Nothing makes you feel more like a parent than standing in the kitchen, bleary-eyed at 7 am, wondering what the heck you can put in their lunchboxes today. Let’s dive into our Lunch Box Ideas for Picky Eaters and make lunchtime the highlight of their day!
Whether you’ve got a picky eater or a child who believes variety is the spice of life, this list is bursting with lunch box inspirations to keep you busy.
Some kids want to eat the same thing day after day, whereas others soon grow tired of their tried and tested lunch box fillers. Younger children can be unpredictable; the food they couldn’t get enough of yesterday will be ‘disgusting’ tomorrow.
No parent likes the thought of their children going hungry at school. It’s important that your child is well fed throughout the day as this will boost his concentration and helps him focus in the classroom.
The key is to aim for healthy foods that will slowly release energy throughout the day, giving your child plenty of brainpower to get through the afternoon.
Top tips for school lunches
Here are some top tips to help you pack a school lunch fit for a superhero:
Opt for whole grains
Wholegrains release energy slowly and are great for keeping kids full for longer. Wholegrain bread, wholegrain rice, and wholegrain pasta are ideal lunch box foods for hungry kids.
If your kid isn’t a huge fan of whole grains, try offering a mix. You can make a sandwich with one slice of white and one slice of wholegrain; just make sure the white slice is on top when your child opens his lunchbox.
You could also use a combination of white and wholegrain pasta to make a pasta salad. A little wholegrain is better than none at all.
Switch the crisps
Kids love crisps but they don’t offer much in the way of nutritional value and they won’t make your child feel full. Homemade plain popcorn or plain rice cakes are great alternatives that still have that snacky vibe kids love.
Fruit doesn’t need to be fresh
Have some tinned fruits lurking in your kitchen cupboards for when you’re running low on fresh fruit. A pot of tinned fruit is a healthy snack. Just be sure to buy the fruit stored in juice rather than in syrup!
Get your kids involved
Children are often more willing to eat food they have prepared themselves. Get your children involved in school lunch prep each morning. They can help out by making the sandwiches and packing their own lunch boxes in the morning.
You can also involve them in the planning and shopping stages. Work together to come up with some healthy, balanced lunch ideas and then go to the shops to buy what you need.
Choose foods that are easy to eat
Lunch break is short and kids love to talk. They need food they can eat easily and quickly, otherwise, they’re likely to run out of time to eat it.
School lunch ideas for picky eaters
Try these ideas if your children are fussy eaters:
Cold lunch box ideas for picky eaters
The easiest option when it comes to school lunches is to opt for something cold. This means you don’t need to heat anything up in the morning and you won’t need to worry about your child struggling to open a tightly closed thermos.
Here are some cold lunch box ideas for picky eaters:
Kids love to make a mess and they love to be involved, so they’ll love constructing their DIY wraps at lunchtime. All you need to do is include a plain wrap and then a selection of fillings for them to choose from.
They’ll need something like low-fat mayonnaise or hummus and a spoon to spread it with. Then add a selection of salads, including lettuce, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumber, and grated carrot.
You might also want to include some protein, such as chicken or tuna, or a vegetarian alternative.
Cream cheese and salad bagel
A wholemeal bagel is a filling lunch option. Cream cheese contains fat and salad counts towards your child’s fresh vegetable intake. If your child isn’t a fan of cream cheese or salad, you could try peanut butter as an alternative filling.
It’s worth checking your school’s dietary restrictions policy first, however, because some schools have a strict peanut ban in place to protect pupils with peanut allergies.
Opt for wholegrain, if possible, when preparing sandwiches. Wholegrain bread is a slow-release carb which means your child will feel full for longer. Avocado is a great sandwich filling because it is packed with fiber that will aid your child’s digestive system.
You can pair the avocado with hummus or egg or salad, depending on your child’s tastes. Use a cookie cutter to add some fun to your child’s lunch, and be sure to eat any cutoffs for your breakfast.
School lunch box ideas for extremely picky eaters
If you have an extremely picky eater, you might be going crazy trying to come up with lunch box fillings they will actually eat.
Bento style school lunches are often popular with extremely picky eaters because the mix of foods available means they’re likely to find something they like.
Bento lunch boxes are also great for families that need flexibility. Choose a bento lunch box that allows you to play around with the compartment layout, allowing you to add and take away compartments as required.
Take a look at our list of the best leakproof lunchboxes to help you find the right lunchbox for your child: Back To School: Our Top 10 Leak-Proof Lunch Boxes Picks
Here are some great Bento-friendly school lunch ideas for picky eaters:
Hummus with pitta bread and vegetable sticks
In this school lunch, you need to fill a small compartment with your children’s favorite hummus and provide plenty of things they can dip into it. Wholemeal pitta bread slices are a filling choice, and vegetable sticks, such as celery, carrot, cucumber, and pepper are popular choices, too.
