Practical School Lunch Ideas (Cold & Hot)

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

When my son started school, I was determined to pack him healthy, nutritious and satisfying lunches. Without me hovering over him while he ate, he brought his fancy sandwiches right back home, sometimes untouched. I could see he wasn’t really into what I packed for him.

After he brought several lunches back, I resorted to ordering food at school, but that never sat well with me since they weren’t very balanced meals – very little fruit or veggies. And, I could never tell if he actually ate his lunch.

Then I got creative. Read on for great (easy) lunch ideas for cold and hot school lunches your kids will actually eat and you’ll feel good about. Big thank you to Blogher and Shamrock Farms who sponsored this post!

P.S. Don’t miss our new lunch ideas post for 2017! 

Update on the Lunchbox:

For first grade, my son started using this Planet Box lunchbox.

PlanetBox Lunch Box-2

Start with the drink:

1. Milk: my son’s drink of choice so I always make sure he has milk for lunch.

2. Juice – select a juice box that has reduced sugar and real fruit juice

Practical School Lunch Ideas-6

School Lunch Main Course (Grains & Meats):

1. DIY “lunchables”: crackers, deli turkey or salami, sliced cheese

2. Sandwich or sandwich kabobs: disguise their sandwich by threading turkey, cubed string cheese, and squares of bread on skewers.

3. Mini bagels and cream cheese

4. Easy chicken sliders (canned chicken – drained well and mixed with mayo and black pepper to taste, place filling between lettuce and cheese to keep the bun from getting soggy)

5. Tortilla pinwheels (cream cheese, sliced cheese, deli turkey, thinly sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce or spinach – roll tightly and slice into rounds)

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

School Lunch Fruit:

1. Small banana

2. Grapes

3. Blueberries, strawberries or other berries

4. Fruit kabobs – (click for recipe)

5. Apricot, apple,.. whatever your kids love

6. Applesauce 7. Peeled clementines

School Lunch Veggies:

1. Baby carrots with ranch in mini cups

2. Cucumber slices

3. Snap peas

4. Salad (romaine, cheese, croutons, side of ranch)

5. Avocado slices (to prevent browning: slice flesh into bite-sized pieces inside the skin, scoop out flesh and replace into shell, drizzle with lemon juice, cover tightly with plastic wrap)

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

School Lunch Snacks and Treats:

1. Banana bread (click for recipe)

2. Yogurt

3. Pudding

4. String cheese

5. Pretzels, or gold fish crackers

6. Fruit snacks or fruit leather

7. Dried fruit (raisins, craisins, banana or apple chips)

8. Z-Bar or fruit bars (click for recipe)

9. Muffin

10. Chocolate chip cookie (Recipe Here)

12. DIY trail mix

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

Here are some winning lunch combinations:

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

[DIY “lunchables”, cucumber slices, grapes, yogurt]

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

[chicken slider, salad with ranch, trail mix, banana]

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

[turkey sandwich kabobs, carrots & ranch, apricot, pudding]

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

[mini bagel with cream cheese, snap peas, strawberries, fruit leather, string cheese]

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

[tortilla pinwheels, sliced avocado, blueberries, banana chips]

Hot Lunch Ideas (with a Thermos):

Tips for using a thermos: *We recommend the Thermos Foogo 10 oz or Thermos Funtainer 10 oz): *Pack hot thermos in the morning (5 hours before it’s eaten) *Heat the thermos first: add boiling water, cover and let sit 5 min then drain. Heat food until it’s hot. Place into heated thermos and close tightly with lid. Food will be warm at lunchtime.

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

What to put in a hot lunch thermos:

1. Soup (try: chicken noodle soup or mom’s meatball soup)

2. Pasta (try: chicken alfredo, spaghetti with shrimp)

3. Pilaf/rice, or stir fry (try: creamy chicken and rice, shrimp fried rice)

4. Leftovers! You can really get creative with a thermos. Just avoid foods with overwhelming aromas (i.e. broccoli and cabbage) Here’s a Printable Reference:

Practical School Lunch Ideas (Cold and Hot Lunch Ideas)

4.9 from 49 reviews
Here are some great (easy) ideas for cold and hot school lunches your kids will actually eat and you'll feel good about.
Author:
Skill Level: Easy
Cost To Make: Varies

