360+ Healthy School Lunch Ideas

4 Reviews / 5 Average
If you need school lunch ideas, you've come to the right place! I've got you covered with three different ways to find healthy school lunch ideas your kids will love. Try my School Lunch Ideas "Recipe", my School Lunch Packing Chart, or my searchable collection of over 360 real food lunches with photos, descriptions, and recipes.
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healthy school lunch ideas

After years of sharing the school lunches I pack for my kids on Facebook, I decided to combine all the pictures together below in one easy-to-reference place for inspiration.

I know some readers love to sit down and look at these pics with their kids so they can point out what they want (and, more importantly, what they’ll actually eat!), which I think is a great idea.

If you find it helpful as well, please consider bookmarking this page, sharing it using the social buttons, or leaving a comment with star rating (at the bottom of the page) to help others find this guide. 🙂

360+ Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Narrow results with the drop down filter or search box. Note some of these lunch ideas incorporate real food leftovers, which can be a real time saver. Most recipes can be found here on the blog via the included links, but a few are from my best-selling cookbooks.

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School Lunch Ideas Packing Chart

School lunch packing chart

See my School Lunch Packing Chart post for more details and how to get your free printable copy (a reusable version is also included in my Meal Planner Workbook). Basically you have your kids fill out the chart with all the ingredients they’d like in their lunches for the week, and then take the chart with you on your grocery run so you know what to buy. You’ll have all the fixings on hand, plus buy-in from your kids!

School Lunch Ideas “Recipe”

This is similar to the packing chart in that you can get inspiration and buy-in from kids for new lunch combinations.

healthy school lunch ideas

School Lunch Ideas

If you need school lunch ideas, you've come to the right place! I've got you covered with three different ways to find healthy school lunch ideas your kids will love. Try my School Lunch Ideas "Recipe", my School Lunch Packing Chart, or my searchable collection of over 360 real food lunches with photos, descriptions, and recipes.
4 Reviews / 5 Average
Print Recipe

Ingredients
  

Main

  • Sandwich (☐Whole wheat bread ☐Whole wheat pita ☐PB & J ☐PB & honey ☐Cheese ☐Hummus ☐Organic ham ☐Organic turkey ☐Lettuce ☐Sliced pickle ☐Sliced cucumber ☐Mustard ☐Mayo )
  • Bagel and cream cheese (☐With cucumber slices)
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Cheese quesadilla (Cold)
  • Deviled eggs
  • Egg salad
  • Grilled cheese (Cold)
  • Oatmeal (☐Hot ☐Cold)
  • Pasta salad
  • Smoothie
  • Waffle and cream cheese sandwich
  • Whole wheat pita pizza
  • Whole wheat pita triangles and hummus
  • Other (Write in:_________________________ )

Fruits and Veggies

  • Apple (Red)
  • Apple (Green)
  • Applesauce
  • Avocado half
  • Bananan half (☐With peanut butter or other nut butter)
  • Bell peppers (Sliced)
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli (Raw or cooked)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Celery (☐With peanut or other nut butter ☐With raisins)
  • Cherries*
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Dried fruit (Raisins, apricots, apple, or other)
  • Frozen peas
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes*
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Mango*
  • Olives
  • Oranges (☐Big ☐Small)
  • Papaya*
  • Peach*
  • Pear
  • Pickles
  • Pineapple
  • Plum*
  • Pomegranate seeds (Fresh or frozen)
  • Radish slices
  • Raspberries
  • Star fruit*
  • Strawberries*
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Watermelon*
  • Other (Write in:_________________________ )

Grain or Snack

  • Brown Rice Cakes (☐With peanut or other nut butter ☐With raisins)
  • Cheese cubes/slices
  • Chickpeas
  • Crackers
  • Dip (☐White bean ☐Other, write in:____________________)
  • Edamame
  • Granola chunks
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Muffin
  • Popcorn
  • Powerballs (homemade)
  • Snack bar
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Whole wheat noodles
  • Whole wheat pretzels
  • Yogurt

Instructions
 

  • Choose an ingredient from each category to create new lunch combinations (I recommend doing this with your kids).
  • Jot your ideas down as you go for a quick school lunch meal plan.

Notes

* Seasonal, can’t always get.
Have you seen our "Real Lunches, Real Easy!" school lunch meal plans? Get yours today!

School Lunch Meal Plans

sneak peek of Real Lunches, Real Easy on 100 Days of Real Food
Sample lunch meal plan, menu, and recipe.

Get our uber-popular packed lunch meal plans! Our Real Lunches, Real Easy ebooks are each a complete system that tells you what to buy, what to prep, and what to pack (including colorful pictures) so you’re not stressing out at the last minute. Grab one version, or all four, and even have your kiddos help pack their new wholesome, hearty, real food lunches. See samples of each week and learn more here.

