20 School Packed Lunch Ideas & Tips
Making the same school-packed lunches can feel dull, and finding inspiration on what to pack for the little ones can be challenging when you want to keep it healthy. You don’t want to give in to the demands for chips and candy, but you also know they’ll turn their nose up at a kale salad.
You can always sub these lunch box ideas for vegetarian or vegan options or swap out pasta or regular bread for gluten-free alternatives.
Two tips for making school packed lunches a hit
Here are a couple of things you can do to make sure your kid loves their lunch:
- Keep the variety alive by changing things up and swapping the snacks, fruit, carbs, and protein each day so your child doesn’t get bored.
- Pop some color and texture in, too, to keep it looking vibrant and appealing.
What should I pack in a school lunch?
Customize your kid’s by choosing from each of the food groups for a balanced lunchbox:
- Starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes, or pasta (use grain-free bread, tortillas, crackers, and pasta)
- Protein foods like meat, fish, or eggs (for a vegetarian option, sub with cooked tofu, tempeh, beans, or vegan deli slices)
- Dairy items like cheese or yogurt (leave the cheese out for dairy-free version or use vegan cheese)
- Good fats like nuts, avocado, and olives
- Vegetables or salad and fruit
Include a variety of ingredients from each category and divide them into lunch box compartments.
20 school packed lunch ideas
Get inspired by these nutritious school-packed lunch ideas, say goodbye to the same old sandwich fillings, and make lunchtimes more appealing, flavorsome, and fun:
1. Chicken salad
Use cooked or leftover chicken to make this tasty chicken salad. It’s quick and simple to make and really versatile—serve it mixed with pasta or use it in sandwiches.
- Take a cooked chicken and shred using two forks or a mixer.
- Chop the celery, red onion, and avocado.
- Mix mayo, lemon juice, dijon mustard, fresh parsley, and salt and pepper.
- Toss and combine with the salad ingredients and the shredded chicken.
2. Lunchbox pasta salad
This easy pasta salad has so many variations—swap up the protein source or try adding different vegetables.
- Mix cooked pasta with pesto.
- Stir through mayo, greek yogurt, and lemon juice.
- Combine with cooked vegetables such as green beans, zucchini, peas, and cherry tomatoes.
- Add cooked chicken, ham, or hard-boiled eggs.
3. Chicken taco salad
Try this crunchy and zesty chicken taco salad in your teenager’s lunchbox.
- Combine shredded chicken, lettuce, sweetcorn, tomatoes, and red pepper.
- Stir the lime juice into the mashed avocado and add on top of the salad.
- Make a dressing of olive oil, sour cream, and vinegar and scatter crunchy taco pieces over the salad
4. Pea hummus and dippers
This pea hummus is cheap, healthy, and easy to make and keeps chilled for 3-4 days:
- Blitz peas, canned (cooked) cannellini beans, tahini, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and water together using a hand blender.
- Add the hummus to the lunchbox with pitta bread strips, raw vegetable sticks, and string cheese.
5. Veggie noodle salad
This noodle salad with veggies and omelet strips gives your kids two of their five a day and makes a nutritious school-packed lunch idea.
- Cook noodles (rice, soba, or egg noodles) and blanch the peas and the mange tout.
- Cook a 2-egg omelet and cut it into strips.
- Mix noodles with baby corn, red pepper, green onions, and the cooked green vegetables, then toss with a dressing of soy sauce, honey, garlic, lemon, and ginger, and top with the omelet strips.
6. Omelet in a bun
Perfect for your vegetarian little ones, this hearty omelet roll is a quick and easy-packed lunch idea.
- Fry cubed potato until browned, add green onions, then stir in spinach.
- Pour in eggs and cook the omelet, add on top the sliced cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta, cook under the grill until done.
- Stuff rolls with a third of the omelet—add salad or relish/pickles.
7. Coronation chicken salad
This filling, healthy, coronation chicken salad takes less than 10 minutes to throw together.
- Take some pre-cooked brown rice, cooked chicken, roasted red onion, ribboned courgette, and coriander.
- Mix the yogurt, curry powder, mango chutney, and lemon zest with some seasoning and stir everything together.
- Divide between lunchboxes and sprinkle over flaked almonds.
Quick school lunch box ideas
When you’re short on time or low on groceries, here are some super easy and speedy lunch box ideas that use simple pantry ingredients that you can throw together quickly:
8. Cheese and apple shred
Mix your little ones’ favorite shredded cheese with grated apple, chopped green onions, a little lemon juice, and some mayonnaise. Perfect on wholemeal rolls or in multigrain wraps.
9. Creamy mackerel rolls
Take some boneless, skinless, smoked mackerel fillets and mix with a little mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stuff in wholemeal rolls and mix with pasta or salad.
10. Ham, cheese, and grape kebabs
Using short wooden skewers, thread on:
- Mini mozzarella balls
- Red & green grapes
- Cubes of ham or salami
Place kebabs in a container and pop them in the kids’ lunchbox. Mix it up using different cheese types or even olives.
Healthy lunch box ideas
For a way to make your kid’s school-packed lunch healthy and keep it interesting, get a lunchbox with divided compartments or use muffin liners to separate the food sections. This also really speeds things up at lunchbox prep time, as you can just fill each section.
Or find creativity from these lunch box ideas:
11. Lunch box idea 1
Turkey slices and swiss cheese slices
Raw veggies: celery, grape tomatoes, and zucchini
Multi-grain crackers with sun butter
Fresh fruit: apple slices and grapes
12. Lunch box idea 2
- Turkey and cheddar cheese roll-ups
- Cherry tomatoes and cucumber
- Greek yogurt
- Trail Mix
13. Lunch box idea 3
- Cheese quesadilla
- Guacamole and salsa
- Tortilla chips
- Strawberries and watermelon chunks
14. Lunch box idea 4
- Pita triangles
- Zucchini or cucumber
- Turkey or their favorite deli meat
- Wholegrain mini crackers with hummus (or cream cheese)
- Fresh berries and apple slices
- Pumpkin seeds and cranberries
15. Lunch box idea 5
- Deli meat + cheese kabobs
- Red bell pepper sticks and cherry tomatoes
- Apple slices
- Fruit leather snacks
16. Lunch box idea 6
- Hard-boiled eggs with soy sauce
- Baby carrots, red bell peppers, and ranch dressing
- Yogurt covered pretzels
- Peach slices and applesauce
17. Lunch box idea 7
- Pita or tortilla triangles
- Turkey pepperoni slices
- Pizza sauce or salsa
- Shredded cheese
- Grape tomatoes, chopped cucumber, shredded carrot
- Cubed watermelon and grapes
18. Lunch box idea 8
- Veggie wraps with hummus
- Edamame or snap peas
- Raw almonds
- Clementine segments
- Granola bar
19. Lunch box idea 9
- Bagel with cream cheese
- Turkey bacon slices
- Baby carrots, red bell pepper, and cucumber
- Blueberries and yogurt tube
20. Lunch box idea 10
- Multi-grain crackers
- Cheddar cheese cubes
- Salami pieces
- Green olives
- LaraBar or Cliff Bar
Start building your packed lunch creations
These school-packed lunch ideas are focused on being healthy, fun to eat, and kid-friendly. They are all ready-to-eat options, too, so no need for any cooking or reheating.
Making packed lunches when you already have a hectic schedule means you’ve got to have your fridge and pantry stocked and ready. Shop your groceries on Instacart and get all your fresh fruit and vegetables and lunch box snacks delivered!
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