Top 15 Back to School Lunch Ideas That Kids Love!

School-Lunch-Ideas Title

Back to school! The season where supply lists are as long as car pool lines, and shopping back-to-school sales is a lesson in patience and endurance! And school lunch ideas? Who has time to think about that now?

Lett-uce (get it??) make it easier for you by giving you our 15 favorite quick-and-healthy school lunch ideas, gathered up from around the web.

Top 15 School Lunch Ideas

1.  Sandwich Kabobs

Revive an old favorite with a new twist: turn regular, boring sandwiches into appetizing little shish-kabobs! (Click the link above to see how easy it is.) Round out the meal by including your child’s favorite sides like sliced apples, pickles, chopped vegetables (try cauliflower, carrots, or cucumbers), or a few grapes. You can easily substitute with a sprouted grain or gluten-free bread to accommodate for dietary constraints or skip the bread altogether and add extra cheese, veggies, and meat!

And don’t forget to use a kid-safe skewer!

2.  Breakfast for Lunch?

Why not? I like to make extra waffles when my family makes breakfast on the weekend. (Try whole grain!) Then I freeze the extras to save for later. Just set them out to thaw the night before. I like this idea (linked above) for blueberries and pistachios as toppings, but you can use any fruit, nuts, shaved coconut, or even a little bit of chocolate for dessert. Breakfast is a big hit around here!

waffle lunchbox: school lunch ideas

Waffle Lunch Box /

3.  Turkey Veggie Roll Ups

Ever notice that some veggies go to school, only to make the return trip home as well? Or worse — maybe get thrown out AT school? Cringe! Frustrating, huh? But with the government-recommended kid vegetable intake at 1-2 cups per day, it’s important!

I’m working on Charley (age 6) eating more vegetables, so I’m willing to give something like this a try: shred vegetables like carrots or radishes and roll them up inside turkey and cheese. See the link above for the exact recipe. With or without bread, this is an easy school lunch for sure.

4.  Banana “Hot Dogs”

One of my kids’ favorite lunches is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Trusty ol’ stand-by, you’ve been good to me and my picky eaters. But sometimes you just need a little twist on the original. That’s why I was excited when I saw this one (click the link above) that you can adapt and make even healthier — and it’s fun!

So all you do is take a hot dog bun (whole wheat, grain-free, or sprouted bread works) and add a banana and toppings. You can use berries instead of jelly for bonus fruit intake.

When using a nut butter, be sure to check your child’s school rules on food allergies. Almond butter or Sun butter can be great alternatives to peanut butter if they are allowed in your child’s class. More topping ideas? How about raisins, shredded coconut, granola, or chopped nuts (again, check for allergies)? Slice your “hotdogs” in half and add some veggie chips. Enjoy!

School Lunch Ideas: banana-hot-dogs

Banana Hot Dogs (Photo: Kathy Patalsky) /

5.  DIY Lunchables

Remember those really fun lunch kits when we were kids? Turns out they’re not so healthy because they’re super-processed. And they can be sorta expensive, too. Boo hoo! But the kids are crazy for them, so what’s a Smart Mom to do?

Why not let the store-bought ones be a “sometimes” treat and make your own for the rest of the year? You’ll save money and be able to feed your kids low-processed, low-nitrate ingredients that your kids will love. Add a side of granola with yogurt and berries, and it sounds like a WIN-WIN to me! (PSST- Is your child into the pizza lunchables like mine is? Here’s a version I’m totally going to try this year in his lunchbox.)

6.  Macaroni & Cheese Lunchbox Muffins

Everybody needs comfort foods sometimes (I’m looking at you, mashed potatoes!), but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the nutrition. These ham and mac and cheese muffins not only look awesome, but they’d also be easy to slip in shredded carrots or zucchini before baking. Pair these with cucumber slices, grapes and baby carrots and you’re good to go. Yummm.

School Lunch Ideas - Ham and Mac & Cheese Muffins

Ham and Macaroni & Cheese Lunchbox Muffins /

7.  Mini Corndog Muffins (A gluten-free option!)

Whether you are looking for gluten-free options or your child just loves corndogs, this recipe looks awesome! I try to look for all-natural, low-nitrate hot dogs. Use your child’s favorite dipping sauce and add some yogurt with berries for dessert for a real home run!

8.  Leftovers

Yep, you read that right. Sometimes the best lunches come from the week’s favorite dinners. In fact, then you know you’re making a dinner the kids love, just cook a little extra to send for lunch that week. You really can make the most of your evening meal prep time by having a leftovers lunch day each week! Some ideas for crowd-pleasers are roasted chicken, pork chops, or flatbread pizza.

