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10 Thermos Ideas For A Healthy Lunch


Get fresh ideas (both hot and cold!) to pack in your kids’ thermos for a nutritious take-along lunch.

As much as we love sandwiches for lunch, they can get a little boring! Enter the thermos. It opens up so many options for fresh and exciting healthy lunches! We find it much easier to pack their lunches with fruits and veggies when we utilize a thermos for lunch. We’ve gathered up lots of hot and cold options for your kids’ lunchboxes!

Mac & Cheese

Kids love mac and cheese! Our homemade version makes it a much healthier meal option- plus you can add veggies to boost the nutrition! The best part is that it is quick and easy to throw together on the stovetop.

Veggie Stuffed Chow Mein

The kids will love this Veggie Stuffed Chow Mein because it’s yummy noodles and veggies with a delicious sauce! How can you go wrong with that? Plus it’s crazy fast to throw together and super customizable.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a classic combination. You can mix things up by packing this creamy, flavorful soup up with a side of croutons, crackers, or even quesadillas (which tend to travel better than grilled cheese).

Chicken Curry

Curry is one of those foods that is almost tastier as leftovers! My kids love when I pack up leftover curry in their lunchbox. Sometimes we skip the rice and pack some naan triangles for dipping. Yum!


We’ve all had breakfast for dinner.. why not breakfast for lunch? We love this recipe that can be made in the Instant Pot (super fast and easy on busy mornings!) and also has eggs making it a hearty, protein-rich lunch. Pack dried fruit, berries, coconut, granola, or whatever toppings your kids like on the side. You can also send them with regular oats, cream of wheat, or whatever hot breakfast cereal your kiddos like!

Turkey Sloppy Joes

Heat up leftover Sloppy Joe mix and keep it nice and warm in the thermos until lunchtime. Pack bread or a hamburger buns on the side for them to assemble when it’s time to eat! Try other hot sandwich fillings like barbeque pork or hot turkey.


Smoothies are great, nutrition-packed lunch option for kids who tend to leave their fruits and veggies uneaten! Whip up a smoothie in the morning and pack it in a thermos where it will stay fresh and frosty until lunchtime.

Pasta Salad

These cold pasta salads make such great lunches! With veggies, carbs, and protein all packed in one dish it’s a quick and easy lunch option. Just add a fruit to round it all out.

Yogurt Parfaits

It’s easy to throw a yogurt tube into the lunchbox.. but much more economical to buy a large tub. And much healthier if you make your own! Pack the yogurt and fruit in the thermos and add granola or nuts on the side so that your kids can assemble their parfaits at school.


Kids love to dip! Try packing warm dips, like this Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip, queso, or bean dip. Or cold dips like yogurt ranch or hummus! Serve with plenty of veggies and bread or crackers for dipping. Yum! My kids love sugar snap peas, mini bell peppers, cucumber, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and mini naan bread or wheat crackers.

This thermos is perfect for kids, with a handle that makes the lid super easy for them to get on and off!

Some other great thermos options:







Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

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I send in a cold lunch everyday for my two oldest. Healthy is number 1 and I would love more ideas on sending in thermos and hot meal ideas! love your blog!

Love sending my son to school with lunch! And he equally enjoys it, says it’s way better than school lunch! I hadn’t though of using a Thermos yet, what great ideas! I will definately be buying one before school starts! We do always use reusable containers though!

finding healthy options that my kids like is tough! So I’m always on the lookout for new yummy things to try! Thanks for the great ideas!

I pack a lunch for my son. And he LOVES when I pack his thermos because he doesn’t see what it is until lunchtime (they have snack around 10 that I always put in a clear plastic container). Some days it is hot (spaghetti) other days cool (fruit salad), but I’m always glad to send it! Thanks for this blog- I love it all but especially school-lunch related as I am getting prepped for the year right now. 🙂

My kids are home schooled however I love your ideas & many of which I already utilize. I make up lunch meals for my boys as if they were in a regular brick & mortar school only on a plate instead 😉

My daughter is in the 3rd grade this year.(sigh) Today was here first day back to school. I look at there lunch menu for the whole month and each day in () it reads veggies for 7-12grade WHAT!!!!!! So this means my daughter won’t get any veggie.. This is just plan crazy to me since my daughter loves veggies.. I’m now thinking that i should pack her lunch daily so i know she is getting veggies.

I send a thermos for my daughter. Last week she took ravioli with meat sauce. She also likes to take soup.

My daughter started Kindergarten two weeks again and has been bringing her lunch to school. I haven’t sent a thermos with her yet, but I am excited to try some of your healthy and yummy suggestions!

My kids aren’t school age yet but I have been loving these lunch ideas. We are constantly going on outing where I pack a lunch (Seven Peaks, Thanksgiving Point, wherever). It’s so much easier to do a picnic lunch before heading home (usually they fall asleep in the car and lunch is shot if we didn’t already squeeze it in). I have yet to try the thermos idea, love new ideas. I usually pack our lunch in a large soft cooler type lunch bag with an ice pack.

