It’s back to school season, and it’s time to start thinking about renewing the lunchboxes from last year, upgrading to bigger sizes or just stocking up on healthy goodies for filling up those lunchboxes. Read on for some great kids lunchbox ideas for the new school year, in addition to my favorite three lunchboxes that my kids have used and loved!
Lunchbox brands I love
To start, everyone wants to know what are the best lunchboxes for kids. I’ve tried so many different kinds over the last 6 years since my oldest started going to school. There’s a lot to consider when picking your lunchbox including age of the kids, their meal preferences (hot or cold) and the amount of variety they like to eat. My three favorite lunchboxes are the Yumbox, Bentgo and OmieLife. Below is more detail about each one.
The Yumbox Lunchbox was my favorite lunchbox when my kids were in pre-school. They were super slow eaters so the amount of food that fits in here is just perfect for them to eat during a 30 minute lunch break. The other great benefit is that it’s lightweight and compact with an easy-open latch, so it fit nicely in their backpacks or even in the standard size thermal lunch totes. Then there’s a leakfree lid, which means you can put salad dressing in one of the compartments or yogurt and not worry about it leaking out. With this lunchbox, there’s no need for ziplock bags, multiple containers, plastic wraps and snack packs…all the lunch is in one compact container…so easy, so cute, so fun!
While there’s a regular Bentgo lunchbox, it’s very similar to the Yumbox one and my go-to is the Bentgo 3-pack Fres Pack. It’s a leakproof lunchbox system that works for older children and adults. It has 3 compartment trays with a removable divider so you can customize it to create 4 compartments instead. What I like about is is that for $40 you get three containers, instead of just one. So you can essentially prepare three meals in advance each with their own meal tray covers, and then transport the meals in the main lunchbox whenever you’re ready. This works great if you’re batch prepping on Sunday evening with items that can last 3-4 days in the fridge.
Now that my kids are entering 3rd grade and first grade, We will be using the Omie Lunch Box. The unique thing about Omie is that is has an insulated bento box that stores hot and cold food all in one box. It has 2 temperature zones so entrées keep warm while veggies and fruits, or even milk boxes, stay cool! We’ve had ours for 3 almost years now and we use them often, especially when the kids want a warm meal in their lunchbox. This year though I think we’ll be exclusively using them for warm or cold meals.
The other “cool” thing about Omie is that there’s a removable latch that you can place in the vertical or horizontal section of the box to add a divider, so you can include different foods without them mixing all together. I like this for small eaters because they can nibble on a variety of foods.
Healthy Back To School Kids Lunchbox Ideas
If you are packing a lunch box, it’s good to keep it as well balanced as possible with a mix of protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. This will give your kids energy to make it through the afternoon!
Sandwiches & Handhelds
If your kids love having sandwiches, but you want to avoid deli meats and other processed meats, here are some yummy substitutes. Don’t worry that your kids need an abundance of protein at lunch. They just need a well-balanced meal that contains whole grains, fruits and vegetables that will provide them ample nutrition and energy for their busy days.
- Chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salads. Consider using Greek Yogurt or avocado instead of mayo
- Vegan “turkey” made from tofu – aka tofurkey – which tastes just like the real stuff and doesn’t have all those nitrates and preservatives.
- Variety of hard/soft cold/grilled cheeses with sprouted whole grain breads (I do this a lot)
- Sunbutter (for nut-free schools) with bananas or other fruits or even honey in a wrap.
- Veggie burger, bean burger, or quinoa burger
On the sweeter side of handheld options, you can also throw in some of these treats!
- No Bake Pumpkin Spice Balls: Have the kids help you make the batter. It’s vegan, no-bake and packed with lots of good protein and fats. Such a nutritious and delicious treat!
- Kid-Friendly Muffins: The batter is pretty basic for this, and the fun comes in what you choose to stuff them with. Check out the list of ideas I included.
