After years of sharing the school lunches I pack for my kids on Facebook, I decided to combine all the pictures together below in one easy-to-reference place for inspiration. I know some readers love to sit down and look at these pics with their kids so they can point out what they want (and, more importantly, what they’ll actually eat!), so I hope these ideas help you as well. 🙂
Table of Contents
360+ Healthy School Lunch Ideas
Narrow results with the drop down filter or search box. Note some of these lunch ideas incorporate real food leftovers, which can be a real time saver. In this case most recipes can be found here on the blog via the included links, but a few are from my best-selling cookbooks.
School Lunch Packing Chart
See my School Lunch Packing Chart post for more details and how to get your free printable copy (a reusable version is also included in my Meal Planner Workbook). Basically you have your kids fill out the chart with all the ingredients they’d like in their lunches for the week, and then take the chart with you on your grocery run so you know what to buy. You’ll have all the fixings on hand, plus buy-in from your kids!
School Lunch Ideas “Recipe”
This is similar to the packing chart in that you can get inspiration and buy-in from kids for new lunch combinations.
School Lunch Ideas
Fruits and Veggies
Grain or Snack
Choose an ingredient from each category to create new lunch combinations (I recommend doing this with your kids).
Jot your ideas down as you go for a quick school lunch meal plan.
Need Extra School Lunch Help?
In case you missed it, we briefly opened up the sales page for our uber-popular packed lunch meal plans! Our Real Lunches, Real Easy ebooks are each a complete system that tells you what to buy, what to prep, and what to pack (including colorful pictures) so you’re not stressing out at the last minute. Grab one version, or all four, and even have your kiddos help pack their new wholesome, hearty, real food lunches. See samples of each week and learn more here.
What Do Packed Lunches Look Like by Lunchtime?
I’ve gotten quite a few questions asking what these carefully prepared lunches actually look like come lunchtime—especially after they’ve been tossed all around while in my kids’ backpacks and since “liquidy” foods like yogurt or applesauce are involved. Let’s face it, no child keeps their lunch bag or box in one perfect position all day, and that is certainly something I would never expect of my own children.
So when I was having lunch with my daughter at school (and risking looking like a lunatic), I took a bunch of pictures for you! 🙂
So that’s all there is to it! And since I know some will be wondering 🙂 ….
More School Lunch Resources
To learn more about the lunches I pack, here are some helpful links…
I’ve get a lot of comments/questions/etc. when I share my kids’ lunches on Facebook, so I’d like to address a few of the more common questions here.
Many of the school lunch supplies we use, including the divided lunchbox containers, thermos cups, and freezie pop molds, are detailed in the My Favorite School Lunch Supplies post and my Amazon Favorites page. The lunchbox containers fit nicely (with a drink cup) in both Lands End and Old Navy cloth rectangular lunch boxes.
Some readers ask if these lunches provide enough food for my children, and while I am probably not spot-on with portion size 100% of the time, the short answer is “yes.” First of all, “real food” is a lot more filling than highly processed food (especially the refined grain stuff like white flour). Secondly, portion sizes are getting out of control in America and have unfortunately skewed the public’s view of what is appropriate. Thirdly, my children were 7 and almost 5 when I started photographing their lunches. Lastly, both my children eat after-school snacks. Okay, got that off my chest. 🙂
A few occasionally ask if these lunches have enough protein. First of all, part of eating a “real food” diet means you no longer have to count calories, fat grams, protein, carbs, etc. You simply eat a variety of whole foods (including lots of veggies) without “overeating” and the rest will just fall into place. It’s kind of nice not to have to worry about that stuff anymore. But, if you aren’t quite ready to forget about your daily protein intake please know there are MANY sources high in protein aside from just meat products such as yogurt, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, nuts (including peanut butter), seeds (including sunflower butter), and beans. When we switched to a “real food” diet we purposely reduced our meat consumption.
I make most of the pictured baked goods (like muffins and pancakes) in advance and store them in our freezer. So when I am packing school lunches the night before I just pull out what I need so it can defrost in the fridge overnight. Almost all of the recipes I used can be found on the blog…just use the search box at the top right of the page to find what you are looking for!
My daughters used to go to a peanut/tree nut-free school, so I often used sunflower butter and cream cheese as an alternative to peanut butter. You can filter the lunches above or visit my Nut-Free Lunch Ideas post for more ideas.
I hope these lunch ideas have been helpful. Please feel free to share your “real food” school lunch ideas in the comments below…