Cold School Lunch Ideas For Picky Eaters

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Cold school lunch ideas for picky eaters can be tricky to come up with if you don’t have a lot of time to make these meals. But, there are ways to do it. Below is a list of cold school lunches that fit the bill.

HOW TO KEEP A COLD LUNCH COLD 

Even though these lunches don’t require refrigeration, there are a few tips to keep them chilled and staying fresh for lunchtime. 

Keep liquids and sauces in separate containers
When it comes to salads and wraps, it’s best to keep the sauces and dressings in a separate container. Many sauces contain salt, which causes produce to loose moisture making a soggy lunch. 

Use a small lidded container, like this one, to pack salad dressings, hummus, guacamole, ketchup, and other dips. 

Ice pack
When in doubt, toss in an icepack. They’ll keep everything cool and prevent the lunch from spoiling. 

Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids | 7-Layer Dip Cups

Cold lunches are the perfect thing for kids to take to school because they require no reheating and the possibilities are endless! These 7 layer dip cups are a great place to start for a colorful and fun lunch that’s also healthy. 

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 dip cups
  • Category: Lunch

Ingredients

  • 4 small, lidded jars
  • 1 cup Easy Guacamole Recipe
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh salsa
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced small
  • 8 ounce can sliced black olives
  • Minced green onion, topping

Instructions

  1. Layer 2 tablespoons of guacamole, black beans, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and black olives into each cup. Top with green onions and refrigerate.

Cold Lunch Ideas That Go Beyond PB&J

Packing lunch has its perks: It’s cheap, nutritious and rewarding to eat something homemade. But what do you do when there’s no microwave to reheat your hard work? Brown-bag one of these cold lunch ideas instead, of course.

cold lunch ideas smashed chickpea salad sandwich recipe

1. Smashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, beginner-friendly, make-ahead, ready in <30 minutes, no cook

Just like its cousins chicken and tuna, this lightning-fast salad is riffable, protein-packed and will keep in the fridge for a few days. But unlike the competition, it’s meatless Monday friendly.

cold lunch ideas make ahead spicy chicken and rice salad recipe

2. Make-ahead Spicy Chicken And Rice Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, gluten free, less than 500 calories, dairy free

It’s not just that you can make this one in advance; it’s that you should. An overnight rest in the fridge will allow the flavors to meld before you dig in. (Don’t like the way the purple cabbage stains? Swap it for green.)

cold lunch ideas caesar pasta salad recipe

3. Caesar Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, kid-friendly, make ahead

If you can’t possibly choose between a crisp lettuce salad and a creamy pasta salad, don’t. This franken-meal has the best of both: a salty-savory dressing, crunchy croutons, toothsome pasta and plenty of Parm.

cold lunch ideas aran goyoaga nicoise salad recipe

4. Aran Goyoaga’s Niçoise Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, make ahead, crowd-pleaser, vegetarian

Pack everything in separate containers to keep it from turning to mush before lunchtime, then assemble it when you’re ready to eat. Easy, right?

cold lunch ideas salmon noodle bowls with chili yuzu relish and pickled radishes recipe

5. Salmon Noodle Bowls With Chili-yuzu Relish And Pickled Radishes

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, high protein, dairy free

This dish is just as delicious served cold as it is served warm (if not more). Even better, it’s customizable: Whatever veggies are in your fridge are fair game.

cold lunch ideas lemon roasted potatoes chicken and spinach with tzatziki recipe

6. Lemon-roasted Potatoes, Chicken And Spinach With Tzatziki

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, high protein

It’s not just the adorable bento box that makes this lunch look irresistible. It’s the fact that everything tastes amazing straight from the refrigerator (and will keep for up to five days). Make a double batch for you and your kids.

cold lunch ideas pearl couscous with chickpeas eggplant peaches recipe

7. Pearl Couscous With Chickpeas, Eggplant And Peaches

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, make ahead, dairy free

If peaches aren’t in season, you can easily swap them for another fruit, and the whole thing can be made ahead. (Need more convincing?)

cold lunch ideas citrus shrimp and quinoa salad with feta recipe

8. Citrus, Shrimp And Quinoa Salad With Feta

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, make ahead, <10 ingredients

A cold quinoa salad is right up our alley, but the mixed citrus and shrimp take it over the edge. (And FYI, it only takes 20 minutes to make.)

cold lunch ideas colorful jarred noodle salad recipe

9. Colorful Peanut Noodle Jar

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, gluten free, vegan, make ahead

On days when you’re sick of eating the same sad kale salad for lunch, look to this convenient and quick noodle mason jar salad for something exciting and new. (It’s also a cute and easy way to get your kids to eat some veggies, just saying.

cold lunch ideas avocado chicken salad recipe

10. Avocado Chicken Salad

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, make ahead, kid-friendly

Chicken salad recipes are a dime a dozen, but skip the outdated grapes, cranberries and nuts and add avocado to the cold lunch classic instead. It’s creamy with less mayo and packed with healthy fats—a win-win

cold lunch ideas greek yogurt chicken salad stuffed peppers recipe hero

11. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, make ahead, no cook

Or, skip the mayo entirely and swap it with Greek yogurt. Bonus: These stuffed bell peppers are super easy on the eyes (and kid-friendly).

cold lunch ideas yellow tomato gazpacho recipe

12. Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, make ahead, less than 500 calories

Cold soup for lunch? Yep, it’s a thing, and it’s delicious. Everyone at work will think you’re some kind of chef.

Cold Lunch Ideas

Spicy Buffalo Chickpea Wraps

Spicy buffalo-flavored chickpeas mixed with vegetables and bleu cheese dressing are wrapped in lettuce to make these heavenly wraps!

This chickpea dish is ridiculously tasty, and I promise you won’t miss the chicken.

