20+ Healthy Lunch Box Ideas

By Polly Conner
August 19, 2014

Healthy lunch box ideas from Thriving Home

As a mom of a 2nd grader, Kindergartener, and preschooler, I (Rachel) have been packing lunches every single school day for several years now. And, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to make them simple and healthy.

Tip #1: Did you know you can pack hot meals as easily as cold meals? I’m not talking just soup, although that’s a good option. I’m referring to hot sandwiches, pizza and more. In fact, my son prefers this! I’ll explain how below.

Tip #2: You don’t have to create lunch box art that looks like the face of Obama or a clown (I don’t know, I made that up) for your kids to eat healthy food, despite the Pinterest pressure. Who has time for that? Consider sending leftovers from dinner, breakfast-for-lunch options, and homemade lunchables.

Check out these simple hot and cold “real food” lunch box ideas below. They represent some of our favorites!

Cold Lunch Box Options

healthy muffin recipePeanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

ham and cheese rollsHam and Crescent Rolls

healthy lunch box ideasSandwich Kabobs

Zucchini Flaxseed MuffinsZucchini Flaxseed Muffins

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 10.20.00 AMTuna Salad and Crackers

smalll bites boardHomemade Lunchables

lunch box ideasFruit Kabobs

Healthy Lunch box ideas for kidsPeanut Butter and Jelly Sushi Rolls

Make Ahead Lunch Wraps

Make-Ahead Lunch Wraps

Yogurt, along with granola or other toppings to mix in

Recipe: Whole-Wheat Banana Bread from 100 Days of Real FoodBanana Bread with Cream Cheese

Hot Lunch Box Options

Learning that I could send lots of hot lunch options in the lunch box rocked my world last year. It opens up so many more options. When it comes to packing hot lunch box foods, you’ve got two main methods to keep them warm.

The first vehicle to send a hot meal is a thermos. I often send soup, Mac and Cheese, ravioli with marinara sauce, and Baked Oatmeal in the thermos (see recipes below).

The second way to send hot foods is to wrap them with several layers of foil and heat in the oven before you leave. This method works great for hot sandwiches, pizza slices, quesadillas, and chicken fingers like the ones below. I warm these foods in foil at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and then keep the food warm in the oven at 200 degrees until we leave. An insulated lunch box helps keep these foods warm, as well. My friend Kelley taught me this years ago and it really works!

Sneaky Mac and Cheese

slider recipeHam and Cheese SlidersGrilled Chicken QuesadillaGrilled Chicken Quesadillas

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough: A Bread Machine RecipeWhole Wheat Pizza

easy breakfast casserole muffin recipeEasy breakfast casserole muffins

healthy baked oatmealBaked Oatmeal

Homemade Chicken NuggetsHomemade chicken nuggets

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4 replies
  1. Kathy says:

    These are great ideas! Thank you! First, I messaged you (a long time ago now) about loving your recipes/ideas (and now book–I preordered it at the time–From Freezer to Table) because I planned on using them to prepare and pack up meals to take to my son away attending college (6-hour drive). With his crazy schedule (his courses and athletics) he has no time to cook. NOW WITH THIS… you’ve helped me with my husband!!! He is a pilot and I am always trying to find things to pack for him to take on his trips so he doesn’t have to grab something quick (unhealthy and expensive) on the road. Plus, several places he travels has either nothing near his hotel or he gets in so late there is nothing open to even get food. THANK YOU! You ladies rock!!!

    • Rachel says:

      So I use a lunchbox with two insulated compartments. I wrap the hot burrito or sandwich in foil a few times and a kitchen towel for insulation and put it on one side. The cold stuff goes on the other. Hope that helps!