Ingredients

Start with the drink:

  • Milk: my son's drink of choice so I always make sure he has milk for lunch.
  • Juice - select a juice box that has reduced sugar and real fruit juice

School Lunch Main Course (Grains & Meats):

  • DIY "lunchables": crackers, deli turkey or salami, sliced cheese
  • Sandwich or sandwich kabobs
  • Mini bagels and cream cheese
  • Easy chicken sliders (canned chicken - drained well and mixed with mayo and black pepper to taste, place filling between lettuce and cheese to keep the bun from getting soggy)
  • Tortilla pinwheels (cream cheese, sliced cheese, deli turkey, thinly sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce or spinach - roll tightly and slice into rounds)

School Lunch Fruit:

  • Small banana
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries, strawberries or other berries
  • Fruit kabobs - (click for recipe)
  • Apricot, apple,.. whatever your kids love
  • Applesauce
  • Peeled clementines

School Lunch Veggies:

  • Baby carrots with ranch in mini cups
  • Cucumber slices
  • Snap peas
  • Salad
  • Avocado slices

School Lunch Snacks and Treats:

  • Banana bread
  • Yogurt, Pudding
  • String cheese
  • Pretzels, or gold fish crackers
  • Fruit snacks or fruit leather
  • Dried fruit
  • Z-Bar
  • Muffin
  • Chocolate chip cookie
  • DIY trail mix

Instructions

Hot Lunch Ideas (with a Thermos):

Tips for using a thermos:

  1. Pack hot thermos in the morning (5 hours before it's eaten)
  2. Heat the thermos first: add boiling water, cover and let sit 5 min then drain. Heat food until it's hot. Place into heated thermos and close tightly with lid. Food will be warm at lunchtime.

What to put in a hot lunch thermos:

  1. Soup (try: chicken noodle soup or meatball soup)
  2. Pasta (try: chicken alfredo, spaghetti with shrimp)
  3. Pilaf/rice, or stir fry (try: creamy chicken and rice, shrimp fried rice)
  4. Leftovers! You can really get creative with a thermos. Avoid foods with strong aromas (i.e. broccoli and cabbage)

 

Big Thank you to Shamrock Farms and Walmart for sponsoring this post. Get more lunchtime inspiration from them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Practical School Lunch Ideas-11Can you tell by the look in his eye that I promised him candy for this photo? 😉

You'll want to pin these practical School Lunch Ideas. Cold and hot lunches your kids will actually eat! | natashaskitchen.com

Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Becky
    October 5, 2017

    Thank you! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      October 5, 2017

      You’re welcome Becky! Reply

  • Cory
    September 18, 2017

    Love the ideas and recipes, my only suggestion would be a Tupperware type dip container instead of the daily plastic throw-aways. 🌲 🙂 Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      September 18, 2017

      Great suggestion Cory! 🙂 Reply

    • Tiffany
      September 29, 2017

      Why can’t you wash the throwaways? 🙂 Reply

  • Oksana
    August 22, 2017

    👌👌 need this post! Also where is the plastic lunch box container from? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      August 22, 2017

      The old one was from Costco and I’m not sure if they sell it this year or not but it’s worth checking! The new one we use is a Planet Box.  Reply

  • Nicky Washida
    August 21, 2017

    Another year another lunch planning spreadsheet….! But this year I have high hopes that I will actually STICK to it! The key difference: simplicity. Thank you so much for this! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      August 21, 2017

      I think that’s the most challenging part of back to school! I hope you get some good ideas here. Make sure you check out our new school lunch post also. Reply

  • Sabrinaleigh
    August 21, 2017

    It is so hard to think of recipes on you’re own but Natasha you make life easy and a little bit confusing . Some of you’re recipes where off the hook but on others a little bit more .

    Thank You So Much ! Reply

  • Mindy Melnychuk
    August 4, 2017

    Natasha, I also want to say thank you and “molodets”! I first came to your site for your medovik recipe and have found so many other great recipes and hints. Your site is so well organized and colorful. My husband is Ukrainian, but making Ukrainian food in America can sometimes be tricky. You help decipher it a bit. Keep up the good work! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      August 5, 2017

      You’re welcome Mindy! Thanks you for following and sharing your thoughtful comments! 😀 Reply

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