20+ Healthy Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Picky eating is a normal development stage that happens in kids from ages 2 to 8 and can last weeks, months, or years depending on the aversion. It is easy to tell you “this too shall pass” and move on, but a spell of selective eating can turn mealtimes on their side — and this goes double for school lunches.

Here’s a handy list of recipe ideas — featuring veggies, fruits, whole grains, and plenty of protein, all things I try to incorporate in my kids’ diets — based on common picky eater problems, plus a few trial-and-error tips to help you find a solution for your family and your particular picky eater in whatever stage they might be in now.

Pair their favorites with new, unfamiliar foods.

Partnering is one of my go-to moves for servings new foods to my kids and it looks like the following: Find a noodle, pasta, or grain they love and serve it with new or recently disliked foods. At the very least they can eat the familiar or favorite food and leave everything else behind.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Turn sandwiches on their sides.

A disdain for lunch box sandwiches is actually much more common than you’d expect — bread can get soggy or sad in their lunch bag and scary ingredients might be lurking inside. Try a few of these wraps, muffins, or rolls instead.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Save the lunch box with simple salads.

As the kid who grew up hating mayonnaise and nearly cried any time my mom tried to sneak it into my lunch box, I think salads make a good alternative. It doesn’t have to be fancy — a simple one- or two-ingredient salad can make a lunch box sing.

What’s your favorite recipe to pack for your picky eater?