Most families start the year strong, packing lunches that are as nutritionally balanced as they are adorable! But... the motivation to keep that going can run dry pretty quickly, especially once extracurricular activities begin to ramp up and we head into the holiday season. From daycare to grade school to homeschool, we've found some of the best lunchbox ideas and compiled a comprehensive guide for you!
Back-to-School Lunchbox Ideas For the Busy Family
We love starting with this step-by-step guide from Yummy Toddler Food:
- Aim to include a mix of food groups so that you have whole grains, protein, some dairy most days (if the kids eat it or otherwise a non-dairy equivalent), a veggie, a fruit, and food with some healthy fat in it. This will help them to get the nutrients they need and stay full until their afternoon snack.
- Remember that lunch periods are short and kids can talk a lot. Pack foods that are easy to chew and eat.
- Work with your child to pack foods they like most of the time so that you can feel reasonably confident that they’ll eat the lunch you send.
- Pack the lunch in a lunchbox in an insulated bag with an ice pack if you can to keep it cool until lunchtime.
- Add water or milk or plan to let the kiddo buy milk at school.
- Label anything reusable that they bring to lunch so it’s easy to find if they lose it at school.
TIP: If your child has a nut-allergy, make sure you talk to the school about how that’s handled in the lunchroom. If there’s a peanut table, you may need to request that they have a friend sit with them so that they aren’t alone, which can sometimes happen.
OUR Fave Lunchboxes
While every kiddo will have a preference, we have a few faves that seem to come up time and time again. We like these because they're easy to wash, fit a good amount of food, and are sustainable. You can use the links below to purchase on Amazon or buy directly through the retailer's websites.
The OmieBox Bento Box for Kids is a BPA-free lunchbox with multiple compartments, including a removable thermos to keep hot foods nice and warm! We also love that the rubber seals are all removable, so you can wash them thoroughly every day. Plus, if the seals get worn or damaged, you can purchase replacement seals instead of throwing the whole box out. Comes in six colors and is available on amazon or through their website.
PlanetBox is the priciest option on the list, but the cult-following tells us that it's worth the price tag. 5 compartments to make packing a variety of foods easy with separation, plus its dishwasher safe and free from lead, PVC, and BPA. These are perfect for our families looking for a true, sustainable option.
Bentgo® Kids lunchboxes have been a staple in our house for years. Leakproof, BPA-free, and dishwasher safe, these lunch boxes are perfect for ages 3-7. They come in multiple colors and patterns and you can grab them on amazon or through their website.
The GoBe lunchbox is perfect for the kid who loves variety! Its two airtight compartments keep food fresh, and the five compartments in the Snack Spinner appeal to the snacking mood of the moment. These fun lunchboxes can be purchased with a lunch bag to ensure a perfect fit and will be shipping starting November 1, 2022!
OUR Fave Resources
Happiness is Homemade has an entire post on "non-sandwich" lunchbox ideas, with things like pizza pancakes, chicken meatballs, and corndog muffins! This is a great starting place for kiddos who don't fancy a sandwich in their lunchbox, as this is a staple for many parents. She also has a great page with 30+ School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters, where she lists possible main dishes and sides in a clear format and links a few free downloads, like "I tried something new" and "my favorite foods" color sheets.
BuzzFeed has a list of 18 Easy and Delicious School Lunchbox Ideas that has some fresh ideas with recipes, such as pesto pasta and frittata sandwiches.
The Instagram account @BentoKidsLunch has over 60K followers for a reason: they post the most adorable and unique lunch ideas! Use this one if you're looking for Pinterest-worthy lunchbox ideas.
@KidsHealthyLunchBox on Instagram also has a plethora of ideas, including ways to store lunchboxes and accessories to help streamline your process.
If you're looking for a wide-variety of inspo, head to @KidLunchBox.You'll find everything from crispy chicken tacos to salmon to pita pocket sandwiches. Almost 200K followers can't be wrong!
Finally, @KinderLunchbox posts ideas for her second-grader that are both simple and attainable. We love the use of common fridge and pantry items that reminds us that not every lunch has to be revolutionary or totally different!