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Hundreds of School Lunch Ideas and Tips to Help Mom Stay Sane

I was going to write about my own school lunch ideas, but since my son is only 2, I figured I should leave it to the moms who have been doing this for years! Everyone is getting into back-to-school mode. I rounded up some of the most helpful school lunch ideas I’ve seen over the past few weeks, and then added in a few of my own big picture tips to help keep you sane. Packing lunches does not need to be stressful or overly time consuming!

School Lunch Ideas

School Lunch Ideas

Toddler/Pre-School Lunch Ideas

50+ Preschool Lunch Ideas – This post includes a free PDF printable of ideas and how to mix and match foods from different food groups to make a well-balanced lunch.

50 Healthy Toddler Meal Ideas – Pictures and descriptions of 50 healthy toddler meals, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These meals were served at home but could very easily pack up into a lunchbox for your little one! You can also pack breakfast foods at lunch – there’s no rule against doing that.

Elementary + Middle School Lunch Ideas

125 Healthy Lunch Boxes – SO many ideas here. This is a great post to show you how you can mix and match just about anything in your fridge and pantry to put together a satisfying, healthy, kid-friendly lunch box.

Healthy Lunch Ideas – A great index of healthy school lunch ideas. You can also filter this by diet – vegetarian, dairy free, egg free, etc.

Allergy Friendly School Lunch Ideas

Allergy Friendly Lunch and Snack Ideas – This links to a round-up of several posts helpful for dairy free, gluten free, or nut free meals.

50 School-Approved Nut-Free Snacks – More and more schools are going nut-free, so you might need this list even if no one in your family has a nut allergy.

Lunch Packing Tips to Help Mom Stay Sane

If you clicked on any of the links above, you can see that there are endless ideas of what you can pack in your kids’ lunches. It might even be a little overwhelming. And, you might feel pressure to put together Pinterest-perfect, beautiful looking lunches.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re feeling a little stressed or overwhelmed.

  1. It is OKAY if your kid wants the same thing for lunch every day. Yes, there are a ton of different foods you can try, but if they are happy and their bellies full, then I would not stress too much about it. (As long as their lunch is on the healthier side!)
  2. LaLa Lunchbox is an app that I’ve heard great things about to make lunch planning and packing easier. It gets kids involved and can help you save time.
  3. Always pack at least one item that you know your kid likes and will eat. It’s okay to include less loved foods at lunch sometimes. Just make sure there is something they like in there so you know (for sure) they can at least eat that one thing.
  4. If your kids are on the younger side, make sure they can open any bags or packages on their own. My mom is a preschool principal. She says the number one issue she sees at lunch time is that parents pack things without realizing their little one needs help opening it. Practice at home before packing it up for them.
  5. Keep a list of favorites for each kid. Sometimes your mind goes blank and you forget what your kids’ favorites are. Keep a list somewhere – I do this in the Notes app on my phone – to remind you of lunches they like. School breaks tend to erase my memory of these kinds of things! I love to go back to my lists to remind myself what to buy.
  6. Get your kids involved! By the time they are in middle school/high school they can be responsible for packing their own lunch. Younger kids can also help you by assembling sandwiches, putting foods into the lunch box, rinsing off fruit, etc.


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Kacie Barnes holding an apple
Hi, I’m Kacie!

I’m a mom of two and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I offer e-guides and e-books (go to my Shop page), workshops, brand partnerships, and nutrition counseling. Check out my blog for nutrition and feeding tips for your little ones.


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