Finding easy lunch box ideas for school lunches can be a challenge especially if your kids don’t like sandwiches like mine. We have created this list of healthy and easy school lunches we hope will inspire and give you more lunchbox menu ideas whether you are going back to school or just need some new lunch ideas for kids.

15 Back to School Lunch Ideas (text) - 8 lunch box ideas for kids pictured on a notebook paper background - Kids Activities Blog
Oh so many easy lunch box ideas for kids!

Back to School Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Let’s talk making back to school lunch ideas easy with simple and yummy lunch box ideas for kids school lunches. We used back to school time to stop and rethink lunch ideas for kids. Here’s a look at 15 School Lunch Ideas we have shared, made and loved that are not only yummy and easy but also healthy.

Related: Need cute lunch boxes? <–We have ideas!

These lunch box lunch ideas for kids for school include dairy-free lunch ideas, gluten-free lunch ideas, healthy lunch ideas, lunch ideas for picky eaters and a lot more!

Reasons to Love These Lunch Box Ideas

With 15 different lunch box combinations for kids, we hope you use this as inspiration to mix and match foods that your kids will eat with a few new items every once in awhile. If you have leftovers or extra of something in your fridge, think about integrating it into your child’s lunch box with a few of their favorite things too!

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Lunch Box Ideas FAQs

What can I give my child for lunch?

As a mom of three boys, the biggest advice I can give for what to give your child for lunch is to not overthink it! If your child loves sandwiches, then that is an easy start. If your child doesn’t love sandwiches, then think outside the lunchbox!

What do you give a picky kid for lunch?

Lean into what your kid will eat that will fill them up. One of my kids was so picky at lunch his Kindergarten year that we sent him oatmeal because that was his favorite. I bought a good thermos to keep it warm and his lunchbox was full of different oatmeal toppings. Think about what your kid likes that could fill him/her up and then work around that if you have a super picky eater like I did!

Tips for Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Start with a simple container that has several compartments for a lunch box. That always helped me when packing kids lunches because it forced me to think of variety and allowed me to feel confident that each food item would travel well to school.

Dairy-Free Lunch Box Ideas

#1: Hard Boiled Eggs with Avocado

5 Back to School Dairy-Free Lunch Ideas  - plastic container open with eggs, grapes, oranges and pretzels - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s make something fun for lunch today!

This healthy dairy-free lunchbox idea has two hardboiled eggs and some favorite lunch box sides like grapes, orange and pretzels.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child has an egg allergy, try substituting grilled chicken, cheese sticks or cubes, hummus, greek yogurt or edamame.

#2: Turkey Rolls with Apples

5 Back to School Dairy-Free Lunch Ideas  - plastic container open with turkey rolls, blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers and apple and walnuts - Kids Activities Blog
I love walnuts & apples in my lunchbox.

This healthy dairy-free lunch has three turkey rolls, strawberries, blueberries, cucumber and apples with walnuts.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child has a tree nut allergy, try substituting seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, cheese cubes are great with apples, soy nuts, crispy chickpeas or nut-free granola.

#3: Chicken Strips and Hummus

5 Back to School Dairy-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with grapes, chicken hummus and carrot sticks - Kids Activities Blog
Hummus makes every school lunch better!

This is one of my favorite dairy-free back to school lunch ideas pairing chicken strips with hummus and carrot sticks. Add a bunch of grapes as a side!

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is allergic or doesn’t like hummus, try substituting ranch dressing, greek yogurt dip, cream cheese, guacamole, salsa or a cheese dip.

#4: Pinwheels and Banana Chips

5 Back to School Dairy-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with oranges, pinwheels, carrot sticks and banana chips - Kids Activities Blog
Are banana chips a snack or dessert?

This dairy-free back to school lunch idea is healthy because it rolls ham and spinach inside a flour tortilla creating a cheese-free pinwheel. Add some orange slices, carrots and banana chips!

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child doesn’t eat ham, try substituting turkey, chicken, roast beef, cheese, small cooked tofu squares, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad or vegan deli slices.

