Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 8 Recipes For A Better Lunch

Making your kid’s lunch is a great way to keep their growing bodies nourished and energized. This post shares 8 healthy and easy recipes that are perfect for parents with a busy schedule. Plus, foods to eat and foods to avoid!

Hand holding a brown rice cake that has homemade strawberry jam spread over it and is ready to eat.

Depending on…a few things…your kids may be back in school after winter break. Whether they are in the classroom or soldiering through remote learning, you are likely looking for some lunch ideas (hello, meal prep).

Despite the changing landscape of learning, it remains super important to provide our kids with energizing, nourishing, and delicious meals they can look forward to!

I’m very familiar with the reality that it can seem daunting to have to plan out the whole family’s meals, especially when your calendar’s loaded. But, it doesn’t have to be hard! If it is, don’t worry cause I’ve got you covered.

This post shares 8 healthy kids’ lunch ideas and other healthy options they can eat, plus foods to avoid. So let’s get to the good stuff and simplify your back-to-school prep! Here we go.

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

What Is The Healthiest School Lunch?

The healthiest school lunch ideas are meals comprised of nutritionally dense food with a good balance of healthy macros. Here’s a simple breakdown of foods to include in your kid’s packed lunch:

  1. Protein is particularly important for children and adolescents. It will fuel them up, keep them full, and is crucial for their growth. Great protein examples for healthy kids lunch ideas:
  1. Veggies provide a boost of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants which are great for their active little bodies. They’re also very easy to pack since they can be eaten cooked or raw and can be easily served cold. Check out these veggie ideas:
Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce
  1. Fruit has tons of nutrients and fiber that are perfect for a healthy kids lunch. It’s better for kiddos to get their fruit in whole, raw form instead of — gasp — processed and juiced products that are high in sugar. Great fruit ideas for healthy kids:
  1. A small treat: There’s a plethora of really good desserts and snacks you can make that are so delicious… It can satisfy your kids’ sweet tooth and junk food cravings. Check these small treats for healthy kids lunch ideas:

Like small treats, adding a little flair to your child’s lunch could give it a special touch. Feel free to add some cute post-its with sweet reminders! 

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

Are School Cafeteria Lunches Healthy?

The nutritional value of school cafeteria lunches may vary per school. But the truth is, even if there are strict guidelines given by the USDA, most school lunches still lack nutrients provided by a clean-approved meal prepared at home. 

In some cases, healthy food isn’t the only concern but also food safety and quality. Reports of some schools not serving quality meat to their kids have surfaced over the years. By preparing your kid’s lunchbox, you’re gaining control over safety, quality, and nutrition.

For example, instead of sugar-laden presweetened yogurt, pack your child’s lunch with plain Greek yogurt topped with raspberries and just a few dark chocolate cacao shavings. Your kids will be keen on you packing school lunches, without a doubt!

How Long Will A Sandwich Last In A Cooler?

A sandwich stored in a cooler remains safe to eat as long as the temperature inside stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temp inside rises, the sandwich will last for 2 hours. 

This is why it’s a good idea to include a freezer pack or gel inside your child’s lunchbox. You can place it under or on top of the sandwich to keep it cold and prolong its safe eating window a bit more. 

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

What Food Should Parents Not Pack In The Lunchbox?

Avoid packing junk food in your kid’s lunchbox. By “junk” I mean food that’s processed, contains artificial sugars and flavors, and/or contains high sodium and saturated fats. In other words, this is food that’s devoid of nutritional value!

Not to pack foods:

Not to pack Drinks:

  • Fruit juices 
  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Soda 
  • Coffee (I hope this one is a given!)

Are Lunchables Healthy?

No, Lunchables are not the best option for a healthy kid’s lunch. They contain lots of saturated fats, preservatives, and sodium with low nutritional value. Although they’re super convenient (I know!) pre-packaged meals, they’re not ideal for your growing child.

What Is A Healthy Lunch For A Teenager?

Healthy lunch ideas for teenagers exist, really! Teenagers do well with a clean diet rich in whole grains, veggies, fruits, healthy fats, protein, and carbs. Remember that your teen is going through a MAJOR time of growth and they will eat a lot. This is normal.

Below are some nutrients that teens specifically need:

  • Iron: girls are usually low in this mineral
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: good for their brain health and hormones

Many teens prefer a lunch they can eat while walking with friends or hanging out in the schoolyard. Easily munched foods are sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, bell peppers cut into strips, and cheddar cheese (always a fave). A pita spread with nut butter (almond butter is delish!) and rolled up is packable and snackable in a teen’s eyes too.

Is your teen an after-school athlete? Send them to school with pasta salad or wraps with chicken salad to fuel up before hitting the field or track.

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas

I’ve rounded up some of the healthiest (and easiest to prepare) recipes that my kiddos love. These ingredients are what kids love to see in the lunchbox! Remember to make them in smaller portions if you have younger children.

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

1. Avocado, Turkey & Hummus Wrap

This wrap is fresh, filling, and it only takes 5 mins to make. It provides a good amount of fiber and protein to fuel them for the day. Remember to buy healthy deli slices (whether turkey, beef, or ham)without additives and tons of sugar.

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

2. Healthy Chicken Fajitas 

Healthy, budget-friendly, and super easy to pack. Don’t get me started on how delicious these fajitas are with ever-popular chicken and black beans. A resto-worthy lunch for your kids that can be kept warm by wrapping the dish in foil before placing it in a thermal lunchbox.

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Marinating time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

Healthy Chicken Nuggets | Kid-Approved

3. Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Most of the kids I know go wild for chicken nuggets so I made a clean-eating version that adults will love, too! Serve with cherry tomatoes and apple slices for a lunchtime favorite.

Recipe Notes

  • Prep Time: 8 mins
  • Cook Time: 22 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get The Recipe

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

4. Korean Beef Bowl

Here’s another hot lunch option. This ultra flavorful Korean Beef Bowl is perfect for older kids with a brave palette. Don’t forget to add a banana to the lunchbox for dessert.

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 7 Recipes For A Healthy Lunch

5. Salmon Fish Sticks

This recipe gives fish sticks a better reputation. They’re gluten-free, nutrient-rich, and made with salmon. Especially great for teens who need lots of Omega-3s!

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 18 mins
  • Total Time: 28 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

Best Homemade Margherita Pizza

6. Best Homemade Margherita Pizza

There’s really no way around it, kids love pizza! And some schools still serve it for lunch every Friday. So, I try to create a healthy alternative that they’ll enjoy just as much.

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

7 Healthy Spring Recipes

7. Healthy Spring Rolls

Kids love them because they’re fun to look at (and eat). Moms love them because these spring rolls are a great way to get your kids to eat fruit + veggies! And aren’t the colors great? Get 5 recipes with a special sauce for each. If your child has a big appetite, be sure to add a small thermos of healthy brown rice on the side.

Recipe Notes:

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Get the recipe.

Close up of a jar of strawberry chia seed jam.

8. Healthy Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich (With Chia jam)

I had to include this classic or the lunch police would surely sit me down for questioning. Make a healthy peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your kid by using a healthy brand of bread and my Strawberry Chia Jam.

Bonus points for making my Homemade Peanut Butter Recipe!

More Helpful Posts For Kids And Healthy Eating

Being a parent is a difficult job! Here are some posts that may be helpful.

This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

One thought on “Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas | 8 Recipes For A Better Lunch

  1. Thank you Lacey for your time and dedication in putting ALL of this together! You yourself are truly inspiring. I came across you on YouTube and yours was the first better eating/recipes video that grabbed my interest. I have subscribed to your channel and have made my way over to here. So excited to get started!

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