You could also include apple slices and mini breadsticks for your child to try.
A picky lunch is every child’s dream. Rather than having to eat a lot of one thing, your child gets to eat a little of a variety of foods.
A picky lunch works brilliantly in a bento lunch box. Opt for one with plenty of compartments so you can add a wide range of different foods. With a picky lunch, it’s important to add a decent mix of food types.
A school lunch box full of fruits might look pretty but it won’t fill your child up for the day ahead. You will want to include grains, proteins, and fats to help your child feel full all afternoon.
You should include some protein such as egg, yoghurt, tofu, chicken, or hummus. For slow-release energy whole grains, you could add wholegrain crackers, pitta bread fingers, or plain popcorn.
Be sure to include a mix of fruits and vegetables that will count towards your child’s fresh fruit and vegetable intake.
DIY cracker station
If your child won’t eat sandwiches but will eat crackers, this one is for you. Use three compartments of your child’s lunchbox to pack plain crackers (ideally wholemeal), ham (or vegetarian ham slices), and cheese slices (or a non-dairy alternative). You could also add in sliced tomatoes and any other salad item your child might enjoy.
Your child can then use these ingredients to create cracker sandwiches – a healthier alternative to the popular store-bought snack items.
No sandwich school lunch ideas for picky eaters
If your child hates sandwiches, don’t worry; the days of uninspiring sandwich-dominated lunch boxes are firmly in the past.
If your child won’t eat sandwiches, don’t pack sandwiches. Instead, choose from one of the healthy and nutritious options below:
Sushi is a wonderful sandwich-free lunch box filling. Sushi is a filling food thanks to the rice and it tastes delicious.
You can include a small pot of soy sauce, some pickled ginger, and a pair of chopsticks so your child can eat in style. Cooked salmon, cucumber, and avocado are excellent sushi fillings for lunchboxes.
Another great thing about cooked sushi is that it keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge, so you can prepare a bunch of sushi on a Sunday and use it for lunch boxes for a few days. This will give you a few mornings of stress-free lunch box packing.
Pasta salad is a great no-sandwich lunch box filling. Pasta, especially wholegrain, is a filling food that will boost your child’s energy and focus for the afternoon.
Pasta salad is best served cold, so it’s perfect for a cold lunch on a sunny day. If you pop an ice pack in with your child’s lunch box, it will keep the pasta salad cold and fresh.
You can make the pasta salad with low-fat mayonnaise and you could add a bit of mustard if your child likes the taste. You can include salad foods like tomato, cucumber, sweetcorn, and grated carrot.
You can also add roasted foods like butternut squash, brussel sprout, and peppers for a fall feel. For protein, try adding chicken, tuna, or beans.
Pasta salad can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge. If you make a batch on Monday morning, you can serve it for a couple of days and it’ll still taste great.
Hot food school lunch ideas for picky eaters
During the winter, it’s reassuring to know your children have eaten a warm lunch at school. If they’re not keen on school dinners (and who can blame them), you can send them in with a thermos of warm food. There are plenty of insulated warm food lunch boxes available for kids.
Here are some hassle-free suggestions for food you can include:
Kid not a fan of cold pasta? It doesn’t matter; you can send this appetizing lunch in warm. Simply knock up a batch of your kid’s favorite pasta sauce, mix it with some cooked wholemeal pasta, and seal it in the thermos lunch box while it’s still warm.
The wholemeal pasta will fill your kid’s tummy and release energy slowly during the afternoon. You can opt for a tomato, cheesy or pesto sauce, depending on your child’s preference. Why not mix it up? Have some homemade sauces readily prepared in the freezer so your child can choose which one to have each day.
Be sure to include some protein in the sauce, too. Pasta sauce is ideal for hiding vegetables in. Even the pickiest eater will struggle to identify the vegetables hidden in a blended pasta sauce.
Is there anything more wonderful than soup on a blustery winter’s day? A thermos filled with warm soup and some bread to dip into it is an ideal lunch. There are so many flavors of soup to choose from, you can mix it up or stick with your child’s fave.
If you have the time and inclination, you can make your own soup at home or help your children make their own. If not, there are lots of yummy tinned and fresh soups lining the shelves at your local supermarket.
Stir fry noodles
Stir fry noodles are quick and easy to prepare, making them ideal for a packed lunch. Simply fry up some meat or a vegetarian alternative source of protein, and add it to the noodles.