I send a thermos to school usually once a week with soup or raviolis in it. I’ll have to look for a smaller one for the dips & yogurt like you suggested. Thanks!

I don’t use a thermos. But, since we homeschool, We could use one and all of these fabulous ideas when we go on field trips or do CO-OP.

Weather at home or packing my daughters lunch for school I love making her a fun and healthy lunch! I love getting new ideas! Thanks for posting great foods!

My kids love to take their thermos, but we have been stuck on using the thermos for soup only. Thanks for the ideas. They encouraged me to look for new ways to use the thermos – hopefully I can convince my kids to give some of these ideas a try.

I’m in college, and I pack a lunch EVERY day. I love it though. I love controlling what I take and eat, and looking forward to my yummy lunch while I’m in class 🙂 I have taken a thermos with soup before…great for those cold days! These are all great ideas!!

I homeschool, so we do not need to send a thermos. When we go on outing we do take a thermos, and you had some great ideas. I usually just use a thermos for drinks. Next Wednesday I am going to try your pasta salad idea (there will be no need for a bulky cooler).

I do send a thermos to school, but usually just with drink inside. I would love to have another one to send more healthy options to school;)

I just sent a thermos for my daughter’s lunch today! I heated up some pasta/sauce/meatballs, along with a side of organic , no-sugar-added applesauce,whole wheat crackers, and an Honest Kids juice box. I love these thermos ideas and would love to see more. Thank you for your blog!!

I would love to send my children to school with a thermos. We just haven’t purchased one yet! Chili with corn bread would be their favorite to take I am sure! 🙂

My oldest has to bring a lunch; no hot food is served. We’re sending a thermos for his drink and then various healthy items to eat. I’m hoping he gets filled up enough!

I don’t have kids (I love your blog for ideas for myself!) so no, never sent a thermos with a kid’s lunch before. But I occasionally take one!

Hi Amy! My kids love taking a thermos to school, but I find that the ones they have (Star Wars and Wizards of Waverly Place) are low quality, because things really don’t stay warm or cold too long). Their favorite dish to pack in their thermos is the first pasta dish you mentioned…we’ve been making something similar for years!! 🙂 WE ALL LOVE PARMESAN CHEESE!
Thanks for all these thermos ideas…brilliant!!

We don’t use thermoses, we just use those ice packs that came with the free diaper bags/nursing supplies when the kids were born!

What a great idea! I love packing creative, yummy lunches for my little one to take to school. This tip is definitely coming in handy!

I don’t usually do a thermos, but that’s a great idea! I also enjoyed your recent posts on packing lunches = some really helpful ideas in there!

we use a thermos a couple times a week. our favorites are: scrambled eggs and a sausage link or bacon, soup, pasta and tuna salad.

I actually home school but I send my husband with a thermos and he loves it. I really liked your idea about sending sandwich fillings and he can put them on, especially the sloppy joes! I will be trying that this week.

My son is just starting preschool next month and I think it is a brilliant idea to send a thermos. Thanks for the ideas!

My daughter is only in K5 this year, so no school lunch yet, but she’s already told me she wants tomato soup for lunch when she goes to first grade! I always loved taking something hot for lunch when I was in school–like soup or rice!

My son loves the days that he opens his lunch box to find his Lightning McQueen Cars thermos inside! Thanks for the great ideas!

I use a thermos for my daughter but mainly use it for soup. I am loving some of the great ideas on here. I never thought about using it for smoothies…which she loves. Thanks for the great tips!

My son loves hot lunch so I don’t pack a lunch for him. I have gone to his school during lunch and was pleased to see he eats pizza on whole wheat crust and salad bar most days. I will be packing a lunch for my daughter this year (and myself). I think you have some great
ideas, I’m definitely going to get us each a thermos, thanks!

I just started sending lunches to school for my 5 and 9 year old. And I love the Thermos and all the Fit and Fresh Containers. It makes packing there lunches fun! And I love your site! I have gotten lots of great ideas. Look forward to more throughout the year 🙂

This is a great idea Amy, love reading your ideas and all the comments here too. My kids would like this but I have a few questions since I’ve never used a thermos before.

1. What kind do you recommend?
2. Do you put it in the fridge the night before if it’s for cold stuff.
3. How hot does it keep your hot food, is it just room temp or actually warm.
Thanks for all these good ideas and for any help from anyone on the questions.

p.s. thanks for the giveaway, sounds wonderful.

My daughter starts 1st grade tomorrow, so it will be her first time eating lunch at school. She’s had other programs where she eats there, but we’ve never used a thermos before. What’s funny, is that I bought one for this year! LOVE the hot cereal idea. She’s a very heathly eater and loves variety.

