Many of us are working from home now and have our kiddos with us all day as well. Add to that 24/7 short-order cook and we officially have way too much to do…before we even star o talk about #allthelaundry. We have always been homeschoolers, so I am very familiar with the non-stop eating schedule of growing kids. As such, I have acquired some serious skills for coming up with healthy and easy lunch ideas for kids.
Bento boxes can be very elaborate, but they can also be super simple. They are an easy way to prep lunches ahead, so I always prep at least 3 bento boxes at the beginning of the week so they are ready to grab on those days where I just don’t want to stop what I am doing to make lunch.
These are my favorite bento-style lunch boxes. They are dishwasher safe, no BPA, and hold up really well.
Here are some of our favorite combos to fill up bento lunch boxes for kids:
You can also see below in the mix and match section for ideas on how to hit all the food groups when you are packing your bento box.
- Fruits and vegetables
- short, shaped pastas
- breads, crackers, pretzels, pita, popcorn
- seeds and nuts
- nut butters
- dried fruits
- cooked meat, lunch meat, cured meats
- hard boiled eggs
I love to prep these ahead for a few days and they are ready in the fridge. That short order cook life struggle is so real right now.
Chicken Nuggets and ….
If you kids are anything like mine, they eat 1.5 million nuggets in a year. I’m pretty much ok with this as long as they have a side of fruit or veg with it and the nuggets don’t have a bunch of fillers. You can also switch it up with veggie nuggets.
My kids are not dippers, but if yours are, add a side of a dip of choice, nuggets, a side of preferably two fruits and/or veggies and this is not really a bad pick for lunch.
Tortillas are a great staple to have on hand. Here are some ideas you can use to stuff them with. Brit & Co share some creative ideas for quesadillas here as well.
- Chicken and cheese
- just cheese
- chicken and thin sliced apple
- sausage and cheese
- ground beef and cheese
- cheese and rice
- Leftover mash up (shredded chicken, ground beef, sliced steak, pot roast, pulled pork…) pair with cheese, and melt!
- Chicken, peaches, cheddar (this sounds weird but it is sooooo good)
- bacon and cheese (serve with some lettuce and tomato if they like it)
- Sauce and cheese, optional pepperoni
You can make these in a regular pan, but I LOVE using a press for making quesadillas. It’s super quick for impatient little people, and they come out perfectly crispy and melty. You can find my favorite quesadilla maker here. (it’s actually a panini maker so you can use it for sammies, too. I am all about the double-duty appliances that make my kitchen life easier.)
Similar to the mix and match idea below, but a little different in presentation. This is a kid friendly version of your date night charcuterie. Here are some kid favorites you can add to yours.
Fruits and veggies: grapes, apple slices, clementines (peeled or whole), strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango chunks, melon, cucumber, celery, carrots (bonus points if they are multi-colored), broccoli, pea pods, cherry tomatoes, edamame.
Meat and cheese: sliced cubed, or rolled, depending on the meat. Prosciutto, ham, turkey, chicken (nuggets can even work here), salami, pepperoni. Cheese sticks, marinated or plain fresh mozzarella balls, chunks of cheddar or parmesan.
Carbs: crackers, pretzels (rods, sticks, twists- play with shapes!), chips, tortillas, bread or toast, granola.
Dips: Choose these based on what you have on your tray. Mustard, ketchup, honey, bbq sauce, guac, hummus- whichever dips your kiddos like.
Tip: use different size bowls on a large platter to make it interesting. It’s fun to find a tiny ramekin of popcorn because it’s usually served in such a larger portion. I also like to use muffin cups to hold different nibbles. Kids love food that seems like a little surprise.
Whether your kids like PB&J, grilled cheese, or classicham and cheese sandwiches, these are always on he lunch menu. Easy o throw together nad perfect with a side of fruit or carrot, celelery, or cucumber sticks, sammies can be made out of prety much anyhing you like.
