This week, you might be pinning that cute idea for Hello Kitty sushi rolls and practical diagrams for weekly lunch prep. But one week into the back-to-school rush, and those monkey face sandwiches with pre-portioned snack baggies may not seem like a barrel of fun. Which is why I’ve put together these easy kids lunch ideas! None require any advanced preparation. And I’ve included options for most dietary needs, from top allergen free to plant-based and vegan.
The Dairy-Free Milk & Cereal Lunch Box
There’s no shame in this one. Some kids just love cereal, and it can be a healthy meal that they will actually eat! Fill a container with whole-grain, high-protein, low-sugar, dairy-free cereal or granola that fits their other dietary needs. Add a bunch of fresh berries (and chopped nuts if they are safe for school). Pack along a single-serve, shelf-stable dairy-free milk beverage. Ripple Foods has a Vanilla Kids Pack that’s top allergen free, and adds delicious sweetness to hearty cereals. It’s also high in protein (8 grams), calcium (45% of the RDA), and vitamin D (30% of the RDA).
The Hummus Lunch Box
There are so many delicious, inexpensive, and dairy-free hummus flavors to choose from! If soy or other severe food allergies are a concern, use extra caution when checking the ingredient labels. Many brands are made with soy oil or are made in a facility where milk or nuts may be present on the lines. Nonetheless, there are several allergy-friendly options available. For dipping, pack mini bell peppers, whole olives, snap peas, baby tomatoes, and baby carrots. None of these require any cutting! You can also buy pre-cut vegetables, like celery sticks. Whole grain pita or pretzels are also fun additions. And for a special treat, toss in a high-protein vanilla milk beverage.
The Southwestern Salsa Box
As a teen, this was actually one of my go-to lunches. Simply toss a can of drained and rinsed black beans in a bowl with organic corn kernels (canned or frozen), and a favorite salsa. Stir to combine everything. If desired, add in diced avocado, sliced olives, fresh diced tomatoes, or a little hot sauce. Serve with tortilla chips and baby carrots for a surprisingly filling, plant-based meal that travels well. If adding a milk beverage, I usually pair Vanilla with Southwestern-style meals.
The Roll-Up Box
It’s like a sushi box, but not really. Spread one or two whole grain tortillas (gluten free, if needed) with almond butter or seed butter. Sprinkle on ground cinnamon and raisins. Grate on some carrot for a carrot cake vibe! Roll them up and slice. Serve with a small apple, baby carrots, and a Ripple Chocolate pea milk single for some extra protein and a special treat! Like the Vanilla, the Chocolate flavor is also high in calcium (45% of the RDA), and vitamin D (30% of the RDA). Plus, it’s lower in sugar than dairy-based chocolate milk.
The Asian Kabob Box
Thread bites of vegetables and a protein onto toothpicks, or use uncooked spaghetti noodles or cake pop sticks if you are concerned about sharp points. For the produce, you can pick cucumber slices, chopped bell pepper, or leftover roasted vegetable chunks. I use pre-baked tofu cubes, leftover cut chicken (regular or vegan), or turkey slices (regular or vegan) for the protein. And for dipping, pack along a Thai seed butter sauce, tahini dressing, or a safe Asian-inspired dressing. I also like to include orange wedges, chocolate milk beverage, and edamame pods on the side. The latter can be purchased frozen to defrost in the lunchbox.
This post for easy kids lunch ideas is sponsored by Ripple Foods, but the concepts and photos are my own. Not to mention, they are my top recommendation for school-safe milk beverage! New Original Ripple Milk Kids Pack Singles (with just 6 grams of sugar) are also landing in stores this year.
such great brainstorming ideas for those days I’m not feeling creative! Thank you! Do you have a recommendation for a lunch box such as this that is easy to open? The ones we have tried are hard for my little girls’ hands (ages 6 and 9)
Hi Virginia, have you tried a Bentgo? -> https://amzn.to/2x3Wkni – a lot of moms report that they are easy to open for kids.
I would have loved cereal for lunch as a kid! These are such fun ideas when a sandwich just won’t do.
Me too! I can’t believe I never thought of it back then 🙂
I don’t know any kid who wouldn’t love opening up any one of those delicious lunch boxes. Such a great collection of healthy recipes.
I know I would have loved them (and still do!). Thanks Linda!
I don’t have kids, but I wouldn’t mind having these lunches myself!
They’re adult-approved for sure!
Such great ideas Alisa. My kids would love the cereal box!
Right? What kid wouldn’t?
I love that roll up idea! I am so trying it next time I have some tortillas in the house! I still haven’t tried Ripple milk. I think I saw it for the first time the other day at our new Whole Foods so I will pick some up next time.
It’s super versatile since it’s richer than most Mel!
Hi Alisa, Wonderful resource!! Looks like really healthy and delicious. My eye is on The Roll-Up Box, can i have it in my lunch as well? 🙂
I did, so I definitely think so!
LOVE all of these ideas! Great for adults, too 😉 Saving for later!
Um… are these just for kids? I have my eye on some of these for work lunches. Especially that Asian kabob box. Great list!
Definitely not! But you might be able to get away with regular skewers in an adult lunch box 🙂 Great way to enjoy leftovers!!
Love getting new ideas for lunches! My kids love when I switch it up for them. And we love the chocolate ripple, I think if they could have just that they would. LOL!
Oh too funny! I probably would have wanted the same thing as a kid!
What a great resource for parents! All of these lunches look so healthy and delicious!
Love all of these choices. My kids always ask for something similar to your Southwestern Box. I’ve honestly never thought to send cereal, but it’s a great idea with little packaged milks like this. My kids love cereal – I’ll have to try this!
Right? Sarah, my Associate Editor, suggested it and I thought it was so darn clever! I mean, we all have those days, and what kid wouldn’t be happy with a cereal lunch box? 🙂
So many delicious options!!
Already stocked up on Ripple Milk boxes!! Luckily I didn’t buy too many though because I didn’t see a date on the outside and we have one for every day until the day before they expire (Oct) and we’ll stock up with more soon. We have been buying them for camping and after gymnastics instead of the single bottles we were buying of Ripple.
That’s awesome – you are so prepared Sarah! And your kids are indeed lucky. You always stock such great food!! And these are awesome for camping and activities like gymnastics. Brilliant!
I’m LOVING all of these ideas! Especially the roll ups! I couldn’t eat dairy as a kid (still can’t) and these lunches definitely would’ve made me smile!
Thanks Laura! I think we forget how much we truly love simplicity, especially when we’re kids!
I love ALL of these lunch ideas. I might even make a few for myself 😉
Thanks Chrystal. I did! Those roll-ups are actually awesome for breakfast, too (they’ve been on repeat lately!) and the Southwestern makes 2 to 3 lunches and goes great over rice, too 🙂