Bags, boxes, and plastic-free… we tried ’em all! Learn the pros and cons of over 15 popular lunch boxes to find the perfect one for your kids.
Get healthy packed lunch ideas in our massive photo gallery of healthy kid lunches.
Having a great lunch box makes the entire school lunch experience so much better for your kids… and for you! Lunch boxes take quite a beating. They get smashed into backpacks, spilled on, and sometimes even forgotten with stinky food left in them. (Yech! Might be time for a replacement!) There are so many options out there, it’s hard to know which one fits your needs. So we put together a super thorough list of different lunchbox options, including the pros and cons of each type. Check them out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Bento-Style Lunch Boxes
- Leak-proof compartments. Entrees, sides, and snacks stay separated on-the-go without the inconvenience of multiple lunch bags or containers.
- Inner tray is microwave safe.
- Good portion sizes for all ranges of kids.
- Customizable compartments. Keep the 3-compartment structure as-is to pack larger main courses or add the optional divider to create 4 compartments.
- Not insulated and so it won’t keep food hot or cold
- Hand wash recommended
- Thermal insulated bento lunch box with two temperature zones for storing hot and cold foods.
- Integrated stainless steel vacuum insulated thermos food jar provides powerful insulation for hot foods.
- Double walled, air insulated bento lunch box keeps fruits & vegetables cool and fresh.
- 3 separate leak-proof bento compartments keeps food separated and visually appealing.
- Food thermos is shallow with a wide mouth, so kids can scoop food out easily. The insulated bento box is also shallow with rounded corners.
- Heavier than other lunch boxes. May be difficult for small children to carry.
- Not as easy to clean as other lunch boxes because you have to take multiple parts out and hand wash.
- Modular containers snap together to save space and stay organized, and can be stacked to fit various lunch bag shapes and sizes.
- Blue Ice freezer packs snap directly to food containers, keeping lunch chilled when you’re on the go.
- Durable lunch box containers have a secure lid seal to prevent leaking.
- Kit Includes: 2 Snack Containers (.5 cup capacity), 1 Side Container (1.2 cup capacity), 1 Sandwich Container (2.6 cup capacity) and 1 Medium Blue Ice
- Microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe
- Very inexpensive
- Very small – the sandwich container can barely fit a sandwich
- Multiple parts to keep track of
- YUMBOX is leakproof! Pack wet foods like yogurt and applesauce (not water). Seals with one lid.
- Kid-friendly latch for easy opening and closing.
- Removable tray holds five 1/2 cup portions.
- Sturdy outerbox with stainless steel supported hinge, Tritan (tray) and Silicone (seal).
- Dishwasher safe. Top rack only. Hand washing the outer shell and/or removing it before the heat dry cycle is highly recommend to preserve the seal.
- May be too small unless you have smaller children.
- The durability may not last unless you hand wash only.
- Designed with kid-friendly, easy-open lids. Lid fit is snug, not tight; great for people with special needs.
- 3 compartments (9.4″ x 6.1″ x 2″); made from FDA-approved, high-quality polypropylene.
- Great for portion control or special diet; keeps food separated; safe for microwave, freezer, dishwasher; these food storage containers nest together to save space when not in use.
- Not-leak proof; avoid liquids or runny food.
Non-Plastic Lunch Boxes
- Includes stainless steel lunchbox, 2 round lidded containers; a soft carry bag, and set of decorative magnets.
- Individual compartments ensure foods don’t touch each other and arrive looking neat and appealing.
- Made out of safe, non-toxic, and recycled materials – safe from lead, PVC, phthalates, or BPA.
- All in one piece design for easy care and cleaning – no mismatched lids to lose – dishwasher safe.
- Not completely leakproof, but things like tomato sauce on pasta won’t leak into the other compartments.
- Much more expensive than other stainless options
- With one big compartment that’s perfect for a sandwich and two smaller sections designed for sides, your entire lunch fits in one container.
- Safe and durable. Made from high quality 18/8 stainless steel. Even with the colorful dot covers, 18/8 the stainless steel is all that touches your food. And because they’re virtually indestructible, they’re great for any on-the-go lifestyle.
- The divided stainless steel lunch box saves you the hassle of opening countless containers for quick convenience and a beautiful presentation.
- Super-simple cleanup, just toss your Bento Trio and lid in the dishwasher.
- The lids and dividers aren’t watertight so pack only dry foods. Can use a separate container to hold dips and dressings.
- The 100% stainless steel lunchbox set works great for packing a small sandwich on the bottom plus a wet and dry side dish in the top container.
- All together when boxed up, the bento measures 4 inches wide, 5 1/2 inches long and 2 3/4 inches high and fits about 4 cups of food. The bottom section is 1 inch deep (contains about 1 1/2 cups food) and fits a small whole sandwich on sliced bread. The top layer is a bit larger at 1 1/2 inches deep (contains about 1 3/4 cups of food) and works well for bulkier food, such as chips, sliced fruit, leftover pastas or salads.
- The clips are kid-tested and can be adjusted to desired stiffness.
- ECO lunchboxes are not leak proof. Damp foods work well, but because the lids don’t have any plastic gaskets or other added synthetics to create a seal, very wet foods may leak.
- Durable. Practically unbreakable so you will get great use out of it.
- The snap on air tight lids are leakproof, creating a tight seal, and are EASY to open especially for toddler and kids.
- Organizes easily because the 3 sizes nest inside each other and fit nicely into a cupboard or drawer
- Clear lid so you know whats inside before opening.
- Great as a freezer containers. No odor absorption and no taste retention.
- Lid not as sturdy as the container
- Made from food-grade stainless steel.
- Leakproof seal- Enjoy meals without worrying about leaks and spills.
