Last Updated on September 17, 2023
Coming up with school lunch ideas for picky eaters can be a big challenge. Especially if you’re trying to incorporate healthy options into your child’s lunch box. The good news is there are lots of fun and healthy school lunch ideas that even extremely picky kids and fussy eaters will approve of.
Of course, it’s important to remember that every child is different and what works for one may not work for another. Understanding your picky eater and what’s going to help them stay fed and nourished is the priority.
But what if your kid is not a simple sandwich eater? Coming up with healthy and fun school lunch ideas for picky eaters can take some preparation and creativity. But there are lots of different foods and great choices to help your picky kid enjoy lunchtime at school.
We’ve come up with a list of go-to healthy and fun lunch ideas for the picky eater in your family. Plus we’ll share some of our favorite tips for making any lunch the perfect lunch for your growing kiddo.
30 Fun and Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters
Here is a list of school lunch ideas for picky eaters to try:
- Ham and cheese roll-ups with a side of apple slices
- Greek yogurt with mixed berries and granola
- Bagel with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of baby carrots
- Mini quiche with shredded cheese on top
- Deconstructed nachos with chips, mild salsa, and taco meat
- Turkey and cheese wrap with grapes on the side
- Build-your-own turkey pepperoni pizzas
- Baked chicken nuggets with a small side of mac and cheese
- Homemade Un-crustables with a side of fruit salad
- Whole grain crackers with hummus and cherry tomatoes
- Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup for dipping
- Hard-boiled eggs with a side of whole grain toast and avocado slice
- Whole grain spaghetti with turkey meatballs and a small side of garlic bread
- Cold pasta salad with deli meat and cheese cubes
- Spread cream cheese on crackers with a side of lunchmeat
- Homemade granola bars with nut butter for a dipping sauce
- Quesadilla with refried beans on the side
- “Snack lunch” style with a yogurt tube, veggie straws, raisins, and sliced banana
- Deconstructed taco salad with grain-free tortilla chips and shredded chicken
- Mac & cheese with finely chopped spinach added to the mix
- English muffin pizzas with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese
- Tuna salad stuffed celery sticks
- DIY Lunchable with cheese bites and protein on the side
- Raw veggies like sliced tomatoes with hummus or ranch dressing
- Cooked salmon with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
- A traditional sandwich like a PB&J but with almond butter and honey
- Mini pancakes with extra protein powder added and a side of maple syrup for dipping
- Slow cooker shredded chicken with barbecue sauce and bell pepper wedges
- Chicken nuggets with a side of ketchup and berries
Involve your picky eater in the lunch packing process and offer a variety of healthy options. And if you need specific recipes for these lunch ideas, check out the Yummy Toddler Food blog.
There may be certain food groups you need to avoid to get your picky eater on board with these school lunch ideas. Accommodating some preferences is certainly important to make sure your child is fed and ready to face the day at school. But there are creative ways to make sure you’re sending your kid to school with a nutritious lunch.
Top Tips for Packing School Lunches for Picky Eaters
Instead of using lots of sandwich bags, start with a bento lunch box. The individual containers or compartments make for easily packed lunches. And don’t forget an ice pack!
With that said, here are some simple tips for how to pack your child’s school lunch in a way that may get them more excited about different foods.
Getting kids excited and having fun in the kitchen is a great step toward trying new foods.
Tip #1 – Make it fun
Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes, or use toothpicks to turn fruit and vegetables into kebabs. The presentation can go a long way with picky eaters. Something as simple as a sandwich with a raisin or blueberry smiley face can go a long way. Sandwich cutters like these on Amazon can make healthy foods look fun and appetizing.
Tip #2 – Pack a bento box
A bento lunchbox allows you to include various small, visually appealing items in one container. Try packing a mixture of sweet and savory items, like crackers and cheese, grapes, and a small cookie. The perfect lunch for growing kids that are also picky eaters is variety! Check out these bento boxes that make packing by compartment super easy.
Offer some different dips or sauces with whatever healthy food you pack!
Tip #3 – Offer dips
Many picky eaters enjoy dipping their food, so try packing a small container of ranch dressing or peanut butter for veggies or crackers. A small muffin tin or cup inside a bento box makes a great container for sauces and dips.
Tip #4 – Include a favorite food
If your child has a favorite food, try to incorporate it into their lunch in a healthy way. For example, if they love pizza, pack a slice of whole-grain pita bread topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and veggies.
Tip #5 – Make it a “build your own” lunch
Pack a wider variety of items, and let your child choose what they want to include in their lunch. Think about it like a DIY Lunchable. Some options could be whole grain bread or wraps, cheese slices, deli meat, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.
Tip #6 – Swap out traditional sides
Rather than packing the usual chips or crackers, try packing healthier alternatives like sliced apples with cinnamon or a small bag of trail mix. Involving your child while packing lunch is also a great idea. Give them options to choose from, “Would you like carrots or apples with your lunch tomorrow?” Letting them pick gives them some decision-making power. And hopefully, they’ll be more likely to actually eat it!
Getting your kids involved is a great way to make “scary” foods more approachable and likable.
Tip #7 – Get the whole family involved
That leads us to our last tip. Involve your picky eater in the lunch packing process and ask for their input. This can help them feel more invested in their meals and may encourage them to try new things.
Remember, it’s okay if your child’s lunch isn’t perfect every day. The most important thing is to offer a variety of great lunch options and keep trying new things. With patience and persistence, you may be surprised at what your picky eater will start to enjoy.
For more tips and recipes, check out the JustCook blog.