky eaters, it’s the texture that turns them off certain foods. Therefore, many kids don’t like to eat meat. However, you shouldn’t worry because there are still plenty of ways to maintain the protein your kids need through other foods, including:
- Cheese and cottage cheese
- Crackers and hummus
- Beans or nachos made with beans and cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs or egg salad
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Cheese ravioli
- Bean Chili
A Final Thought
Lunchtime allows you to become creative and plan meals for the week in advance. Use this ultimate list of easy kid lunch ideas to get your through the school year and help even the pickiest of eaters try something new or green.