More School Lunch Resources

To learn more about the lunches I pack, here are some helpful links…

School Lunch Ideas FAQ

I’ve get a lot of comments/questions/etc. when I share my kids’ lunches on Facebook, so I’d like to address a few of the more common questions below. Read more in the full FAQ.

What are those silicone freezie pop molds I see in some lunches?

I’ve written a post that includes everything you could ever want to know about the colorful “freezie pop molds” that I use frequently to add smoothies to their lunches.

Where do you get your lunch supplies?

Many of the school lunch supplies we use, including the divided lunchbox containers, thermos cups, and freezie pop molds, are detailed in the My Favorite School Lunch Supplies post and my Amazon Favorites page. The lunchbox containers fit nicely (with a drink cup) in both Lands End and Old Navy cloth rectangular lunch boxes.

Is that enough food??

Some readers ask if these lunches provide enough food for my children, and while I am probably not spot-on with portion size 100% of the time, the short answer is “yes.” First of all, “real food” is a lot more filling than highly processed food (especially the refined grain stuff like white flour). Secondly, portion sizes are getting out of control in America and have unfortunately skewed the public’s view of what is appropriate. Thirdly, my children were 7 and almost 5 when I started photographing their lunches. Lastly, both my children eat after-school snacks. Okay, got that off my chest. :)

Do these lunches provide enough protein?

A few occasionally ask if these lunches have enough protein. First of all, part of eating a “real food” diet means you no longer have to count calories, fat grams, protein, carbs, etc. You simply eat a variety of whole foods (including lots of veggies) without “overeating” and the rest will just fall into place. It’s kind of nice not to have to worry about that stuff anymore. But, if you aren’t quite ready to forget about your daily protein intake please know there are MANY sources high in protein aside from just meat products such as yogurt, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, nuts (including peanut butter), seeds (including sunflower butter), and beans. When we switched to a “real food” diet we purposely reduced our meat consumption.

What about nut-free lunches?

My daughters used to go to a peanut/tree nut-free school, so I often used sunflower butter and cream cheese as an alternative to peanut butter. You can filter the lunches above or visit my Nut-Free Lunch Ideas post for more ideas.

What Do Packed Lunches Look Like by Lunchtime?

I’ve gotten quite a few questions asking what these carefully prepared lunches actually look like come lunchtime—especially after they’ve been tossed all around while in my kids’ backpacks and since “liquidy” foods like yogurt or applesauce are involved. Let’s face it, no child keeps their lunch bag or box in one perfect position all day, and that is certainly something I would never expect of my own children.

So when I was having lunch with my daughter at school (and risking looking like a lunatic), I took a bunch of pictures for you! :)

 

So that’s all there is to it! And since I know some will be wondering :) ….

I hope these lunch ideas have been helpful. Please feel free to share your “real food” school lunch ideas in the comments below…

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472 thoughts on “360+ Healthy School Lunch Ideas”

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  1. Sadly, a lot of these lunch ideas contain nuts/peanuts/peanut butter and that’s forbidden in schools where I’m from due to allergies.

    1. She mentioned in the post that most of the “nut” butter she used was sunflower butter- her daughter is in a nut-free school.

  2. I noticed that all of the lunches featured were in plastic containters. By now everyone knows of the evils of BPA, so I am sure the containers are BPA free. However, “BPA-free” plastic contains other chemicals that are simply not good for humans, especially growing kids:

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-free-plastic-containers-may-be-just-as-hazardous/

  3. I am recently starting as a cook at a daycare, early education center and could use some healthy recipes/ ideas to start my job off on the right foot, while bringing new creations to a somewhat redundant boring menu, any info would be great thanks!!!!

  4. Can I have your bagel recipe? I want to try to make my own and aside from using organic whole wheat flour, I’m not sure how to make the traditional recipe more friendly on my toddler’s system. If that’s the best change I can make, then that’s totally fine. Unless there is organic yeast that I’m not aware of. Thank you!!

  5. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

    Hi Michele. Lisa’s girls don’t mind if the apple brown a little. You could always use lemon juice or another citrus.

  6. I love all of your lunches. They look fantastic. I am wondering about the apples. How do you keep them from turning brown & yucky? Please advise.

    Thank you.

  7. Hello, I’m looking for suggestions for teenage boy real food lunches. My boys are very active with football, wrestling, baseball, cross country, and any other sport they can find time to play. They can afford larger portions and need the energy. Many of the meals above would work I’d just have to triple the serving sizes? They pack food for lunch and after school before game nights

  8. What do you put on your apples to keep them from turning before lunch? Lemon juice seems to not really hold.

    what type of thermos really keeps food warm all the way to lunch?

  9. Thank you these are great ideas. We are trying to become more of a “whole food” family my daughter does not like meat and I haven’t pushed her. I love all your ideas for pancake and healthy muffins because these are staples for lunches here I make a lot of zucchini bread for lunch.

