Healthy lunch box recipes for preschoolers are so easy to make with the right ingredients. It only takes a few minutes and then you’re done, ready for the morning school run.
Since it’s back to school time, this post is a little different from most of the content I write on my blog. I want to make sure you are getting the best out of your lunch box and your day! My daughter is about to head off to preschool and I wanted to share some of my favorite (and easy) lunch box recipes for kids, also known as healthy lunch box recipes for preschoolers.
Related Post: Cold Lunch Box Ideas For Picky Eaters
My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger pack lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and posts them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two little ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.
Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers
My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABCs of Lunchbox Packing”.
The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifical vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.
- Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
- Apples with a sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
- Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots, and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
- Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
- “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips
- Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
- Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
- Hummus and veggie skewers as well as chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
- Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese as well as whole grain pretzels, a note from Mommy
- Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles
- Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
- Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich. Hard-cooked egg, grapes as well as (cut into small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
- Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers, and carrots with ranch
- Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
- Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus
- Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, a note from Mommy
- Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
- Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
- Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
- Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coin
Related Post: Healthy Vegetarian Lunch Box Ideas
ABC of Lunchbox Packing
- Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always as well as include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of days such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
- Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key to increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls as well as they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, we likely have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple; carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just as well as help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2-year-old!).
- Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful as well as when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart as well as mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.
About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves) as well as Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).
Healthy lunch box recipes
Keep your kids going all day long as well as with these healthy lunch box ideas. From sandwiches to wraps and scrolls, and from muffins to slices and biscuits as well as we’ve got you covered. Try making these cheese and Vegemite scrolls, pizza pinwheels as well as or yogurt and oat muffins.
LUNCH BOX RECIPES FOR KIDS
It’s almost back-to-school time again!
This evokes feelings of both happiness and dread inside of me.
Happy, because I get a much-missed routine back into our lives after spending all summer with little-to-no structure. But I dread the idea of having to get up early to prep and make lunches every single morning. My mornings of sitting on my front porch. Sipping my coffee for as long as I liked are going go to over sooner than I would like.
All those lunches. Packed over and over again. It can be overwhelming, even for a kid’s food blogger <——- I’m 100% with you on this one
To make those school lunches more manageable, I gathered up all of my favorite school lunch recipes for you (and me) to use. Consider this a one-stop shop for all of your school lunch food needs. These recipes are as healthy as they are tasty. They are easy to make and easy to store, so you can make them once and have them as well as for multiple lunches also Everyday Heroes – Harvest Chicken Salad also Spiced Seed Butter, Cherry + Almond Chia Seed Jam, and Veggie-Loaded Rainbow Pizza.
Superpower Snacks – Carrot Applesauce as well as Chewy Mint Chocolate Granola Bars, 3 Healthy Trail Mixes for Kids, and Healthy Kid (and Mom) Approved Zucchini Bread – 3 ways!
Harvest Chicken Salad – serve on a roll, with crackers, or over some greens if your kid will eat it that way:)
Healthy Trail Mixes for Kids – depending on your school, you may need to substitute the peanuts or nuts for seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds.
Mini Chicken + Carrot Meatballs
Caprese on a Stick
Chewy Mint Chocolate Granola Bars
Spiced Seed Butter – this seed butter is SOOOO good if your school is nut free, if not, try this delicious Almond as well as Vanilla Butter.
Applesauce Combos for Toddlers + Kids
Related Post: Chicken With Baked Beans
Kale + Spinach with Apple Quesadilla
Cherry + Almond Chia Seed Jam
Carrot Hummus with Toasted Paprika Pita Chips – send to school with some sliced veggies for a wholesome and delicious lunch as well as Bonus – this is even great for your lunch! Want more hummus recipes, try these yummy ones – Green Pea Hummus, Sweet Potato Thai Hummus, and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus.
Healthy Kid (and Mom) Approved Zucchini Bread – 3 ways! – I like to send a thick slice of this healthy zucchini bread with a smear of cream cheese on top for school lunches.
3 Toddler Approved Yogurt Dips for Veggies
Our favorite dips – are Healthy Honey Mustard, Healthy Ranch Dip, and Basil + Lemon Pesto.
Leeks + Spinach + Parsley Cream Cheese Spread
Veggie-Loaded Rainbow Pizza