UPDATED: I’ve taken my most popular post (125 lunchbox ideas) reviewed the recipes, and updated everything for the 2017–2018 school year. Enjoy. And don’t forget to download your copy of the handy printable collection—and get another 25 recipes for free!
When it comes to healthy lunchboxes for my kids, there are two sides to me: food-loving dietitian mommy, and woman who gets really bored—really quickly—with packing kids’ lunch boxes.
One one hand, making a balanced and tasty healthy lunch for my girls each day is my highest priority.
But listen—I’m always on the lookout for lunch box ideas to make that process easier.
If you’re like me, you’re probably already burned out on trying to come up with new, creative, healthy lunchbox ideas for your littles ones.
(And heck, none of us want to have one of those notes sent home from the teacher about “unhealthy Oreos.”)
But coming up with a healthy lunch day in and day out doesn’t have to be difficult.
Stick with me, mom and dad… I’ve got you covered—here are dozens of easy, healthy lunch ideas to love!
Now you can take the guesswork out of making healthy lunchboxes for kids—and the brainwork out of coming up with the ideas.
Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for tips on how to use the list!
Why use these kids’ lunchbox ideas?
This list is the one I always wished I had—and I strongly encourage you to use it yourself.
When you’ve got 125 lunch ideas for kids in your pocket, you’ll feel less mommy/daddy guilt about making lunchtime meals every day. (Especially if you’ve got what I call “Lunchbox Lethargy”—and the task just sucks the life out of you.)
Using these dietitian-prepared combinations will also empower you to try new foods with your children, and encourage your kids to enjoy foods that taste good.
(Need a lunchbox container? Here’s the one I recommend.)
And now, without further ado…
125 Healthy School Lunchbox Ideas: Use This List and You’ll Never Be Bored Making School Lunches Again
- Honeydew melon, hard-cooked eggs, cottage cheese, pretzels
- White-out lunchbox: apples, grilled chicken, brown rice, 1/2 Greek vanilla and plain Greek yogurt, white chocolate chips
- Buttered noodles, grapes, gingerbread cake, Greek yogurt, stickers
- Low-sodium turkey, bell pepper strips, strawberry yogurt, strawberries, ranch dressing
- Pretzel sticks, clementines, rotisserie chicken, rainbow carrots, hummus
- White-out lunchbox: low-sodium deli turkey, apple slices, wedding cake, cheddar cheese, pistachios
- Couscous with veggies and feta, strawberries, hard-cooked egg, stickers, raisins
- Banana bread, honeydew melon, 1/2 & 1/2 vanilla and plain Greek yogurt, grapes
- Macaroni and cheese, strawberries and clementines, chicken breast, chocolate coin, heart stickers
- Sunflower seed butter quesadillas, English cucumber slices, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds, cheddar crackers, hummus
- Fresh corn, carrot sticks, chicken nuggets, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing
- Apple slices, raisins, pretzels, grilled chicken, ranch dressing
- Strawberries, pizza, Greek yogurt, rainbow carrots, stickers
- Cheese curls, strawberries, cottage cheese with cinnamon, green beans, graham crackers
- Sweet potato chips, corn and black bean salsa, clementines, deli turkey, cheddar cheese
- White out lunchbox: couscous with veggies, apples, smoked turkey breast, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (strawberry and plain), white chocolate chips
- Tri-colored tortellini with veggies, strawberry Greek yogurt, strawberries, meringue cookie, note from mommy
- Snowman cheese stick, pretzel rods, carrot sticks, grapes, hummus
- Sunflower seed butter gingerbread man sandwich, raisins, English cucumber slices, applesauce, fresh corn, ranch dressing
- Whole wheat waffle, clementine, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (strawberry and plain), pomegranate arils, sunflower seed butter
- Popcorn, strawberries, clementines, rainbow baby carrots, grilled chicken, ranch dressing
