How to Save Money » Simple Living

40 Kids Healthy Lunch Ideas

40 Kids Healthy Lunch Ideas

Filling lunch boxes with a variety of healthy lunches is my September resolution. Martha Stewart I am not, but I want quick, realistic and healthy lunches when I am packing those lunch boxes for my kids.

The above image shows how colour makes food irresistable. I have never packed a rainbow lunch, but a colour-themed lunch is always a hit. This year, to conquer a lunch-making rut, I am going to pick one colour (based on whatever is on hand) and pack away.


Colourful Ideas

Red Day: strawberries, red peppers, pepperoni on crackers, cherry tomatoes and licorice

Green Day: green peppers, kiwi/grapes, cucumbers sandwiches, green jujubes

Orange Day: orange slices, carrots, vegetable soup and cheddar cheese

Lunch Presentation

Lunch Box Presentation Ideas

I recently wrote about my favourite PlanetBox containers. They have revolutionized my lunch making because the boys feel like they’re eating a picnic – and who doesn’t love a picnic?

They are an “investment” product on the upper end, but after using them earlier this year, they still look new. I recommend any bento style box or picnic box that eliminates the hunt for matching lids and containers in the morning. Even if you don’t line up the cucumbers and cut the sandwiches into flower shapes, the entire spread is appealing.

Here is a list of healthy lunch ideas, by category, to get you started:

Sandwiches or Alternatives

Sandwich Ideas for Kids

  • Bagels – my kids love them toasted with butter or cream cheese.
  • Cheese wrapped with deli meat – pickle on the side.
  • Pita – fill with tuna or chicken salad or chopped lettuce and deli meat.
  • Cheese and crackers – we make our own “lunchables” (much more economical).
  • Leftover grilled chicken – cut into strips for a wrap (side note: my boys despise whole wheat tortilla wraps, but we just recently discovered a big hit called “Ancient Grains” by Dempsters).
  • Ham cubes with chunks of cheese and crackers on the side.
  • Mini-buns – perfect for little hands, with cold cuts or jam.
  • Perogies – quick to make and easy to store in a thermos, sour cream for dipping.
  • Chicken nuggets – heat and keep warm in a thermos, with plum sauce or ketchup.
  • Warmed-up leftovers of their favourite dinners – if it was a hit last night, why not try it again?
  • Rolled deli meat and rolled cheese with melba toast on the side.
  • Muffins – perfect project for kids the night before – carrot/blueberry/oatmeal – eater’s choice!
  • Tea biscuits with jam on the side.
  • Grated cheese, raisins and crackers.
  • Pasta – toss with olive oil and favourite pizza toppings, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Chili in a thermos with a biscuit or bun.
  • Homemade soup with crackers on the side.
  • Leftover waffles or French toast with syrup for dipping.

Fruit Ideas

Kids Fruit Lunches

  • Oranges (quartered) are less messy to eat since kids can hold onto the peels.
  • Watermelon chunks – more appealing without the rind.
  • A mini fruit salad with leftover fruit.
  • Canned pears/peaches/pineapple – send with minimal liquid to prevent spilling.
  • Apples, sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice to keep it looking fresh.
  • Seedless grapes – red or green.
  • Cantalope, scooped into balls (somehow they taste better when it’s in an interesting shape).
  • Honeydew melon, thinly sliced (or scooped into balls!).

Veggie Ideas

Kids Vegetable Lunch Ideas

  • Cucumbers – mini cucumbers are yummy, but pricey, so I peel and chop the English or field cucumbers into small bites.
  • Carrot sticks – easy!
  • Broccoli and cauliflower “trees” with dip.
  • Peppers – green peppers might be a tough sell but red/yellow/orange peppers are a big hit around here – and they make the lunch colourful.
  • Grape tomatoes.

Lunch Ideas for Treats

This is one area where the kids will have a myriad of suggestions for me, without me having to ask. I’m learning to balance the proportion of the treat and to find good alternatives that are also healthy or at least healthy-ish (yes, I’m sure that is a word).

One inspiring resource is Deceptively Delicious. Jessica Seinfeld presents recipes with healthy ingredients that cannot be detected by little ones (for example, cauliflower brownies – awesome!).

