These cold lunch ideas for kids will make lunchtime as fun as it is yummy. Fifteen different lunch ideas that can be put together ahead of time so packing your child’s lunch will be a breeze every day.
Cold Lunches for Kids
I have assembled some amazing kids lunch box ideas for school. There are so many delicious options that can be mixed and matched to meet your child’s likes and needs.
If you do a little prep work on Sunday you can have plenty of great lunch options for the children all week long. Kids get sick of eating the same thing every single day just like adults do!
These lunch ideas keep lunchtime fresh and exciting.
The protein box is one of my personal favorites. Packed with grab and eat proteins to keep kids powered all day long.
The protein box includes turkey, cheese, hummus and a hard-boiled egg. This is also a nut-free lunch box for kids that need to avoid nuts.
Packing Tips: Change out the protein easily by swapping the turkey for ham or salami. Cut the cheese into fun shapes with small cookie cutters.
Most kids adore meatballs. There is just something about the round shape that draws kids in.
The meatball box contains meatballs, cheese, a small side salad, and a breadstick. You could also include a small hoagie bun for a meatball sub if you prefer instead of a breadstick.
Packing Tip: Add a small container of marinara sauce to dip the meatballs into. YUM!
Who doesn’t love breakfast for other meals? I do!
The pancake box includes pancakes, sausage, and fruit salad. Silver dollar size pancakes are the perfect size for bento boxes. Sausage links or sausage patties work great and use turkey sausage for a lower fat option.
Packing Tips: Include whole wheat pancakes for some added nutrition. If you want to really treat the kids add chocolate chip pancakes to their breakfast lunch box. Don’t forget to include a pat of butter for the pancakes and some syrup.
GRILLED CHEESE BOX
A comfort lunch at it’s best. Grilled Cheese is a huge hit with adults and kids. Perfect for a cool fall day.
The grilled cheese box will include grilled cheese bites. This is just a grilled cheese sandwich cut into smaller pieces. Add some tomato soup to a small lunch-sized soup container so kids can dip their sandwiches in their soup. Add a side salad to the box for some much-needed veggies.
Packing Tips: If kids don’t care for tomato soup swap it out for chicken noodle soup instead.
Small slider sandwiches or burgers are a great lunch idea for kids.
The slider box will include slider burgers that you made up ahead of time plus yogurt and a small loaded baked potato.
Packing Tips: Don’t forget to include some yummy toppings for the potato such as cheese, butter, sour cream and maybe even bacon pieces.
Stromboli is like a pizza sandwich and kids love pizza!
The Stromboli box will include a Stromboli pocket that you make ahead of time. Just grab some premade pizza dough and fill it with ham, salami and cheese. Make this into small pockets and bake them according to the pizza dough instructions. Pack the Stromboli pocket with a side of marinara sauce and a caesar salad for a complete lunch meal.
Packing Tips: You can change the Stromboli to include any combo of meat, veggies and cheese that your child likes best.
Breakfast boxes are a quick and easy lunch to throw together.
The breakfast box will include scrambled eggs, sausage links, a bagel and some grapes.
Packing Tips: Be sure to add a small container of cream cheese for the bagel. If your kids prefer their eggs warm you can pack them in a funtainer and they will stay warm until lunch. My kids will eat their eggs cold without issues!
If you can find me a kid who doesn’t like chicken nuggets, I would be very surprised. It is one of the favorite food items for most young children.
The chicken nuggets box includes nuggets that you have precooked, fruit salad, broccoli, and some cheese.
Packing Tips: Be sure to include a little packet of ketchup or barbeque sauce for dipping those nuggets.
HUMMUS PINWHEEL BOX
Pinwheels are a fun and versatile lunch item. There are so many ways you can make pinwheels and even picky kids love this finger food.
The hummus pinwheel box includes homemade pinwheels, applesauce, and pretzel sticks. These pinwheels are made by spreading hummus on a tortilla and adding sliced turkey then rolling the tortilla up and slicing it into pinwheels.
Packing Tips: You can use whole wheat tortillas for added nutrition.
PIGS IN A BLANKET BOX
Pigs in a blanket are a great hand held lunch food. Make up some little pigs ahead of time by using premade crescent dough and wrap up 2 little all beef smokies. Bake these according to the dough package instructions.
The pigs in a blanket box will include a couple of little pigs in a blanket, cheese cubes, and some veggies.
Packing Tips: Be sure to include a small container of ketchup for dipping the pigs in a blanket and a small container of ranch for dipping the veggies.
Cereal is always a great meal when you are short on time.
The cereal box will include cereal, string cheese, and a fruit salad. Kids can eat the cereal dry or you can send a small thermos of milk or they can get milk at school.