#5: Celery, Turkey, Pepperoni and Salad

5 Back to School Dairy-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with celery sticks with peanut butter, turkey, pepperoni and cucumber and tomato salad - Kids Activities Blog
Mmmmm….I chose this school lunch for my lunchbox today!

This dairy-free lunch for kids at school is a big meal which works great for kids who just need a little extra food at lunch time. Start with celery with almond butter and add pepperoni rolled into turkey slices. Then make a little cucumber and tomato salad with blueberries and blackberries on the side.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is in a nut-free classroom or allergic to almond butter, try substituting sunflower seed butter, soy nut butter, coconut butter, tahini (sesame seed butter), pumpkin seed butter, hemp seed butter, chickpea butter or golden pea butter.

Gluten-Free Kids Lunch Ideas

#6: Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps with Banana Chips

5 Back to School Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with lettuce wrap, sauce and banana chips - Kids Activities Blog
Lettuce wraps are a lunch favorite!

This gluten-free lunch is something you may want to make some extra for yourself! Make a double recipe (see below) and save some for your work or home lunch as well as your child’s lunchbox! Make the chicken salad lettuce wraps paired with applesauce and banana chips.

Kids Lunch Includes:

Banana Chips
Applesauce

Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps Recipe

Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken, apple slices, celery, grapes and chives and combine
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, dijon mustard and lemon juice
  3. Combine the two bowls and add salt & pepper to taste
  4. Fill the lettuce slices with the chicken salad mixture

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is dairy-free, try making the chicken salad with dairy-free mayonnaise, dairy-free yogurt (made from coconut, almond, soy), dairy-free sour cream, avocado (mashed for creaminess), hummus, silken tofu (blended until smooth), lemon juice mixed with olive oil or cashew cream (soaked and blended cashews).

If your chid is vegan, also substitute the chicken for chick peas, tofu (I like firm or smoked), tempeh, seitan, jackfruit, mushrooms, vegan chicken products, lentils or artichoke hearts or heart of palm.

#7: Chicken & Cottage Cheese

5 Back to School Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with blueberries, chicken, cottage cheese and cucumber - Kids Activities Blog
This lunchbox idea is a favorite of my youngest child.

This gluten-free lunchbox idea is one of the simplest on the list and can be created on those busy mornings when time just seems to run out! Start with left-over chicken pieces and a scoop of cottage cheese. Add blueberries and cucumber slices for fun!

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is dairy-free, try substituting dairy-free yogurt (coconut, almond or soy), avocado mash, silken tofu, chia seed pudding made with dairy-free milk, hummus, oatmeal or overnight oats made with milk-free options, rice pudding or whipped coconut cream.

#8: Pepperoni Turkey Rolls and Pistachios

5 Back to School Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with pepperoni turkey rolls, pistachios and cinnamon sprinkled apple slices - Kids Activities Blog
Isn’t everything better with cinnamon?

Another simple gluten-free option for kids school lunch! Start by rolling pepperoni into turkey slices and sprinkle a little cinnamon on some apple slices with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Add a handful of pistachios and a bunch of grapes.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is nut-free or in a nut-free classroom, pistachios can be substituted with vegetable sticks, popcorn, rice cakes with avocado, edamame, olives, seaweed snacks, roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.

#9: Ham Roll Ups with Spinach Salad

5 Back to School Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with ham roll ups, grapes, spinach salad with dressing and honey and carrot sticks - Kids Activities Blog
Have you ever dipped carrot sticks in honey?

This gluten-free lunch is full of surprises. Start with spinach and tomato salad, add rolled up ham slices and a bunch of grapes. Then cut some carrot sticks and serve with a little honey!

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child doesn’t eat ham, try substituting turkey, chicken, roast beef, cheese, small cooked tofu squares, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad or vegan deli slices.