If your kids don’t mind having something other than a sandwich, you can put leftovers from last night’s dinner (I sometimes make extras for this very reason), which is always practical for busy days, or you can try some of these ideas:
Here are some cold options:
- Macaroni Salad: Pick their favorite pasta shape and throw in kid-friendly veggies like carrots, peas and corn. You can use any on-hand salad dressing or the one I use with pickle juice in this macaroni salad.
- Caprese Pasta Salad: Green pasta is so fun for kids. Try to find little pearl mozzarella and cherry tomatoes to add to it, and it makes for a colorful nutritious lunch!
- Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad: This is Adam’s favorite salad. Since I pack the lunches at night, I usually add the avocado in the morning and make sure it’s well coated in the lemon juice from the salad dressing.
And here are some warm options:
- One-Pot Chicken Rice & Veggies: This one is better served warm so it’s perfect for the Omie lunchbox, but my son usually doesn’t mind having it at room temperature so I also pack it in the Yumbox.
- Pasta in a mug: You can literally make these two pastas while the kids are putting on their shoes. They take a couple minutes in the microwave, use only one mug and perfect for one person.
Frequently asked questions about school lunches
What food should parents not pack in a kids lunch box?
Packaged fruit juice often contain a lot of sugar, so it’s best to avoid these as well as other high sugar pre-packaged foods like fruit straps and store bough muesli and cereal bars. It’s best to avoid anything processed like deli meat and opt for fresh fruits and veggies instead.
What do you put in a fussy eaters lunch box?
If you have a fussy eater, I find that it’s best not to stray too much from what you know they like. Ask them what they would like to eat so they feel like they have control. Make the lunch boxes colorful and do fun things like cut sandwiches into shapes.
What drinks are best to pack in a kids lunchbox?
It’s important that children stay hydrated throughout the day, and more so in the hot weather. Plain water is great for them to take to school, let them pick out a water bottle with a design they love and hopefully they will use it more! Try to stay away from sweetened drinks, if they don’t like plain water, try adding a few pieces of frozen fruit to give it some flavor.
Kids lunchbox examples
Turkey, cheese and spinach pinwheels, carrots and celery sticks, strawberries and goldfish crackers.
Peanut butter (or almond butter) and banana pinwheels, cantaloupe and honeydew melon balls, cherry tomatoes, toast and cheese.
Hummus, spinach and peppers pinwheels, cherry tomato and mozzarella skewers, pretzels, kiwi and mango.
Sunflower butter and jelly sandwich, cheese sticks and cucumber sticks, strawberries and shortbread cookies.
Sweet potato tater tots with ketchup, celery sticks, cantaloupe and cheddar cheese mini rice cakes.
Simple salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and dressing with a side of fruit and pretzels.
Cranberry and seed whole wheat bread with cream cheese, fruit and pretzels.
Carrots, raisins and cucumber salad mixed with lemon juice and a drop of olive oil, with a side of cheese crackers, grapes and power seed crackers (found at Wegmans).
Zaatar spring rolls cheese and zaatar spice, along with spiralized carrots, cucumbers and dark chocolate covered berries.
Rice cakes, cubed cheese, banana and watermelon.
Grilled cheese with a side or mangos, watermelon and pretzels.
Sprouted whole grain bread with cream cheese, strawberries, kiwi berries (how cute are these??) and pretzels.
Quesadillas made with Mexican cheese and baby spinach, with carrots, fruit salad and banana chips.
Cheese pizza made with naan bread, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese with light pizza seasoning, along with clementine, sweet rice cracker and cucumber slices.
Morning Rounds (with 5g of protein!) along with cream cheese, strawberries, cucumbers and granola mix.
Hope these kids lunchbox ideas serve as an inspiration and encourage your little ones to eat more whole foods and especially fruits and vegetables. Keep it colorful, keep it simple and keep it interesting! If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your friends or on social media and tag #feelgoodfoodie on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!
If you’d like to purchase any of the three lunch boxes I mentioned, feel free to use these Amazon affiliate links:
This post is not sponsored by any company. It is just my own opinion based on my own experience 🙂