A perfectly packed lunchbox helps kick the school blues. Photo courtesy of www.YumboxLunch.com
A perfectly packed lunchbox helps kick the school blues. Photo courtesy of www.YumboxLunch.com

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Back-to-School Lunches Kids Will Actually Eat

Need lunch ideas for kids heading back to school? Chances are you've had a healthy, well-packed school lunch box delivered back into your hands virtually untouched at the end of the school day. There should be a special name for the heartbreak one endures at the words, "I told you I hate peanut butter and jelly," when not only is this the first you're hearing of it, but you spent extra on organic jelly and freshly ground peanut butter. And if not PBJ, then what? Well, we've got 100 lunch ideas for kids to answer the question of what to pack in a successful school lunch.

It's true what they say about good things and small packages when it comes to kids and lunches. I watched a painful number of sandwiches make the round trip from home to school and back again before working out that lunch ideas for kids don't have to start and end with sandwiches. So we bought a cool lunchbox (and yes, cool absolutely helps) made up of small containers, and now I fill them with a variety of healthy finger foods.

Moving on to what's inside: variety is the key to a winning school lunch. The suggestions below can be put in small containers (kept cold by a frozen water bottle) and mixed and matched like Garanimals. Keep a dozen in the kitchen at any given time, so each day's lunch can be different. And if some do come back, don't be sad—cause two out of three ain't bad.

Lunch Ideas for Kids with Protein

1. BLT in a mini pita

2. Cream cheese and strawberries in a mini waffle sandwich

3. Jello cubes

4. Celery with peanut butter or cream cheese

5. Hummus with carrots/chips/sliced veggies

6. A hard-boiled egg with a tiny salt packet

7. Mini pita, shredded mozzarella, and tomato sauce—all in separate containers—for assembling a lunchbox pizza

8. Cubes of interesting cheeses, tasting booth style

9. Yogurt with fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar

10. Pistachios or other nuts (but pistachios are fun!)

11. Peanut butter (or a nut-butter alternative) on crackers

12. Cream cheese and jelly on crackers

13. Shredded cheese

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Banana roll-ups

Give bananas a punch of protein! Photo by Ally Noel

14. Banana peanut butter roll-up on a tortilla

15. Deviled egg

16. Roll a tortilla with favorite sandwich filling, then slice off just a couple of bite-sized rolls into pinwheels

17. Trail mix

18. Guacamole in one cup, tortilla chips in another

19. Nacho cheese sauce in one cup, chips in another

20. Cesar salad chicken wrap 

21. Slices of sausage or hot dog

22. Tortilla chips with salsa, black beans, and shredded cheese so kids can make nachos

23. Shelled sunflower seeds

24. Make your favorite G.O.R.P

25. Slice of baguette with cream cheese or mascarpone and pesto

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: PBJ Tacos

Dress up an old standard in a new package—here a classic PBJ becomes a taco. Photo by Ally Noel

36. PBJ tacos

26. An Italian Wrap

27. Babybel cheese (the ones in the red wax)

28. Make a DIY Lunchable

29. Bagel and toppings

30. Sandwiches on Ritz crackers 

31. Lunchbox tacos 

32. Yogurt tubes (they can be frozen when you pack them)

33. Quesadillas with dipping sauces

34. Sliced cheese and salami rolled into a tube

35. For the connoisseur kid: strips of prosciutto wrapped around cubes of melon

37. Hummus roll-up 

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: chicken apple salad on a toothpick

Everything is more fun to eat when you put it on a toothpick. Photo by Ally Noel

38. Apple chicken salad on a stick

39. Cubed turkey and cheese kabobs

40. Sandwich sushi using bread

41. Breakfast for lunch

42. Cucumber sushi

RELATED: Mommy Poppin's Back-to-School Guide

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Fresh tomatoes from the garden

Tomatoes fresh from the garden can go straight into the lunch box! Photo by Meghan Rose

Fruit and Veggie School Lunch Ideas

43. Cherry tomatoes

44. Melon balls

45. Carrots cut into long spaghetti strands

46. Sliced cucumber with a wedge of lemon and a little salt

47. Slices of star fruit (so fun to play with!)

48. Salad in one cup, dressing in another

49. Applesauce

50. Watermelon chunks

51. Radishes sliced in flower shapes

52. Itty bitty champagne grapes (so cute and sweet!)

53. Cucumber sandwich wedges (like at high tea)

54. Apple slices with peanut butter

55. Any dried fruit

56. Any berries with a decadent little cup of whipped cream

57. Fruit kabob with favorite fruits

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Tomato caprese skewers

Simple tomatoes get fancy with Italian flair. Photo by Ally Noel

58. Basil tomato skewers

59. Mandarin orange slices (fresh is great, but keep a can in the cabinet!)

60. A couple of pieces of veggie sushi with a packet of soy sauce

61. Roasted seaweed or kale snacks (they come in great flavors)

62. Fried plantain slices

63. Pickles!

RELATED: Great Lunch Boxes for Kids

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Pretzel and dip

Yogurt tfor pretzel dipping for a heart-themed lunch. Photo courtesy anotherlunch.com/CC BY 2.0

Snacks for School Lunches To Help Fill Bellies

64. Pretzels (and a yummy dip)

65. Plain, cold pasta (try different colors and shapes)

66. Cornbread (maybe with cheese baked on top)

67. A mini-muffin 

68. Potato salad

69. Popcorn

70. Mini croissant with jam

71. Mini bagels (or slices of bagel) with cream cheese

72. Cold spaghetti in a favorite dressing or peanut sauce

73. Olives

74. Rice cakes

75. Pancake with a mini syrup packet

76. DIY Chex mix (be sure to include Goldfish!)

77. Fruit roll-ups made from real fruit

78.An old-school tiny box of Sun-Maid raisins

79. Any kind of granola bar or breakfast bar

80. Dry cereal and a small carton of milk

81. Lunchbox s'mores: graham crackers with fluff and Nutella

82. Rice pudding

83. Any sandwich made on a little slider bun becomes super cute

84. Apple sandwich

85. Sprinkle sandwiches 

86. Energy balls 

87. Yogurt with pretzel dippers 

88. Bento box charcuterie 

89. Apple chip nachos

RELATED: Best Backpacks for School

100 School Lunch Ideas for Kids: Themos lunches

Any leftovers can go into a thermos and become lunch. Photo courtesy Bunches and Bits/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Thermos Lunch Ideas for Kids

90. Ramen noodles 

91. Pesto with tortellini

92. Pasta salads 

93. Teriyaki chicken bowls

94. Lunchbox smoothies 

95. Ham and mac and cheese lunchbox muffins 

96. Chicken and rice patties

97. Penne pasta with peas and parmesan

98. Chicken noodle soup 

99. Scrambled eggs and cheese 

100. Oatmeal with fresh fruit  

A version of this article first published November 2, 2012

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