Packing Tips: You can buy the individual cereal packets so the cereal is already in a bowl for easy use.
CLUB PINWHEEL BOX
You can never have too many different types of pinwheels. Club pinwheels are made by layering ham, turkey, cheese, and bacon on a tortilla. Roll it up and slice it into pinwheels. Add mayo or mustard if your child likes those condiments.
The club pinwheel box will include the pinwheels, goldfish crackers, apple slices, and some caramel sauce for the apples.
Packing Tips: You can also use cream cheese spread on the tortilla as an alternative to mayo or mustard.
PIZZA BAGEL BOX
Pizza bagels are simple to make and only take minutes. Just spoon some pizza sauce on a bagel half and top with desired pizza toppings. Bake until the cheese is hot and bubbly. These taste great later at room temperature!
The pizza bagel box will include the pizza bagel, applesauce, and some grapes.
Packing Tips: To get more veggies into this lunch add some sliced veggies to the pizza bagel!
TUNA SALAD BOX
I will admit not every child likes tuna, but those that do will love this tuna salad box. It is a nice change from a plain old sandwich.
The tuna salad box will include tuna salad, cheese cubes, crackers, celery sticks, and carrots. So many great finger foods for kids to dunk, grab, and munch on.
Packing Tips: Don’t forget to send a small container of ranch dressing for the veggies.
HARD-BOILED EGG BOX
I have always been surprised by how much my kids love plain hard-boiled eggs. It is a protein-packed food too!
The hard-boiled egg box includes a hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, applesauce, and pretzel. This cold lunch idea is so easy to pack too.
Packing Tips: Some kids love a little parmesan cheese on top of their cottage cheese!
Cold Foods for Lunch
The biggest struggle when packing cold lunches is finding an entrée that doesn’t need to be kept warm or rewarmed before eating. Luckily there are several filling options that can be served cold such as:
- Protein-based salads like chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad
- Pasta salad
- Chickpea salad
- Green salad
- Grain bowls
- Start with quinoa, rice, or farro
- Add protein like cooked chicken, steak, eggs, or beans
- Add vegetables like corn, spinach, kale, or roasted squash
- Include a sauce like a vinaigrette, tahini sauce, peanut sauce, or tsaziki
- Cold noodles (ramen and soba work really well)
- Don’t limit yourself to sliced bread. Also try bagels, pita pockets, or croissants.
- For fillings use deli meats, a prepared protein salad, or peanut butter (or almond butter).
- For toppings think beyond lettuce and tomatoes or jelly to include avocado or banana slices.
After you’ve settled on the main dish, you have dozens of options for sides that can be served cold. Any of these family road trip snacks work great.
A brief list of suggestions if you don’t want to click the link above and read a whole separate article:
- Fresh fruit like strawberries, oranges, apples, cherries, grapes or bananas
- Fresh veggies like snap peas, bell pepper slices, sliced cucumbers, celery stalks, or baby carrots
- Dried fruit like raisins, craisins, apricots, or mango
- Cheese cubes, slices, or string cheese
- Quick breads or muffins like banana bread or chocolate chip zucchini muffins
- Crunchy bites like popcorn, pretzels, tortilla chips, crackers or nuts
Tips for Packing Cold Lunches
Pack the night before
The longer your lunch spends in the refrigerator, the longer it will stay cold once you’ve taken it out of the fridge. So, pack it the night before to ensure it stays cool from before school to lunch.
Save assembly for lunch time
If possible, pack sandwich or meal components separately to keep them from getting soggy, then have your child combine them at lunch.
Use ice packs or freeze foods that double as ice packs
Even if you refrigerate overnight, there’s a chance the lunch will warm up before it’s time to eat so be sure to include some frozen items. You can use ice packs, but I prefer to freeze some of the lunch items to not only save space, but to also ensure at least a few items will be really cold at lunch.
Some kid lunch favorites that freeze well are:
- Cheese sticks
- Frozen fruit
- Water bottles
20+ Cold Lunch Ideas – Easy School Stromboli
- 1 package pizza dough
- 6 slices ham deli-style
- 6 slices hard salami
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
- On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough and using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 6 rectangles.
- Sprinkle cheese over the dough leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges.
- Layer the ham over the cheese. Then, layer the salami over the ham.
- Fold each rectangle in half and pinch the seams to seal.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of each stromboli with the egg wash.
- Use a sharp knife to cut 2 slits into the top of each stromboli.
- Bake for 14-16 minutes, until golden brown.
If you loved these bento box lunch ideas for kids be sure to check out these other helpful posts:
- What to Pack for Lunch Printable for Kids
- Best Lunch Ideas for Kids Tired of Sandwiches
- Printable Lunch Notes: Cute Critters
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