#10: Wrapped Tomatoes with Walnuts

5 Back to School Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas plastic container open with egg, grapes, wrapped tomatoes and walnuts - Kids Activities Blog
Now I am hungry for lunch…

Take small slices of tomato and wrap them with turkey slices to make the entree of this gluten-free back to school lunch box recipe. Then add a hard-boiled egg, some walnuts and a bunch of grapes.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child has an egg allergy, try substituting grilled chicken, cheese sticks or cubes, hummus, greek yogurt or edamame.

Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids

#11: Zucchini Cupcakes & Pepper Boats

5 Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas - plastic container open with string cheese, muffin, pepper boat, berries and pretzel goldfish crackers - Kids Activities Blog
What a fun lunchbox idea!

This healthy back to school lunch idea is packed with things that your child’s neighbor will not have in their lunchbox! Start with a pepper boat of cut green pepper filled with pimento cheese spread then add a cheese stick, pretzel goldfish, blackberries and strawberries plus a favorite muffin.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is dairy-free, instead of string cheese try hummus, dairy-free cheese sticks, edamame, guacamole or nut-free butter options.

If your child is dairy-free, instead of using real cheese in a pimento cheese recipe, substitute dairy-free cheese like coconut-based shreds, soy-based shreds, cashew-based cheese, rice-based cheese or pea protein cheese.

#12: Salami Rolls and Broccoli

5 Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas plastic container open with egg, salami rolls, applesauce, crackers and broccoli - Kids Activities Blog
Salami Rolls will fill ya up!

This healthy lunch box will keep your kids going all day long with salami slices rolled up, a hard-boiled egg, some cheese-it crackers, a few broccoli trees and some applesauce.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child has an egg allergy, try substituting grilled chicken, cheese sticks or cubes, hummus, greek yogurt or edamame.

If your child doesn’t eat salami, try substituting turkey, chicken, roast beef, cheese, small cooked tofu squares, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad or vegan deli slices.

#13: Bologna & Kale Chips

5 Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas - plastic container open with granola bar, orange, stacked bologna and cheese, berries and kale chips - Kids Activities Blog
This variety lunchbox is great for Mondays!

This healthy lunchbox idea is packed with flavor. Start with a bologna and cheese stack and kale chips. Then add an orange, some blackberries and a baked granola bar.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child doesn’t eat bologna, try substituting turkey, chicken, roast beef, cheese, small cooked tofu squares, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad or vegan deli slices.

If your child is dairy-free, instead of cheese slices try hummus, dairy-free cheese sticks, edamame, guacamole or nut-free butter options.

 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

For each of the lunches, we used these BPA free lunch containers.

#14: Pizza Rolls & Cheerios

5 Back to School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters  - plastic container open with pizza rolls, cereal, slices of fruit - Kids Activities Blog
Lunch box chant: Pizza rolls! Pizza rolls! Pizza rolls!

OK, this just might be my favorite back to school lunch idea which must mean I am a picky eater too! Make a simple pizza roll with crescent rolls filled with sauce and shredded cheese. Add oranges and pineapples plus a handful of Cheerios.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

Omit the shredded cheese in the pizza rolls recipe if your child is dairy-free.

#15: Waffles with Peanut Butter & String Cheese

5 Back to School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters plastic container open with waffles, cheese stick, milk, crackers and grapes - Kids Activities Blog
Waffles for lunch…I am in!

Another picky eater back to school lunch idea is to harness the power of breakfast with this simple waffle sandwich filled with peanut butter, nutella or almond butter. Add a yogurt, string cheese, cracker stack and a bunch of grapes.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is in a nut-free classroom or allergic to nut butter, try substituting sunflower seed butter, soy nut butter, coconut butter, tahini (sesame seed butter), pumpkin seed butter, hemp seed butter, chickpea butter or golden pea butter.

#16: Ham Wraps & Bananas

5 Back to School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters plastic container open with banana, ham wraps, orange and strawberries - Kids Activities Blog
What fun inside a lunchbox!

This picky eater lunch is simple and quick. Spread butter on a flour tortilla with a slice of ham (throw in some cheese if that makes your child happy) then add three fruits: bananas, strawberries and oranges.