- Watermelon, pretzels, baked chicken breast, tummies, stickers
- Strawberries, cheese stick, hard-cooked egg, rainbow carrots, graham crackers, ranch dressing
- Cheese curls, clementines, grapes, shredded chicken breast, green beans, ranch dressing
- Orange crush lunchbox: macaroni and cheese, roasted sweet potatoes, clementines, cheddar bunnies, gummy vitamin
- Graham cracker, chocolate square, butter lettuce, rainbow carrots, cheese curls, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing
- Butter lettuce, rainbow carrots, grilled chicken, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (plain and strawberry), strawberries, ranch dressing
- Gluten-free banana bread muffins, fresh grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch dressing
- Turkey sandwich, raspberries, low-sodium canned green beans, stickers
- Low-sodium deli turkey, pretzel sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, mini marshmallows
- Chicken nuggets, veggie straws, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (strawberry and plain), raisins, ranch dressing
- Macaroni and cheese, grapes, strawberries, chocolate chips, stickers
- “Brunchbox:” pancakes, fresh grapefruit, vanilla Greek yogurt, hard-cooked egg, cereal
- Applesauce, strawberries, mini chocolate chip banana bread muffin, cheddar crackers, pistachios
- “ABC lunchbox:” asparagus (blanched), berries, cereal, dip, egg (hard-cooked)
- Popcorn, grapes, double chocolate mini muffin, grilled chicken, ranch dressing
- Pancakes, cottage cheese with cinnamon, cucumber ribbons, carrots, maple syrup
- Spaghetti with meat sauce, yogurt tube, cheese, low-sodium canned green beans, stickers
- Yogurt pouch, grapes caterpillar, low-sodium green beans, kiwi, stickers
- Veggie skewers with hummus, chicken, pear, cereal, stickers
- Fig cookies, hummus, carrot sticks, low-sodium turkey rolls, clementine, stickers
- Penne pasta with tomato sauce, carrots, grapes, cheddar cheese, chocolate chips
- Grapes, rainbow carrots, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (plain and strawberry), chicken nuggets, ranch dressing
- Brown rice, grapes, grilled chicken, English cucumber, hummus
- Ham sandwich on Hawaiian roll, cereal, mango, cheese, stickers
- Spaghetti with meat sauce, yogurt tube, kiwi, cheese, ranch dressing, carrot sticks
- Pretzels, clementines, cottage cheese, low-sodium turkey, pomegranate arils, stickers
- Grapes, grilled chicken, plain whole milk yogurt with pear preserves stirred in, no-salt-added green beans, cheese
- Sunflower seed butter quesadilla, pear Greek yogurt, mango, cheddar cheese, mini marshmallows
- Yogurt pouch, carrots, English cucumber, low-sodium turkey rolls, pineapple, hummus
- Apples, pretzels, whole milk plain yogurt, carrots, sunflower seed butter
- Buttered tortellini, clementine, no-salt-added canned green beans, grilled chicken, stickers
- Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, mini muffin, Greek yogurt, stickers
- Tortellini, hard-cooked eggs, apples, no-salt-added green beans, chocolate chips
- Whole wheat waffles, yogurt tube, mango, maple syrup, raisins
- Double chocolate mini muffin, low-sodium turkey rollups, applesauce, carrots, ranch dressing
- Yogurt pouch, pretzels, clementine, noodles, cheese
- Freekeh with chicken and veggies, carrots, Greek yogurt, cheese, dried cranberries
- Applesauce, puffs, chicken, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (strawberry and plain), clementines
- Pineapple, hard-cooked eggs, pretzels, cheese, raisins
- Sunflower seed butter and strawberry wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes, mommy note
- Grapes, whole-grain chips, hot dogs, cheddar cheese, edamame
- Yogurt pouch, string cheese, kettle chips, apple, no-salt-added green beans, chocolate coins
- Watermelon, pretzels, strawberry Greek yogurt, vegetable soup
- Spaghetti with meat sauce, grapes, Greek yogurt pouch
- Cantaloupe, chicken, hard-cooked egg, cheese stick