Tip: Do you have a kiddo who needs some enticing when it comes to eating lunch? Whip out the cookie cutters and cut their sandwich of choice into a fun shape. These dino cookie cutters are so cute, my kids love them.
Who doesn’t love pizza? Keep a few packages of pizza dough on hand and this is a fun and easy lunch to throw together, and the kids can help. Start with your basic sauce and cheese and then put out some toppings that your kiddos like.
You can also do bagel pizzas, using mini or regular size bagels. Don’t have any dough on hand? You can also use tortillas as a crust in a pinch.
I like to keep small cans of tomato sauce on hand for this lunch. This way I don’t have a huge can of sauce opened that I then have to freeze or make something else with
Mix and match easy lunch ideas for kids
This is an idea I borrowed from what is probably my favorite cookbook to have on hand. It’s a real problem solver in a busy moms kitchen. I recommend it to all of my mom friends, and I recommend it to you, dear reader, and virtual mom friend.
Healthy mix and match goes like this: Pick a protein, pick a veggie, pick a complex carb= healthy lunch (or dinner!) Here’s the trick to this one: Keep a list of what you have in each category on the fridge. This way you know what to grab and what to keep stocked. Tick items off as you run out to make grocery shopping all that much easier.
Here is a chart I made with a is of foods in each group, as well as a blank one you can use to fill in with the items that you are going to stock from it.
Salads- Tossed for you, Deconstructed for them (no touching food, please!)
I don’t know about your kids, but mine are not into salads. I mean EVERYTHING is touching. But, they are fans of many of the ingredients I use to make up the salad. Ener the magical world of deconstructing. I do this with whole dinners as well as with salads for lunch.
To make your life easier in the kitchen and put an end to at least some of that short-order cook action, simply leave out some of the ingredients that you are making your salad with and arrange them on a plate (not touching, obvs) for your kids. It’s a healthy and time-saving way to have adults nad kids eat basically the same thing for a meal.
Cobb salads work great for these. Bacon, tomato, lettuce, some avocado, maybe some chicken, and sliced hardboiled eggs. Delish for all involved!
Tip: Moms, don’t forget to feed yourselves! I find that if I skip lunch I am suddenly super stressed and have zero patience around 3pm. What I really am is hella angry and a bit dehydrated. Eat some lunch that you have prepped for yourself while you prepped your kid’s and drink a big ol’ glass of water. You will feel refreshed and energized, and a bit more ready to tackle the approaching dinner/witching hour (s…)
Before you go, grab our free busy mom meal planner right here. It also has a list for what to keep stocked in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to make mealtimes less stressful.
Want some more easy lunch ideas for kids?
Let’s face it, we all get tired of the same ol’, same ‘ol. Mixing in a few new things with old classics keeps it all fresh. From cookbooks to Pinterest inspo we’ve got you covered.
My fave cookbooks for kids lunches
- Time For Dinner: Strategies, inspiration, and recipes, for family meals every night of the week. This is a must-have for a busy mom’s kitchen. So much more than just recipes, Time for Dinner offers creative, healthy meal solutions, lists of what to keep stocked in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, and so much more. You can get it on Amazon here.
2. Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals (Weelicious Series). So many ideas for healthy lunches in this cookbook from the super popular Weelicious brand. You can grab this on Amazon here.
3. Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook. This has healthy and cute ideas for nibbles to make with and for your toddler. Definitely a great buy for lunch inspiration for your littles. You can buy it on Amazon here.
4. Real Simple the Best Recipes: Quick and Delicious Recipes You’ll Use and Love for Life. This is one of the most-used cookbooks I have ever owned. Every recipe comes out perfect and the ingredients are those that I usually have on hand. You can grab this staple cookbook here.
Our Pinterest board for easy family meals
Our Pinterest board is pinned to daily so you always have fresh ideas for easy family meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks- right at your fingertips. Follow this board on pinterest here!