Cold Lunch Box Ideas For Picky Eaters


lunch boxes may be more routine for you than a bright, shiny new toy at Christmas but for many kids, the lunch box is not just about lunch. Cold lunch box ideas for picky eaters can be a challenge. Comedian George Burns once said “I’ve been married to the same woman for 45 years. If my wife ever learns to cook and keeps her mouth shut, I’ll be in real trouble.” I suggest you take a hint from George and find a way to develop that skill and also get your child’s approval with cold lunch box ideas for picky eaters.

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Looking for healthy school lunch ideas for picky eaters? These 30+ lunches for picky eaters are sure to spark your imagination and expand your picky child’s lunch menu options!

Dealing with a picky eater can be a frustrating challenge, but sometimes all it takes is a little creativity and ingenuity to spark your culinary imagination! We’ve compiled 30+ mix-and-match school lunch ideas to help you build the perfect lunch for your picky eater!


My big boys went back to school last week, and this year they are both attending school all day long. That means that this year I get the dubious honor of preparing school lunches for not just one, but two picky eaters each day. Lucky me?

In order to make my life a little easier, I sat down with these guys and compiled a list of all the foods that they might be willing to try at lunchtime. Naturally, they don’t agree on 100% of the foods on the list (honestly, they only agree on about 5% of them!), but at least it’s a start for those days when I’m running out of ideas! I thought it might be worthy of sharing if you also find yourself staring vacantly into the pantry before whipping up the gazillionth almond butter and jelly sandwich of the year. Variety is nice.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Now, before I start listing the foods, I know that some of you are going to say “This isn’t a list for PICKY eaters!” or “MY kid won’t eat half of the things you have listed on there!” Bear in mind that this is not a magical list that is suddenly going to make your child stop being a picky eater. It is simply a bunch of different easy lunch ideas that you may not have considered or tried yet. It is intended to inspire you and your child to try something new and to potentially spark other ideas that your child will agree to.


When you’re feeling overwhelmed with a picky eater, it can be super helpful to look at a large list of options that might encourage and inspire you to break out of the rut of the serving the same three foods all the time. Kids can be fussy eaters in many, MANY different ways (all three of my boys are very picky, and there are only about five foods that all of them can agree upon – I wish I was kidding!), so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the picky eater situation. Different foods are naturally going to appeal to different kids, so find the ones that your child responds favorably to and develop different variations that you can try out. Continue to offer your child new foods on a regular basis along with your good old standby options, and hopefully, you will soon be able to introduce some new alternatives into your lunchtime routine!

 For my boys’ lunches, I use Easy Lunchboxes because they fit perfectly into kid-sized lunch boxes, and the divided portion sections eliminate the need for a bunch of different plastic baggies (less mess, less waste – yay!). Because we use the Easy Lunchboxes, our list of lunch ideas is actually made up of two different lists – one for the main compartment (entree) and one for the two smaller compartments (side dishes). Simply chose one item from the main list and two from the side list, and you can easily create a customized lunch that is sure to please your picky eater!



  • Turkey and Cheese Tortilla Wrap
  • Ham and Cheese Bagel
  • Peanut Butter (or Almond Butter) and Honey Sandwich
  • Cream Cheese and Cucumber Finger Sandwiches
  • Cream Cheese and Jelly Tortilla Wrap
  • Chicken Nuggets and Dipping Sauces
  • Pasta – Ravioli, Tortellini, or Spaghetti with Sauce of Choice
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs or an Egg Salad Sandwich
  • Turkey & Cheese Crescent Rolls (or other meat/cheese combinations)
  • Quesadillas or Quesadilla Tortilla Rolls
  • Deli Meat and Cheese Kabobs
  • Simple Breakfast Burrito – Scrambled Eggs, Cheese, and Bacon in a Tortilla
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Healthy Muffins (Banana, Apple, Zucchini, Blueberry etc.)
  • Chicken Kabobs with Rice Balls
  • DIY “Lunchables” – Deli Meat, Cheese, and Crackers
  • Peanut Butter & Banana Graham Cracker Sandwich
  • Taquitos
  • Mini Burger/Turkey Burger Sliders
  • Breakfast for Lunch – Waffles, Pancakes, or French Toast
  • Egg Rolls & Potstickers
  • Build-Your-Own Mini Pizzas – English Muffin, Pizza Sauce, Cheese, and Toppings
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich Sticks
  • Bagel Dog or Pigs in a Blanket
  • Calzones/Pizza Pockets
  • Fruit Nachos – This Way OR This Way!
  • Mini Bagels with Jam, Cream Cheese, or Nut Butter
  • Pizza Quesadilla
  • Fruit and Cheese Kabobs
  • Pinwheel Sandwiches
  • Pita Bread and Hummus


  • Applesauce
  • Fruit – Strawberries, Bananas, Grapes, Blueberries, Melon, Pears, etc.
  • Veggies – Carrots, Celery, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, etc. with a Side of Ranch, Peanut Butter, or Hummus for Dipping!
  • Whole-Grain Goldfish
  • Cheese – String Cheese, Babybel, Cheddar Cubes, etc.
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins or Dried Fruit
  • Dry Cereal
  • Crackers – Graham Crackers, Ritz, Saltines, Club Crackers, etc.
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts – Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, etc.
  • Veggie Straws

 Easy No-Cook School Lunch Ideas

Make packing lunch WAY easier with these no-cook school lunch ideas. They work for little and big kids and can be adjusted and customized to suit the preferences of your child. Here’s to less stress about lunch!


