Easy, healthy school lunch ideas for kids

Packing healthy school lunches is always a daunting task. As parents, it can be tough to balance our kids’ preferences with our own knowledge of nutrition. We often end up prioritizing what we think they’ll actually eat over what’s truly good for them, which doesn’t feel awesome. This year, however, I’m upping my game by creating easy, healthy bento boxes that I can pack with the confidence that James will devour them. 

Bento box lunches are perfect for kids because they provide variety, which means there’s always something they’ll eat. Those small compartments are also the perfect size for those leftover bites of dinner and half-portions of uneaten breakfast. Repurposing them for lunch means less work for me, and less food waste in our home – a double win! 

If you don’t have a bento, you can make using a Tupperware and muffin liners, or buy one readymade. I like the ones from Bentgo (leak-proof if you want to add dip for veggies), U Konserve, and Lunchbots.

What To Pack:

 Let’s be clear about something: I am not that mom who makes school lunches so artful that they could hang in a museum. While he’s a generally great eater, James still has a 4-year-old’s fickle palate. It would kill me to see the fruits of my labors mashed into the bottom of his bento, uneaten.

 Also, hat’s off to parents who pack something different for their kids every day.I am not as organized or creative as they are! I tend to buy lunch ingredients for the week, then make the same thing every day so I don’t have to think about it. James still tells me he has the yummiest “growing food” in his class, so I don’t think he minds! 

That said, I felt like I needed some extra inspiration as we approached the school year, so I scoured the blogosphere and found these 10 Easy, Healthy School Lunch Ideas:

Cookie Cutter Sandos

Blogger Wendy Copley shares my quick-and-dirty approach to lunch-making. She makes simple sandwiches and raw fruits and veggies more interesting by layering food items and using cookie cutters to make sandwiches exciting. Sometimes, those extra 10 seconds of effort are all the motivation a child needs to dive head first into the healthiest part of their lunch. I’ll definitely be breaking out the hearts, stars, and dinosaurs this school year!

Toddler Tested, Mom Approved

Preschool lunches can be especially challenging, as toddlers’ preferences tend to change by the hour. Blogger Leah Bergman entice her little ones to dig in with a clever mix of healthy treats, dips, and fun shapes. I think her idea of using a star-shaped cupcake liner to hold the hummus is genius! What an easy way to get kids interested in their food!


Prep That Lunch

If your mornings are anything like ours, making school lunches can often feel like an afterthought. That’s why I love this make-ahead chicken-hummus bento from Project Meal Plan. You can make it the night – or even a few days before – to create a little space for yourself in the AM.


Mix It Up

A lot of the “week of school lunch ideas” posts I came across required a ton of ingredients. But Camille of My Mommy Style has mastered the art of mixing up a few key ingredients so they feel fresh every day. If you have a child who gets bored easily, then this one’s for you!

Deez Balls

I don’t think I’ve ever met a child who doesn’t like buffalo chicken, which is one of the many reasons these meal-preppable meatballs from Wicked Spatula are genius. I plan on doubling the recipe and freezing the extra. That way, I can pop a few into James’ bento and let them defrost overnight in the fridge for an easy make-ahead school lunch.

Protein FTW!

Like a lot of kids, James often fills up on carbs and then ends up on a glycemic roller coaster. I truly think it affects his behavior and attention span! That’s why I love these protein-rich bentos from Sweet Peas And Saffron. With 27g protein, these school lunches will keep kiddos full and focused all day long!

Eat Like A Grown Up

While these four lunch boxes from Ambitious Kitchen are meant for adults, I could see James face planting into that avocado, and devouring those chicken and hummus wraps. I love the idea of moving away from “kid food” to help him develop a well-rounded palate!

DIY, Kiddo!

Kristine of Kristine’s Kitchen Blog creates fun and easy food projects to get her kids involved with making and packing their school lunches. While James isn’t quite old enough to do this on a daily basis, I could see him helping meal prep some black bean muffins one Sunday afternoon. He’d probably get a kick out of telling his school friends he made them, too!

One Word: Pizza

This whole roundup from Kelly of Life Made Sweeter is awesome, but I especially love her idea of a DIY pizza-in-a-box. Her child must be the envy of the lunch table! How fun!