I haven’t tried the thermos because it seemed too overwhelming, but these ideas seem do-able to me! Thanks!!

We’re in our first year and have been packing lunch but haven’t tried a thermos yet; one of my concerns about sending him off to school was that they healthy habits we have at home would go out the window when he’s with other kids–the thermos ideas are great. Thanks!

Love this post!!!! Somehow making school lunches always feels more daunting than serving them at home. At home, I am fine with them not eating it, but at school, I really want to pack healthy things that they’ll eat to get them through the day. So, thank you! And yes, we do frequently pack a thermos. It really expands the options to use a thermos with lunches!

My son has taken a thermos since he started school. Now he’s in 5th grade and I always tell him that if he’s embarrased about bringing leftovers, he can take a sandwich instead. But he always picks the thermos.

Love the idea of a thermos. I’ve never tried one before, what is the best way to heat up hot food your are going to put in? Stove top, microwave? Also, are there any with stacking cups to put in? It sure would be nice to find stacking cups to put inside so that we could still follow your great three part plate idea.

I pack a lunch for my two boys (3rd & 4th grade) 3 or 4 times a week. (they eat school lunch when it’s something they love) I love using a thermos for cottage cheese and yogurts or fruit, loved the ideas about what other items to put in them. It gets attention by the aides in the lunch room that my boys always bring GREAT lunches that I pack for them…FYI I’m a lunch lady in the school cafeteria!

Love these ideas. My son is in preschool and we use his thermos almost everyday for lunches. He loves soup, macaroni and cheese, and dumplings in his.

My big girl just started kindergarten two days ago and I’m enjoying reading your blog and finding new lunch ideas. We don’t have a thermos yet, but my daughter keeps asking for rice with peas and carrots so I might need to get one soon.

My daughters are 4 years old and 5 months so they aren’t in school for lunches but I love your ideas and recipes. I check your blog everyday for ideas on healthy foods kids will enjoy! Thanks!

My oldest is going to 1/2 day K this year, and I have debated buying him a thermos to keep snacks warm/cold(they bring their own snacks from home daily). This would be awesome, and we are big fans of all of the products-Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, in particular!

My daughter’s lunch is provided for her at school. However, I pack my lunch daily and do not own a thermos. Would love to have the Kids Konserve for myself…is that selfish???

I have 2 year old boy/girl twins and a 4 year old son. I am constantly searching for healthy recipes for our whole family to enjoy and just stumbled on your website. I have not used a thermos for my kids yet, but I want to start! I need to get one for my husband’s lunches as well. Thanks for the great resources!

This is my sons first year of full day school and we are planning to pack lunch. I was debating on whether to get a thermos. We have been looking for healthly ideas to pack!

I always pack my son’s lunch. He is a vegetarian and the school offers nothing beyond peanut butter and jelly on white bread. I just bought a thermos on Amazon but we haven’t tried it yet. I look forward to sending him to school with homemade chili and broccoli soup this fall.

I love to send a thermos filled with goodies for my kids. During the summer I buy fresh produce in bulk and freeze great quantities. In the winter it’s a treat to get some chilled strawberries or peaches in homemade syrup. We also fill a thermos with chili or soup – yum!

My twins are starting pre-school in a few weeks and I wasn’t planning on packing a thermos, but I may consider it. I definitely will when they start Kindergarten.

I’ve tried sending a thermos with my kids but they always complain that by lunch it’s never hot. Maybe I need to invest in a better thermos….. 🙂

My son is in kindergarten and has only been taking a lunch for a week and a half now. I hadn’t thought about using a thermos for his lunch, but you gave some great suggestions. I may have to pick one up (if I don’t win one here!)

I’ve never tried sending a thermos and had never thought about putting COLD stuff into one (duh!). I will be trying it soon and hope that its a success!

I haven’t sent a thermos to school with my kids before but I want to start this year. Thank you for all of your great tips and ideas!!

i do send a thermos- usually it’s warmed up stuff. never thought to send cold smoothies. great ideas.

I pack lunch for my son every day and he loves to bring things in his thermos. Whenever he enjoy dinner a lot he asks for me to pack the leftovers. Things he like are pasta and meatballs, risotto, chicken and rice, pasta salads, rice and beans, soup.
What I do is I reheat the food (when it is a warm food) in the morning and he says it is always delicious by lunchtime.
Nice post, I have recently found your blog and am truly loving it, I am happy to see there are moms out there that are interested in nutrition for their kids and families as much as I do!

i’ve never sent a thermos to school with my child, but that is because she just started. i love the ideas here. i’ve been eyeing a hello kitty funtainer by thermos, but couldn’t think of what to pack inside. hot soup for a preschooler didn’t sound like such a good idea, but muesli or pasta salad would be great.