School Lunch Ideas

After packing lunches for my oldest kiddo for a few years, I can safely say that it can actually be an easy task if you keep things in perspective and keep things super simple! Kids tend to like simpler meals anyway, so these no-cook school lunch ideas are here to help you if you ever get into a rut, if you run out of ideas, or if you want to let your kids scroll through and see what looks yummy to them.

Easy School Lunch Recipes

I have a lot of recipes for lunch that are perfect for sending in a thermos or a lunchbox, though I’m going to share 10 ideas that require no cooking at all. These are great ideas to throw together at the last minute in the morning (because life happens and I realize that is when many of us are actually packing!) and to make when it feels like you’re running low on groceries.

How to Make School Lunches Step-By-Step

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when packing lunches for kids/

  1. Aim to include a mix of food groups so that you have whole grains, protein, some dairy most days (if the kids eat it or otherwise a nondairy equivalent), a veggie, a fruit, and a food with some healthy fat in it. This will help them to get the nutrients they need and stay full until their afternoon snack.
  2. Remember that lunch periods are short and kids can talk a lot. Pack foods that are easy to chew and eat.
  3. Work with your child to pack foods they like most of the time so that you can feel reasonably confident that they’ll eat the lunch you send.
  4. Pack the lunch in a lunchbox in an insulated bag with an ice pack if you can to keep it cool until lunchtime.
  5. Add water or milk or plan to let the kiddo buy milk at school.
  6. Label anything reusable that they bring to lunch so it’s easy to find if they lose it at school.

TIP: If your child has a nut-allergy, make sure you talk to the school about how that’s handled in the lunchroom. If there’s a peanut table, you may need to request that they have a friend sit with them so that they aren’t alone, which can sometimes happen.


School Lunch Idea #1: Cheese and Crackers

Combine whole grain crackers, pepperoni, and cheese with mango and snap peas (or a fruit and veggie of your choice) for an easy lunch. This is a nice alternative to a sandwich that you can pack in minutes.

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchbox.


No Cook Lunch #2: Bagel Sandwich

Spread cream cheese and jam, turkey and cheese, hummus and lettuce, or sunflower seed butter and jam onto a lightly toasted bagel for a fun take on a sandwich. Add simple sides of produce like cucumbers and fruit to finish.

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchbox.


Easy Lunch #4: Tortilla Triangles

Fill a tortilla with sunflower seed butter and jam, bean dip, hummus, or turkey and cheese, fold over and cut into triangles for an easy lunch. Pack with simple sides such as a yogurt tube, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper. (Halve grapes and cherry tomatoes for kids under 4.)

TIP: Shown in a Planetbox.


School Lunch Idea #5: Yogurt and Granola

Pack breakfast for lunch with yogurt, granola, and easy sides of fruit. We like to do this in our Omiebox since the round compartment is a thermos and keeps the yogurt cool.

TIP: Shown in the Omiebox Bento Box.


Easy Kids Lunch #6: Simple Sandwich

There’s nothing wrong with an easy lunch and this sandwich is a great option. Use sunflower seed butter and jam or try Granola Butter, which is also nut-free and is super delicious. Pair with a fruit, veggie, and a fun food like cheese cracker sandwiches.

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box.


School Lunch #7: Freeze-Ahead PB&J

I’ve often joked that I always found the idea of Uncrustables super silly…until I actually had kids and realized how convenient a concept they are! But you can do something similar yourself with rounds of bread cut with a cookie cutter, then wrap them in plastic before freezing. Add cheese, kiwi, and crackers on the side for a kid-approved lunch.

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box.

two snack boxes for kids lunches

Easy Kids Lunch #8: Snack Box

This is our go-to lunch when we otherwise seem like we’re out of food and the kids always love it. Simply choose a whole grain, a protein, two items of produce and combine it all in a lunch box. Quick and easy!

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchbox.


Kids Lunch #9: Hummus and Crackers

If your kids like to dip and dunk, try pairing crackers with hummus. Add extra protein with cheese and/or a yogurt tube and a side of fruit like watermelon.

TIP: Shown in an Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box.

pancake-lunch-in-pink-lunchboxSchool Lunch Idea #10: Pancake Lunch

Pair frozen pancakes (simply warm in the microwave if frozen or in the fridge, then cut up) with a drizzle of maple syrup, a smear of jam, nut butter or cream cheese, a filling like cream cheese or sunflower seed butter and jam for a fun breakfast for lunch idea. Use homemade leftover pancakes or store bought ones (Kodiak makes some good ones)—or even try this with freezer waffles! Add applesauce, a veggie or two and a side of milk as desired.

Best Tips for Packing School Lunch

  • Try to make sure the foods are easy for the kids to eat in the time they have for lunch. I’ll never forget hearing that my then 6 year old couldn’t eat the baby carrots I sent with her because she didn’t have enough time to chew them!
  • Talk to your child about whether there was too much, not enough, or just the right amount of food so you can avoid wasting food and satisfy their hunger.
  • Let the kids help pack their lunches if they’re interested.
  • Invest in a good lunch box that will last (and be easy to clean!).
  • Place the lunchbox in an insulated bag with an ice pack to keep it cool.
  • Pack water or let the kids buy milk.
  • Aim to send a source of protein, a whole grain, and 2 items of produce (a fruit and a veggie) most days to help the kids hit their nutrition needs.
  • Mix in purchased school lunches—if your kids like them!—with packed ones from home to keep the work for you light.

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