- Low-sodium turkey, string cheese, carrots, apples, hummus, chocolate coin
- Plums, zucchini sticks, 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (plain and strawberry), low-sodium turkey, ranch dressing
- Spaghetti with meat sauce, roasted veggies, cantaloupe, chocolate coin
- Peaches, shaved carrots, hummus, low-sodium turkey
- Peaches and strawberries, low-sodium green beans, ham, plain Greek yogurt
- Low-sodium green beans, low-sodium turkey, strawberries and peaches, pistachios
- 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (plain and strawberry), low-sodium green beans, cheddar crackers, strawberries
- 1/2 and 1/2 Greek yogurt (plain and strawberry), hummus, cheddar crackers, English cucumber, strawberries
- Soy butter and jelly tortilla bites, carrots, grapes, yogurt
- Soy butter quesadilla, English cucumber, hummus, yogurt
- Rotisserie chicken breast, English cucumber, ranch dressing, lady peas, grapes
- Mini meatloaf muffin, lady peas, English cucumber, grapes
- Low-sodium turkey, green beans, cheddar cheese, cantaloupe
- Low-sodium turkey, yogurt, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon
- Spaghetti with meat sauce, grapes, green beans, corn
- Strawberries, cheddar crackers, carrots, hummus, low-sodium turkey
- Cheddar crackers, yogurt, banana, low-sodium turkey
- Pizza, hummus, zucchini sticks
- Low-sodium turkey, yogurt, grapes, cheddar crackers, cheddar cheese, hummus
- Slice of cheese pizza, green beans, watermelon cubes
- Yogurt, watermelon, canned, no-salt-added green beans, whole-grain graham cracker
- Whole-milk yogurt, green beans, cantaloupe
- Cantaloupe, green beans, 1 cup spaghetti & meat sauce
- Yogurt tube, about 1-oz no-salt-added turkey, cheddar, green beans, ranch dressing
- Whole-milk yogurt, green beans, orange segments
- Yogurt, green beans, steamed carrots, 1/2 graham cracker
- Whole-grain chicken breast nuggets, ranch dressing, no-salt-added green beans, yogurt, strawberries
- Strawberries, carrots, hummus, mac and cheese
- Soy milk yogurt, 1 cup fruit salad, 4 frosted wheat cereal, mac and cheese
- Cantaloupe, chicken, hard-cooked egg, corn
- Fruit & veggie pouch, low-sodium turkey breast, fresh pineapple, graham cracker
- Whole-milk yogurt, low-sodium turkey breast, fresh blueberries, graham cracker
- Fresh pineapple, fresh strawberries, 2oz chicken breast, green beans, ranch dressing
- Greek yogurt, brown rice, 3/4 cup strawberries, 3 whole wheat chicken breast nuggets
- Whole-milk yogurt, brown rice, steamed squash, strawberries
- Fruit and veggie pouch, cheese, yogurt, berries
- Yogurt, berries, steamed carrots
- Applesauce, noodles, chicken, tomato, cheddar cheese, and corn
- Whole wheat chicken breast nuggets, ranch dressing, cucumber, mandarin orange segments and blueberries
- Boiled egg, fruit and veggie pouch, whole-grain O’s cereal, mandarin orange segments and strawberries
- Egg white, hummus, cucumber slices, popcorn, grapes
- Banana, 1/4 whole-grain tortilla with sunflower seed butter cut into squares, blueberries, mixed brown rice and corn
- Grapes, string cheese, 1/2 whole-grain tortilla with sunflower seed butter, pistachios, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows
- Yogurt, berries, sunflower seed butter sushi: 1 6-inch flour tortilla spread with sunflower seed butter and half banana rolled up, blueberries, 1 slice low-sodium turkey breast, green beans, hummus
- Carrot sticks, hummus, mini marshmallows, low-sodium turkey breast, blueberries
- Low-sodium turkey breast, cheese stick, mandarin orange, whole-grain O’s cereal, Greek yogurt
- Low-sodium sliced deli turkey breast, string cheese, apple slices, carrots sticks, vegetable dip/hummus, chocolate coins
- Pulled chicken breast, yogurt (half strawberry-half plain yogurt), plum, cucumber slices, ranch dressing
- Turkey, cheese, and whole wheat tortilla roll-up, grapes, no-salt-added canned green beans, stickers