The combination of flavors and textures is absolutely to die for. And it’s healthy, to boot!

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

This next dish makes the most scrumptious chicken wraps!

It’s buffalo-flavored rotisserie chicken wrapped in a soft tortilla and garnished with lettuce and a blue cheese dressing. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The Best Collard Wraps with Quinoa & VeggiesSimply QuinoaThese healthy Quinoa & Veggie Collard Wraps are super easy to make and jam-packed with tons of goodies! They’re low calorie, but still full of protein and healthy fats so they’ll keep you nice and full! Such a healthy lunch idea for busy days!s

Collard Wraps with Quinoa & Veggies

If you’re trying to cut back on carbs without sacrificing flavor, these collard wraps are the way to go.

They’re made with cucumber, tomato, carrots, sprouts, hummus, quinoa, and avocado.

All of that is wrapped in crisp collard leaves to make the perfect healthy and tasty bite.

Spinach & Cheese Savoury Lunchbox Muffins

In the mood for savory muffins? These mouthwatering spinach and cheese muffins are guaranteed to scratch that itch.

These hearty muffins are loaded with spinach, red peppers, and, of course, cheese! It’s comfort food at its best.

The secret to its flavor? A stock cube! Don’t underestimate the power of this humble ingredient.

Caprese Style Hasselback Roma Tomatoes

Move over, Hasselback potatoes. These Hasselback tomatoes are the sweeter, lighter, and healthier option.

Here’s a breakdown of what goes into this dish: Roma tomatoes sliced with slits, each stuffed with mozzarella and basil. 

It doesn’t end there. The tomatoes are then sprinkled with red chili flakes, salt, and pepper for flavor.

Finished with a drizzling of olive oil and pesto, these tomatoes are a masterpiece.

Country Ham Sandwich

Nothing beats the classics. Case in point: the ham sandwich. 

There really is something amazing about ham and mayonnaise together. I’m perfectly happy with just these two ingredients in a sandwich.

This recipe, however, takes the classic to a whole new level by simply adding a few more ingredients.

With just some white bread, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a tangy mayo garlic dressing, you’ll get to enjoy the most satisfying sandwich ever.

Chickpea Salad

This chickpea salad consists of crisp and colorful vegetables and creamy garbanzo beans.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, chickpeas, and a lemon dressing make the most lip-smacking salad!

It’s the perfect salad for those trying to cut down on meat.

The chickpeas are not just loaded with flavor, but with protein as well, so you’ll still get your dietary needs just the same.

Burrito Bowls – This burrito bowl recipe with spice-rubbed chicken, cilantro-lime quinoa (or rice), beans, vegetables, and an addictive chili lime sauce is a meal you’ll want to make over and over again!

Burrito Bowl

Quinoa, beans, veggies, and a spice-flavored chicken is what you’ll get in this tastebud-tingling bowl.

The different colors, flavors, and textures make this bowl insanely addictive.

The chili lime sauce is the perfect dressing to tie all the flavors together. It’s proof that healthy bowls can taste amazing, too! 

Chicken Pesto Sandwich 

Chicken coated in pesto and Greek yogurt is what makes up this unbelievably tasty sandwich!

It’s creamy, refreshing, and so satisfying. It’s hearty and healthy, too.

It’s unusual to get such a wonderful combination in a dish, so this one’s definitely a keeper.

You can enjoy it as is, or take it up a notch by adding arugula, mozzarella, and tomatoes

Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids That They’ll Want to Eat Forever

Rainbow Veggie Wraps

These cold lunch ideas for kids are sure to please both kiddos and the adults making them. Kids can get their fill of fruits, veggies, protein and more necessary nutrients with these healthy meals that aim to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. Recipes like our Cucumber Turkey Sub Sandwich and Rainbow Veggie Wraps are fresh and delicious.

Pasta Salad with Black Beans & Avocado Dressing

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Everyone will love this pasta salad recipe that’s packed with tomatoes, corn and black beans. We lighten up the creamy dressing with avocado for a healthier version of a picnic favorite.

These cold lunch ideas for kids are sure to please both kiddos and the adults making them. Kids can get their fill of fruits, veggies, protein and more necessary nutrients with these healthy meals that aim to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. Recipes like our Cucumber Turkey Sub Sandwich and Rainbow Veggie Wraps are fresh and delicious

Cucumber Turkey Sub Sandwich

two sandwich halves on a board

When you’re craving a sub but you don’t want all the carbs, these turkey-and-cheese deli sandwiches on cucumber rolls are a healthy alternative. Hollow out a cucumber and fill it up with your favorite sandwich fillings for a crisp sub with less carbs and calories. Plus, you can easily pack these up for work, school or a picnic–no soggy bread!

Rainbow Veggie Wraps

These cold lunch ideas for kids are sure to please both kiddos and the adults making them. Kids can get their fill of fruits, veggies, protein and more necessary nutrients with these healthy meals that aim to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. Recipes like our Cucumber Turkey Sub Sandwich and Rainbow Veggie Wraps are fresh and delicious.

Cucumber Turkey Sub Sandwich

two sandwich halves on a board

When you’re craving a sub but you don’t want all the carbs, these turkey-and-cheese deli sandwiches on cucumber rolls are a healthy alternative. Hollow out a cucumber and fill it up with your favorite sandwich fillings for a crisp sub with less carbs and calories. Plus, you can easily pack these up for work, school or a picnic–no soggy bread!

Rainbow Veggie Wraps

6538898.jpg

There’s definitely a sushi vibe to these kid-friendly wraps, which are stuffed with vegetables, cheese and hummus and then rolled and sliced. Serve them with store-bought green goddess, a creamy herb-filled dressing, to take it up a notch with ease. They look impressive but they’re easy enough for kids to assemble themselves for an easy lunch or dinner.

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