Packing 180 school lunch boxes every year can get old, fast. The easier the better, am I right? If you're looking to fill kids' lunch boxes with more nutritious and filling foods, you've landed in just the right place.
These lunch boxes are geared towards elementary and middle school kiddos who eat pretty independently but still need plenty of protein to fuel their school days. The best part? Most of these ideas would satisfy hungry adults, too. Here are 10 easy and healthy lunch ideas — without a single sandwich in sight.
Buy the Lunch Box
We're pretty obsessed with this simple-yet-sturdy bento-style lunch box from LunchBots. We prefer this large size with five distinct compartments, but LunchBots also offers other sizes and configurations like this Small Protein Packer. We also love their tiny Condiment Cups for dressings and dips.
10 Super-Easy Lunch Box Ideas for Kids
These creative protein-packed lunches go way beyond PB&J.
1. Smoothie Bowl
Packing a smoothie bowl is an easy way to work a ton of fruits and vegetables into lunch. What's fun is that you can freeze it directly in the bento box — just pour the smoothie in the night before and throw it in the freezer. In the morning, fill the rest of the compartments with other fun breakfast-for-lunch components.
- Get a recipe: Smoothie Breakfast Bowl with Berries & Granola
- Pack with: Sliced kiwi, granola clusters, cucumber slices, freeze-dried fruit mix
2. Sandwich Skewers
Sometimes switching up how a classic lunch food is assembled is the difference between a lunch devoured and a lunch returned. Here, we transformed a turkey sandwich into sandwich skewers filled with cheddar and cherry tomatoes. Sandwich skewers also use less bread, and are an open invitation for more veggies.
- Get a recipe: Arrange bread cubes and thick slices of cheddar, turkey, and cherry tomatoes on skewers.
- Pack with: Apple slices, bell pepper strips, hummus, KIND Kids bar
3. Avocado Toast
The secret to packing avocado toast for lunch is to cover the toast tightly with plastic wrap to keep it from turning brown.
- Get a recipe: Avocado Toast Two Ways, for Mama & Baby
- Pack with: Mixed berries, tomato-cucumber salad, Snap pea crisps, KIND Kids bar
4. Pasta Salad
Yes, pasta salad can be healthy! Make your own or grab one from the deli section or salad bar at your grocery store and then add as many vegetables as it will hold.
- Get a recipe: How To Make the Easiest Pasta Salad
- Pack with: Quartered strawberries, a clementine, hard-boiled eggs
5. Nori Wraps
Using nori as a sandwich wrap is a fun way to dress up hummus and vegetables as something other than a sandwich. Make sure you toast the nori — you can do this over a stove burner or a quick toast in the toaster oven — which will help it stay crisp in the lunch box.
- Get a recipe: Nori Is My Go-To, Wheat-Free Burrito Wrap
- Pack with: Orange slices, cubed dragon fruit, freeze-dried edamame, raisins
6. Egg + Flatbread roll ups
Breakfast for lunch is an easy way to pack in protein. Make a simple wrap of scrambled egg and flatbread, which is a hearty alternative to hard-boiled eggs.
- Get a recipe: Egg Wraps with Ham and Greens
- Pack with: Grapes, carrot sticks, Babybel cheese, apple slices
Freezer potstickers are an easy shortcut to a healthy lunch. Choose a vegetable-packed option or make and freeze your own.
- Get a recipe: Potsticker Stir-Fry
- Pack with: Mixed berries, cauliflower fried rice, clementine, Biena Crispy Chickpeas
8. Chickpea Nuggets
These dairy-free chickpea nuggets are full of protein and fiber, plus they're just totally fun. My 6-year-old loves them packed with an herb yogurt (kind of like a faux ranch dip).
- Get a recipe: Chickpea Nuggets
- Pack with: Grapes, Greek salad, pita chips, squeezable yogurt pouch
Pig in a blanket can be totally healthy if you buy quality sausage and skip the crescent rolls for all-butter puff pastry. Pack this whole rather than sliced so they hold together better.
- Get a recipe: The Easiest Pigs in a Blanket
- Pack with: Apple slices, roasted sweet potato cubes, pretzel crisps, Mamma Chia fruit pouch
10. Black Bean Burrito
A simple black bean and cheese burrito is an easy alternative to a sandwich that's just as easy to pack. Make your own, or find a freezer option you love and heat in the morning before school.
- Get a recipe: Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
- Pack with: Sliced avocado, roasted corn, tortilla chips, salsa