- Hard-cooked egg, cheese, applesauce, whole-grain/graham cracker with sunflower seed butter, chocolate coin
- All-natural beef hot dog, yogurt, peach slices, popcorn, ketchup
- Sunflower seed butter and graham cracker sandwich, hard-cooked egg whites, strawberry swirl yogurt (1/2 regular strawberry and 1/2 plain Greek yogurt), blackberries, stickers
- Chopped turkey breast, cheese, watermelon sticks, no-salt-added canned green beans, ranch dressing
- Cheese tortellini with olive oil, salt, and parmesan, hard-cooked egg whites, apple slices, no-salt-added canned green beans, dark chocolate chips
- Chopped turkey and cheese skewers, yogurt, watermelon, blueberry lemon mini oatmeal muffins, sticker
- Ham and cheese roll-up (1 slice ham and 1/2 slice muenster cheese), unsweetened apple sauce, raw carrot sticks (for toddlers, steam in the microwave for 1 min before packing), double chocolate mini muffins, ranch dressing
- Sunflower seed butter and strawberry wafflewich, hard-cooked egg whites, grapes, Greek yogurt
- Turkey rolls, champagne grapes, cucumbers, corn on the cob, ranch dressing
- Yogurt, cheddar, whole-grain chips, apple, cucumbers, stickers
Free Download: 30 Full Weeks of Healthy Lunches for Kids
125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids—How I made the list
You’ll find that these recipes try to include most, if not all, of these categories:
- protein (e.g. baked chicken, low-sodium sliced deli turkey)
- dairy (e.g. cheese, yogurt or milk)
- dip (e.g. hummus), and
- what I call a “happy”—things like chocolate coins, love notes from Mom or stickers that bring a smile.
Stick to this formula, and you can’t help but make a healthy lunch.
One thing I want to say, though: I’m not perfect, and I’m not afraid to send items that may have some sugar, salt, or fat.
I’ll give my kids cake, chocolate chips or potato chips now and then, and ranch dressing has a starring role in many a lunchbox. When this is the case, I find ways to balance their intake of lower sugar, salt, or fat in the lunchbox and throughout the day.
For example, some brands of yogurt are pretty high in added sugar—but I’ve had a hard time getting my girls to eat plain yogurt sweetened only with fruit.
So I do things like make “half and half” yogurt by mixing the sugar sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt (and they are none the wiser)—or I may just go all out sweetened here and there. Because to me, some sweetened yogurt is better than no yogurt at all.
Similarly, it’s worth 1 tbsp of ranch dressing to get them to eat five carrot sticks.
How My Lunchbox Ideas Work
The other thing you need to realize is that not every healthy lunchbox has the complete formula every time. On those days they miss veggies at lunch, for example, or have no dairy in the box, I make sure to make up for it another meal. We may have double veggies at dinner, say, or cucumbers and hummus for an afterschool snack.
And as you go through the list, you’ll see that many foods repeat. My kids love low-sodium deli turkey; hummus or ranch for dipping vegetables; pasta (spaghetti, tortellini, mac and cheese); hard-boiled eggs; carrots; and all kinds of fruit.
That’s why I’m not afraid or ashamed to offer those foods over and over again—plus I know they’ll get eaten and I’ll end up wasting less.
However, I also try to include unfamiliar foods here and there, since they are often more apt to try new things in their familiar and comfortable school environment.
Yes, You CAN Make Healthy Lunch Boxes for Kids
As you can see, none of these healthy lunchbox ideas are earth-shattering or unrealistic.
In fact, I use the phrase DOWN-TO-EARTH, DOABLE, AND DELICIOUS over and over when I describe how we approach food in my family, because I believe in making sensible food choices that focus on flavor and variety.
That’s the thinking behind these healthy lunchboxes—the kind of thinking I hope to encourage you to explore. Go ahead and download my handy printable and get started.
Good luck with your school lunches!