  • Yogurt
  • Applesauce with cinnamon
  • Homemade pudding
  • Cookies
  • Muffins
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Banana chips
  • Trail mix
  • Pretzels

Rainbow Bento Lunch Ideas

Post a list of lunch ideas on the fridge for quick reference, and for involving children as much as possible. Kids can see what inspires them for the day. They can also fill water bottles and chop fruit/veggies with child-safe tools.

Many hands do make for light work. Also, I find that the kids are much more likely to eat whatever they have helped to pack.

Having compiled this list of healthy lunch ideas, to me, it seems possible to fill those lunch boxes with healthy options (with variety). Maybe we can make it until June after all…

What are your favourite healthy lunch ideas?


  1. Joy

    I understand the idea behind this article but the word healthy is not appropriate. If anyone thinks feeding kids items like pepperoni, ham, french toast and bagels are healthy lunches for children, you should reevaluate what you consider healthy. Processed meats are not healthy. Bagels are not healthy.

    • Kim

      Seeing as I’ve seen kids show up to school with a can of Coke, a bag of Doritos, their “Lunchables” and a Mars bar, telling people that bagels and pepperoni once in a while isn’t the end of the world.

      • Joy

        I didn’t say anything about the end of the world. Claiming to have an article with healthy lunch options should be just that. Clearly you don’t know how unhealthy bagels actually are. Enjoy your highly processed fatty meats too.

  2. Sue

    Do you have a link to the cauliflower brownies recipe? I’d love to see that!

  3. karen

    I used to volunteer at my children’s school and saw a lot of healthy food being squashed by the kids or thrown out by the teachers.
    Ask your child if they are actually eating the food that is being packed or is it being traded or otherwise not consumed.
    Personally I found it cheaper and healthier to have my children eat at home or pay a sitter who will feed them (I supply the food) at lunchtime.

    • teachermum


      At my kids’ school (no cafeteria, they ate what they brought at their desks as did their teacher) they were not allowed to throw food out in the garbage. It all had to be left in their lunchbags. This kept bugs/mice from being an issue out in the boonies and kept waste down. The kids were told that their parents took the time to pack a lunch for them and that they weren’t to waste it and this way their parents would know what they may or may not like.

      First thing my kids always did when they got home was have to finish their lunches–outdoor play time is far more enticing!

      • Karen

        I know of many schools that are mandating nothing be thrown out at school. You are right-this really helps parents track what is eaten.

  4. Kelly

    I think the key to any healthy body and life is balance. If a bagel is eaten as the main sandwich one day, then make a whole grain sandwich the next. Restricting a child, or even adult, from anything that is considered unhealthy will just lead to emotional problems and binge eating. My thoughts at least!

    PS> Loved the article!

    • Karen

      Thanks for your input, Kelly. Balance in lifestyle and eating is a worthy goal.

  5. Kim

    Yes I agree some items on the list are not healthy, i.e. processed meat….but the overall idea I think is a balance. I have seen kids with pop, chips, candy bars it makes me so sad to see a kids with all processed foods and with next to no nutritional value and nothing else in their lunch. We send our kids a balanced lunch with ONE treat. The treat does not include candy or pop but maybe fruit gummies, granola bar, etc.. In our house there is no white bread, no processed meat, rarely pop. I dont deprive them of never having any pop or candy on occasion but its not a habit to have it daily. Its a balance. and I tell you when the pop is an option they don’t even want it! My parents though crap food ( fast food, pop, candy) is a nice treat. But a treat for who? not our bodies. We have chosen to not restrict our kids totally but rather to educate our kids in what is and is not good for your body and how those food make them feel after the eat them. With our guidance they then make there own choices and its not a fight to eat your veggies, they actually like them. Heck my daughter loves raw kale!

  6. Melissa

    I really like these ideas its just most have dairy or nuts. My son cant have dairy or gluten and his school has a long list of banned foods due to kids with allergies. I have learned a few things about my local school meals and it turns my stomach. It will cost us more to pack a lunch but we are trying. My sons favorite thing is red pepper hummus with corn chips. I would love to see more hummus ideas for like a second grader that gets max ten minutes to eat…

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*