  10. Lots of great ideas, however most schools have pb and other nut bans to consider. Parents should check out their particular school’s policies before sending those and possibly harming another child.

  11. Great ideas ~ Especially the apple & pb sandwich… my kids will love that one! Where did you get your bento box? I like the simplicity of the one you used :).

  12. I’ve been searching the site for a product you used a while back to hold pizza sauce for a homemade pizza lunchable. It was a reusable clear plastic tube with a zip-lock at one end. I would love to find them!! Thanks…LOVE your site!!!

  13. These were fun to look at and gave me many great ideas for my lunch. As I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly cystic ovarian syndrome), it is vital that I eat healthier and cut out processed food. Thank you!

  14. I noticed you had lunch boxes with at least 3 snacks which means 3 snacks a day? . Basically, we prep a lunch box for lunch and one for snacks?

  15. Hey- love these ideas.

    Where are the recipes for the lunches listed above? I’ve clicked on the pictures and looked around and I can’t find where they are, sorry.
    Thanks :)

  16. I’m so jealous that u can send nuts and nut butters Our schools have banned both claiming that it’s too hard to tell if it’s a seed butter or a peanut product – so my vegetarian kids lunches end up looking a tad odd. Thanks for great ideas!!!!!

  17. I love all the sliced fresh apple recipes! My daughter loves apples, but because of losing her front teeth, can’t bite into a whole apple. I tried slicing it and splashing it with lemon juice, but she turned up her nose at the “lemony taste” to the apple. Any suggestions on what I can do to the apple slices to prevent browning, but not have them taste lemony?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lindsay. While lemon does the best at keeping the brown away, many readers has suggested using pineapple juice. ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Toni. Lisa doesn’t usually do anything. The girls don’t mind a bit of browning but lemon will certainly do the trick. ~Amy

  18. Jennifer Hartley

    Just a question..sorry if Im repeating…..where did you buy those smoothie froze pop holders??? Im in Canada so it might not help but just had to know where you got them.

  19. Hello! This question may have already been asked, but there are 450 comments and I’m hoping you don’t mind answering again, so I don’t have to go trough them all.
    My son was intrigued by the picture of the pizza lunchable (I think it is the 11th pic on this post). Is that just slices of homemade baked (plain) pizza crust? Do you make your tomato sauce or buy it?
    I went through your recipe index, but could find this exact picture only on this post. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Those are whole wheat pita bread cut into triangle and you can use any organic tomato sauce or make your own. Lisa does both. :) ~Amy

  20. I’m sure you get this one a lot just like the protein question but the there seems to be a lot of high sugar items in a single lunch. Even though they are natural sugars I do try and limit my daughters sugar intake.

    Do you find that cutting out the processed stuff helps balance this out?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Rebecca. Yes, eliminating most processed foods from a child’s diet, especially that which is marketed towards kids, can greatly lessen the sugar they consume. Of course, you don’t want to offer sweet homemade treats all the time, either. But yogurt, muffins, smoothies and such lightly sweetened with unrefined sugars are okay in our book. ~Amy

  21. Hi! Quick question about things like homemade whole wheat veg quesadillas and pizzas (both of which we love and make regularly), or the quick melts on toast (like a pizza melt). Not sure how to deal with them in the lunch box…I see that you guys seem to serve them cold? Are they ice cold (like, just barely defrosted and kept on ice in the lunch box)? Or are you packing them at room temp? We’ve only ever eaten these foods hot and so trying to figure out how they’ll both taste good as leftovers, and keep safely for the 3ish hours they need to before the kiddos eat them in school. Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kat. We use ice packs for anything that we are concerned about spoilage or that just taste better cold: eggs, meat, yogurt, some cheeses, dressings, etc. Lisa’s girls eat cold pizza and cold quesadillas regularly as do my two boys. :) ~Amy

  22. This article is awesome. I have 2 kids and I needed some good ideas for healthy lunches and this is very helpful. Went and got these lunch boxes from Amazon at a discount and free shipping: http://amzn.to/1iHUM6S – I couldn’t be happier. Just had to share this link with someone.

  23. Hi there, THANK YOU for all your amazing ideas! The containers alone have made packing lunch so much easier.

    I am sure you have answered this somewhere, though I promise I searched – but do you make popcorn ahead? If so, how do you keep it yummy and for how long?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Danielle. I so love popcorn! :) While it is rather simple to make popcorn as you need it, it will keep fine overnight in the bag it was popped in. You can also put it in an airtight container (once it is cooled) and it will stay fresh tasting for a few days. ~Amy

  24. How do you make the cinnamon raisin bagels? I’ve seen the recipe for the cinnamon raisin bread, but would love to see how you use it to make bagels.