50 Packable School Lunch Ideas
Don’t sweat school lunch! Get fresh ideas from our huge list of healthy, simple, and packable lunches. Print the list with my free printable to hang on your fridge!
Also check out our huge school lunch photo gallery with 90+ complete kid lunches.
Packing a school lunch: how hard can it be? Slap together a sandwich, add a piece of fruit and some baby carrots, and you’re done. Easy, right? At least in September, it’s that easy.
But a month or two into the school year, packing lunches starts to feel like a slog. The food starts to come back uneaten. Your kids are complaining about their umpteenth turkey sandwich on wheat. And most troubling of all, there’s no end in sight.
Don’t sweat it. And avoid the lunch-packing burnout with our huge list of packable school lunch ideas to keep you ticking all year long.
Tips for Packing School Lunches
Plan Ahead and Prep
This is SUCH a sanity-saver. You can pack the entire lunch the night before and put it in your fridge. Or you can prep pre-portioned items that are easy to grab in the morning. Some examples are:
- Snack size veggie bags
- Sliced apples with a little lime or lemon juice
- Dips in small containers
- Make sandwiches and freeze them in individual containers
Have a Variety of Healthy Choices
Kids can get tired of the same foods after a couple of weeks. Vary the foods you have for lunches by buying smaller portions or making different recipes and rotating every few weeks. You can also cut fruits and veggies in different fun ways to mix things up. Here are some ideas:
- Snap peas
- Bell pepper cut into strips
- Celery sliced thin
- Cucumber rounds
- Cherry tomatoes
- Carrot sticks or coins
- Melon balls
- Strawberry halves
- Kiwi slices
- Apple slices
- Applesauce pouches
Sides + Snacks
- Energy Bites
- Homemade Granola Bar
- Trail Mix
- Cheese Stick
- Healthy Cookie
- Fruit Leather
- Fruit Snacks
50 Packable School Lunch Ideas
- Homemade lunchable: crackers + cheese + deli meat
- Pinwheel sandwich: tortilla + cream cheese + turkey + provolone cheese + lettuce
- Soup in a thermos + roll
- Chopped salad with chopped veggies, boiled eggs, deli meat
- Veggie-packed pizza rolls
- Muffins with a cheese stick
- Waffle sandwich
- “Finger Food” lunch: trail mix, cheese cubes, and raw veggies
- Homemade protein bar + fruit
- Egg muffins
- Bean and cheese burrito
- Tuna and crackers
- Pita Pizza Pocket: shredded cheese + marinara + pepperoni
- Slider on a hawaiian roll
- Pasta salad
- Energy Bites + veggie sticks
- Egg salad sandwich
- Chicken nuggets in a thermos to stay warm
- Guacamole + salsa + tortilla chips
- Pasta and meat sauce in a thermos
- Chicken salad wrap
- Nut butter + fruit sandwich
- Cheese quesadillas with guacamole
- Pizza kebabs
- Homemade “Uncrustables”
- Ham and cheese roll up
- Homemade pretzel bites with cheese sauce
- Cheesy spinach bites
- Homemade hot pocket
- Turkey club wrap
- Veggie lunch wrap
- Yogurt and granola with berries
- Bagel sandwich with turkey and cheese
- Banana bread with a hard-boiled egg
- Quick Mac and Cheese in a thermos
- Pita with hummus + veggies
- Rice cakes with nut or seed butter
- Taquitos or flautas
- BLT sandwich
- Chili in a thermos
- “Bistro Box” with fruit, veggies, cheese, crackers, and hummus
- Buffalo Chicken Wrap
- English muffin pizza
- Lunchbox taco salad
- A thermos of Homemade Spaghettios
- Apple and cheddar grilled cheese
- Tuna salad wrap
- Pizza lunchable: mini naan + marinara + pepperoni + shredded mozzarella
- Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
- The easiest packed lunch of all: leftovers from dinner
More Tips and Ideas for Packing School Lunches
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.Learn More about Natalie
What suggestions do you have for keeping the grilled cheese and quesadilla from getting hard? Do you wrap in foil or keep in thermos? I’ll have to try the waffle sandwich idea! Similar question though on your recommendations for packing it. Thx!
Hi Linda! Every kid is different, but we find that ours aren’t that particular about the temperature or texture of these foods that are usually eaten hot, but are served cool in a lunchbox. I do know some parents have tried putting non-liquids in thermoses to keep them cool, so you could certainly try that, too. 🙂
Thank you for sharing! I hope you will continue to have great articles like this to share with everyone!
We adore these ideas thank you. Do you have any recommendations for keeping relevant foods chilled and thus safe for lunchtime? I use a little cooler and 2 ice bricks which are very heavy for my little one. We live in Asia so things get steamy!! Thanks.
Hi Liv, thanks for reaching out! We like to use a soft-sided lunch bag and just one slim ice pack inside the keep it cool. It isn’t super heavy that way. Here’s a post with some lunch bag reviews, and at the bottom you’ll find a link to our favorite ice packs (small and light!) https://www.superhealthykids.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=36386&action=edit
Hello! Could you link the metal container you’ve put some of the delicious food above in?
Hi Meghan, sure! It’s a Lunch Bots Stainless Steel container, and you can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/LunchBots-Stainless-Steel-Food-Container/dp/B0044R7VTS/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=lunch+bots+metal&qid=1563806065&s=pet-supplies&sr=8-4
Thankbyou for these Fresh & Fun new Lunch Ideas can’t wait to try all of these!!!!!
Great ideas! Could you make this list printable?
Hi Cheryl, great idea! We went ahead and added a printable. You should see it at the bottom of the post now.
i don’t have kids in school till next year but love this list for new ideas for us! Is there any way to print it off so I can put it on the fridge??
Hi Jamie! Yes, we just made this list printable for you. Check it out at the bottom of the post.
I really appreciate the ideas and recipes for kids’ lunches, however my son is gluten free and dairy free. Some GF, DF suggestions with the recipes would be really great!
Gluten and dairy allergies/intolerances are very common, so I know I’m not the only mama needing these accommodations. Thanks!
We know that it can be difficult navigating dietary restrictions. We’ll keep this in mind when making future posts. You can also use our recipe search function for GF and DF recipes. Thanks so much for sharing your feedback!
What great ideas for my kids. I showed them this list and tomorrow’s lunch will start with veggie lunch wrap. Thanks alot for sharing, Natalie!
What a fantastic recipe list! Thank you very much fro sharing!