I send a thermos with water in it everyday for my son’s lunch! He prefers water over anything else. I have been wanting to splurge and buy another thermos for him to take other foods in but he is so picky it’s hard to figure out what to put in it. Just found your blog and love the ideas!

I have sent a thermos to school! I know about the boiling water for 5 min. before you put the food in it to keep it warm until lunch, but when you put cold foods in it, are there any similar tricks?

I just got back from the store with two thermos’s for my kids. I’m so excited to try your suggestions, school starts in two weeks here 🙂

I send a thermos with water or juice everyday in my son’s lunch, and this week, a small thermos container with fruit & cheese kebobs… he is loving them!

My son usually takes a homemade lunch to middle school. He has food allergies, so I know he is eating something safe. It can be either a sandwich with a fruit or veggie with pretzels or a yogurt. He has taken a thermos lunch to schoole – either leftovers from the night before or soup. My daughter entering 2nd grade – she prefers taking a thermos lunch – usually soup.

My kids are young, but will be homeschooled. Still, I’ve never thought of sending a thermos with my hubby to work…I will in the future! Thanks for this post (crossing my fingers to win)

I am fighting the immense pressure to fit in at the lunch table. My son refuses to eat peanut butter anymore so your post about using a thermos is really helpful. Thank you.

I’ve never sent my daughter to school with a thermos. However her cousin uses one and that’s enough to convince her! I would love to try these ideas. And if she doesn’t like it, I’ve no doubt her little brother will be begging to use it.

These are such great ideas! Now I will need to get my child a thermos for school lunches so we can try all these healthy options and he won’t get sick of the same things. Thank you so much!

My son is just starting preschool and I love all of the ideas mentioned in this article. A thermos would be a lovely addition to his lunchbox! Thank you for the opportunity to win one!

I have not used a thermos for my daughter’s lunch yet, but I have one and this has inspired me to give it a try! Thanks!

I don’t have kids in school yet, but I do have a husband in college, and it takes too much time away from his studies to come home for lunch. Ergo, I still pack lunches for him. And he doesn’t really even like sandwiches, so I have a thermos on my soon-to-be-fulfilled wish list. 🙂

First year in Pre-K and I pack a thermos – mostly for hot foods. Love the ideas and the website – it’s been a life saver for menu planning!! Thank you!

Would love to win a bag! I’ve not used a thermos before, except the one with a straw in it filled with water. Love hearing different ways to pack fun healthy food for my kids!!!

I love to use a thermos for soups and leftover pasta and rice dishes. Thanks for the cold ideas too – I’m going to make it my goal to utilize it most days of the week!

kids konserv is the solution to my thermos dilemma! Thanks for the link and the inventive uses for the thermos. I am going to try and see how it handles keeping frozen vegetables frozen. Preferred over fresh, I don’t ask questions, as long as they get into my kindergartener’s tummy.

My son is starting kindergarten so it’s my first year of packing lunches. I’m planning to buy a thermos for soups and hot foods but also liked your ideas for using it for cold foods. His class is nut-free so I need alternatives to his usual PBJ! Thanks!

My daughter is just turning three but my sister and I just had this conversation about how her kids request hot lunches in a thermos every day. When she told me what she sent in them I cringed. I will be sending her a link to this post in hopes she gets some more healthy ideas. I will surely use it when my little one heads off to school!

My oldest daughter is starting kindergarten this year and these are great ideas to come in handy for thermos options for her school lunch, thank you! Love this blog!

I can’t wait to try these. I’ve not sent a thermos to school for my ds, because it’s been too hot. Thanks for the cold food ideas. We keep our glasses in the freezer to save on cabinet spaces. I bet keeping a thermos in there would keep it colder longer.

My son is in full day kindergarten this year and loves when I pack his thermos. Spaghetti and meatballs, homemade pizza bites, soup, macaroni and cheese, tortellini salad, stir fry, american chop suey, mini quiches… limitless possibilities.

We love using a thermos. My son has used his at least 2x a week for 4 years. I do a lot of leftovers hot in his lunch. His faves are hamburger macaroni, jambalaya, and stir fry. He’s even taken, hot dogs (make sure you pack them in the thermos with hot water). Tomorrow I am going to try packing a baked potato. You are only limited to your imagination.

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Mine likes tortellini with olive oil, marinara or pesto. She also likes ensalata caprese… I use the small packs of mozzarella balls/pieces, grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil. Also yogurt, with granola and fruit to mix in at school.

I use the thermos a great deal for sending leftovers from the night before. Knocked up a soup with blended frozen peas for them to take in this morning. I’ve always avoided rice though – so you think it is ok health & safety wise to be kept warm for three hours until they eat it?

Thanks for sharing these great thermos ideas for a healthy lunch! I love how easy and convenient it is to pack a nutritious meal in a thermos. I can’t wait to try some of these out for myself. Keep up the good work!