9.  Healthy Taco Salad Lunch

I know, I know. Getting your child to eat salad? It might be a stretch at first for some kids (mine included). But here’s a pro tip: use ingredients your kids already love and recognize to top the salad. If your kids LOVE taco night like mine do, think of this as “taco night encore” with a healthy twist. (Note: Using any salsa or beans? Be sure to Ziploc your chips to keep them crunchy. Nothing is sadder than soggy chips!)

This taco salad recipe (linked above) is both super tasty and (SHHH!) good for them too. Pick toppings that fit your child’s palate, and score one for Mom!

School Lunch Ideas: taco salad to go

Healthy Taco Salad To Go /

10.  A Hummus Tray

I was shocked when I discovered my picky eaters like hummus. No, they LOVE it! So this lunch (click the link above) is a great way to get in extra veggies along with something they already love. And it’s easy, too. Just slice up some vegetables like carrots and different colors of bell peppers for dipping. Throw in some pretzels or pretzel chips, and you’re almost guaranteed that this nutritious lunch will be gobbled up in minutes!

11.  Stuffed Bagel Sandwiches

So here’s a cool idea I’d never heard of before: scoop out a little trench in the middle of a bagel. (Don’t forget to make it a whole grain variety!) Stir your kid’s favorite ingredients (think ham, turkey, salami, chicken, shredded carrots or other vegetables) into cream cheese. Then stuff it inside the bagel trench you made. Fun, right? For younger kids, you can slice it into it make really cute and delicious little bites that they will love!

12. Octopus Hot Dog Bento Box 

Did you ever think Sunday afternoon’s craft time could become the next day’s lunch? No, we’re not talking about macaroni art here. (Gross!) This takes a little pre-planning, but I’ve heard that there are many benefits to getting kids involved in the process of preparing their food. Can I get an AMEN?

So here’s what you do. (And click the link above to see the example. SO cute!!) Cut hot dogs in half and split the flat end into four “legs” to make a cute octopus. You can use food cutters or a kid-safe knife to slice fruit and veggies into fun shapes — try for an ocean-inspired theme! Add pasta (think macaroni “barnacles”) and/or Goldfish crackers to round out the theme. And don’t forget to throw a few fruits or veggies in there, too. Because nutrition.

13. Puzzle Sandwich

Here’s my tried-and-true standby: turn a regular sandwich into a cool shape. I have the big bucket of Wilton cookie cutters, which my kids love because I can coordinate with the holidays or the letter of the week at preschool. Another fun cookie cutter is this puzzle cutter — fun and affordable! I like to think of the cookie cutter sandwich as a lunch time reminder to my child that I’m thinking about him.

School Lunch Ideas: puzzle cut sandwich

Puzzle Sandwich /

14. Rainbow-Colored Lunch 

We’ve probably all heard that you’re supposed to “eat the rainbow,” and no, unfortunately I don’t think Skittles count. It’s true that eating a variety of colors will help you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but I’ve often wondered how to do that with my kids. I think this example (see the link above) has merit. It’s colorful and fun but also looks very delicious. So much so that I may just have to make extras for myself, too!

15.  Sandwich Sushi

Whip up some tuna salad, egg salad, or ham salad on a Sunday. Then all you have to do in the morning before school is spread it on a slice of bread, sprinkle some shredded veggies for crunch, roll it up, and cut into 3-4 pieces. The little rolls look like sushi but are totally kid-friendly!

And if you have multiple children you’re making lunches for, this could be a quick way to knock out their lunches in a hurry. High five!

Add blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries with Goldfish crackers on the side. Super yum.

Do you have a favorite school lunch idea to share? I have many lunches to pack this school year, and I’d love to hear your ideas! Share with me below in the comments.

(NOTE: Affiliate links included because we’re Smart Kids, too! 😉 )

READ NEXT: Top 5 Steps to Help Your Child Have a Better School Year – Instantly! 

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About Aubrey Hunt
Before hopping on the crazy ride we call motherhood, I studied engineering and taught math and science to middle and high school students. Now, perhaps like you, I fill my days singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and praying my preschooler will eat a vegetable — any vegetable!

7 thoughts on “Top 15 Back to School Lunch Ideas That Kids Love!”

  1. Laura says:

    Lots of great ideas here! Totally trying the Mac n cheese muffins and the kabobs! Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. Aubrey Hunt says:

      You are so welcome, Laura! Hope you love them. 🙂

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