- Durable and perfect for daily use and picnics.
- Easy to clean – detachable lids. Dishwasher safe.
- Comes in three different sizes.
- Possibility of the snap on lid breaking as it is plastic
- Has a divider and so you can have different types of foods without them touching on completely seperate levels.
- Holds up to 3 cups of food
- Square shape makes more room in a lunch bag for other items if desired
- Not leak proof. Does not have plastic gaskets and so liquids can leak out the sides.
Soft-Sided Lunch Bags
- Double Decker Design. Can keep food warm and cold in the separated compartments.
- The flexible top compartment is perfect for fruit, a water bottle or a thermal container. The bottom section is specifically designed for a large Bento box to lay flat, reducing the risk of accidental spills.
- Two carrying options – has a detachable strap and sling or a comfortable handle. Available in multiple colors.
- Made with durable, high quality polyester fabric making it super-easy to clean.
- No extra pockets for additional items.
- Top compartment is small.
- Neoprene material which is incredibly durable.
- Great design with top quality features including soft handles, reinforced seams, durable zippers, wide zipper openings, interior name label and pocket.
- Eco-friendly, reusable and extremely durable – stain, tear and water resistant means this bag can be used over and over again, beyond one school year.
- Really easy to clean. Funkins neoprene lunch bags can be hand-washed or machine washed, air dries in minutes.
- Can be stored flat in a drawer, and will stand upright for easy packing. Bag design helps food containers stay upright while traveling to school.
- Very spacious – large bag stretches to hold all of your child’s reusable lunch and drink containers.
- So spacious that things might move around a lot inside.
- Lots of really cute designs to choose from
- This carrier is a perfect fit for the Bentology Bento Box or combo set.
- Lots of different pockets. Has an expandable side pocket with a zipper for your beverage bottle. Front expandable pocket can hold extra items. Interior mesh pocket.
- Ideal size for younger kids.
- The width is thinner than other lunch bags and may not fit as much inside
- Mesh pouch on the inside lid for ice pack, spoon, napkin. Special design for Velcro tape close, keeps things in place when the lid is opened. Exterior zipper pocket for additional storage
- Insulated and food safe PEVA lining keeps your food warm or cold. Inside heat-welded seams prevent flexible liner leaks. Easy to clean.
- High quality “MIER” zipper design – more durable than other lunch bags.
- Sturdy and softy padded grab handle that is easy and comfortable for kids to hold.
- Less expensive than other lunch bags
- Smaller capacity than other lunch bags
- Equipped with eco-friendly PEVA lining that is soft and easy to clean. Just wipe it with a wet cloth and it’s good as new.
- Very spacious – can hold a lot of food.
- Front and side pockets to carry extra items and multi-functional strap with buckle makes the lunch bag easy to carry. Lunch bag can be carried by hand or be tied to backpack at the handle.
- Made with high-quality nylon and polyester fabric and reinforced zippers to ensure maximum durability.
- Not as good of insulation as some other lunch bags
- PackIt’s classic lunchbox features a groundbreaking all-in-one cooling system. Freezable gel is built into in the walls of the bag chill contents for hours. There are no extra parts to lose or forget in the freezer
- The entire lunch box collapses flat for compact storage in the freezer. Freeze the lunchbox overnight (12 hours) and by morning, the walls of the bag will be completely frozen and ready to cool items for hours.
- Large zip opening allows for faster top-load packing and locks in cool, dry air. A buckle handle conveniently lets you attach this lunch box to backpacks, messenger bags, sports bags and more. The exterior mesh side pocket holds an 8oz water bottle, utensils and napkin or snacks.
- Heavier than other lunch bags because of the built in freezer packs.
- Some complaints of zippers breaking
Extras: Lunch Box Accessories
- Vacuum insulation: Double wall stainless steel food jar features vacuum insulation technology that keeps contents cold for up to 7 hours or warm for up to 5 hours. Vacuum insulation maintains temperature of the contents longer, which inhibits bacteria growth and spoiling.
- Durable: Designed with kids in mind. The stainless steel interior and exterior is durable and withstands the demands of daily use; the double wall design allows this food jar to stay cool to the touch with warm foods and sweat-proof with cold foods. Has a ergonomically-designed lid with a rubber grip for easy handling; the base of the jar is non-slip and scratch resistant.
- Easy to Fill: The wide opening makes the food jar easy to fill, eat from and clean; It is a great way to pack fresh and healthy meals for school or on the go.
- Less expensive than other similar products
- Smaller filling capacity – only 10 ounces
- In my experience doesn’t keep food warm for 5 hours. By the time my kids eat lunch, their food is lukewarm.
- Superior Insulation: Stays cold for up to 12 hours or hot for over 6 hours. They guarantee it will outperform a product of the same capacity from any other brand.
- All Stainless Steel: No plastic involved! The Thermal’s interior, including the lid, is made of durable 18/8 stainless steel. Dishwasher safe for a no-hassle cleanup.
- Great Size: Holds up to 2 cups of food. Its 4.5″ diameter is ideal for chunky stews or fruit salad, and it makes it easy to fill with your lunchtime favorites. Fits great with a lot of different lunch bags.
- Leak Proof Design: When you have a hectic schedule, you need a food jar that can keep up! Completely leak proof, the Thermal is a must-have for grab-and-go mornings. You can drop it in your kids lunchbox or backpack without the worry of accidental spills or messes.
- More expensive than its competitors
- Perfect Size: Ideal size for everyday use. Each ice pack measures 4.75″ x 4.75″ x 0.25″.
- Convenient: Fits into all types of lunch bags, lunch boxes, coolers and grocery totes.
- Slim Design: Great for using in tight spaces or stacking several together for greater cooling power.
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