Kids Lunch Includes:

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child doesn’t eat ham, try substituting turkey, chicken, roast beef, cheese, small cooked tofu squares, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad or vegan deli slices.

#17: Turkey Rolls & Apple Slices

5 Back to School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters plastic container open with turkey rolls, apple slices, cheese slices, applesauce and crackers - Kids Activities Blog
Yum!

And last, but not least we have one more back to school lunch idea that has cheese and crackers, rolled turkey slices, apple slices and some applesauce.

Kids Lunch Includes:

  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Turkey rolls
  • Apple slices
  • Apple sauce or Chocolate Pudding

School Lunch Substitution Ideas:

If your child is dairy-free, instead of cheese slices try hummus, dairy-free cheese sticks, edamame, guacamole or nut-free butter options.

All of these lunch box recipes for back to school lunches appeared on the live stream, Family Food Live with Holly & Chris on the Quirky Momma Facebook page.

More LUnch Ideas for Kids from Kids Activities Blog

More to See:

Which back to school lunch recipe will you try on the first day of school?



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21 Comments

  1. Thanks for some great suggestions will definitely be trying some of these and my daughter school is NOT nut free so she can do peanut butter. I don’t see why parent’s have a problem with these lunch ideas, because they are just that lunch ideas. If you know that you can’t use it, then don’t use it. All schools are not the same and I would hope that if your child attends a nut free school then you would have the common sense not to use it but stop judging the person providing the lunch ideas and parents who enjoy these ideas and don’t have kids who attend a nut free school.

    1. Enjoy, Tabathia! Also sunflower seed butter (Sunbutter) is a great nut-free substitute that can be used in any recipe that calls for peanut butter!

    2. Thanks so much Tabathia. I agree with you. I always find that starting with a suggestion makes it easier even if you have to use a substitution, but the recommendations for adding substitutions is a good idea and I will work on that so everyone’s school lunch ideas are easier this year for back to school.

  2. Most schools now are nut-free zones, but any of these ideas can easily be adjusted. Nut butters could be replaced with cream cheese for example. Instead of being critical, just use common sense. These are all good basic ideas to start the school year. Parents: keep in mind also how easy or difficult a package is for your child to open. Good luck to all!

  3. Can’t believe you would suggest nuts or nut based products. Most school boards won’t allow these in schools, so why? 5 of your suggestions not allowed.

    1. hank you for your feedback, Linda. Sunflower seed butter can be substituted in the place of nut butters!

    2. Thank you so much for your feedback on the school lunch ideas. I am working on updating the content with an emphasis on substitutions. We would never DREAM of sending allergens into a classroom where it could harm a child. Please make wise choices.

  4. These all look good! Heck I’d eat them. Plus would be good for at home lunch too. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks for some really great ideas – our school doesn’t allow any tree nuts so these will be adjusted. But these seem so simple and yummy for the wee ones.

    1. You are so welcome! Yes, you can definitely tweak these ideas to fit any dietary preferences or needs!

    2. Such a good idea to add some substitutions we love when it comes to nut butters. I will work on adding that to this school lunch ideas article! THANKS for the suggestion. Good luck with your back to school lunches :).

  6. As with anything else, you should use some common sense. If your child or your child’s classmates have allergies and/or certain foods are prohibited by the school, substitute something else that probably won’t kill them or their classmates.

    1. Yes! I love how many options are out there. When I was a kid, the choices for packing school lunches was minimal. Avoiding nut butter like peanuts or tree nuts would have been really difficult, but there are so many awesome substitutions now! Yay!

  7. With all of the nut allergies and so many schools not allowing them, why are you suggesting kids pack foods that kill their classmates???????!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    1. There are a ton of choices when it comes to nut and non-nut butter substitutions these days which is amazing. I am so sorry that you thought that these school lunch ideas were set in stone and you couldn’t make substitutions for allergies, your child’s preferences or what you might have on hand.