30+ School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

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My big boys went back to school last week, and this year they are both attending school all day long. That means that this year I get the dubious honor of preparing school lunches for two picky eaters each day. Lucky me?


In order to make my life a little easier, I sat down with these guys and complied a list of all the foods that they will eat at lunchtime. Naturally they don’t agree on 100% of the foods on the list, but at least it’s a start! I thought it might be worth sharing if you also find yourself staring vacantly into the pantry and then whipping up the gazillionth peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the year. Variety is nice.

 easy lunchboxes

We use Easy Lunchboxes which can be hard to find around back to school time, but I highly recommend them if you can get your hands on a set. They fit perfectly into kid sized lunch boxes and the divided portion sections eliminate the need for a bunch of different plastic baggies (less mess, less waste – yay!). Our lunch list is actually made up of two lists – one for the main compartment (entree) and one for the two smaller compartments (side dishes). Chose an item from the main list and two from the side list, and you’ve easily created a healthy meal that is sure to please the pickiest of eaters!


Main Dish:
1.       Turkey & cheese wrap (in a tortilla)
2.       Ham & cheese bagel sandwich
3.       Peanut butter & jelly/Peanut butter & honey sandwich
4.       Cream cheese & cucumber sandwiches
5.       Cream cheese & jelly wrap (in a tortilla)
6.       Chicken nuggets
7.       Pasta – ravioli, tortellini, or spaghetti w/ choice of sauces
8.       Pizza – on bagels/english muffins
9.       Hard boiled eggs or egg salad sandwich
10.   Tuna sandwich
11.   Quesadillas
12.   Deli meat & cheese kebabs
13.   Mac n cheese
14.   Muffins (zucchini, apple, banana, etc.)
15.   Chicken skewers & rice cubes
16.   (DIY Lunchables) Crackers, meat & cheese
17.   Breakfast for lunch – waffles, pancakes, french toast
18.   Breakfast burritos – eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes
19.   Peanut butter and banana sandwich on graham crackers
20.   Mini burgers/turkey burgers
21.   Taquitos
22.   Pot stickers & egg rolls
23.   Build-your-own mini pizzas (Lunchable style) – english muffin, sauce, cheese & pepperoni
24.   Calzones (aka Pizza Pockets)
25.   Grilled cheese sandwich
26.   Chicken burrito
27.   Bagel dogs
28.   Mini bagels with cream cheese
29.   Pizza quesadilla
31. Pinwheel sandwiches – turkey & cream cheese rolled up
32.   Fruit & cheese skewers


Side Dishes:
1.       Applesauce
2.       Fruit – strawberries, bananas, grapes, blueberries, melon, pears, etc.
3.       Veggies – carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers, etc. – add a side of ranch, peanut butter or hummus for dipping!
4.       Veggie Straws
5.       Whole grain goldfish crackers
6.       Cheese – string cheese, Babybel, etc.
7.       Pretzels
8.       Craisins or raisins
9.       Nuts – peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, etc.
10.   Dry cereal
11. Crackers – Ritz, saltines, graham crackers
12.   Yogurt
13.   Popcorn
For more inspiration be sure to check out my Pinterest board devoted to school lunches!

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  1. says

    Awesome ideas. My son is starting 1st grade this Thursday and we are venturing into the world of eating lunch at school (he’s so excited). So I’m super new at this…how do you keep the warm stuff warm w/out using a thermos? I have the same lunch containers, and I’m so super glad I bought them in May when I did. He keeps requesting grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and hot pockets; I’m not sure how he will like them being cold. What do you do?

    • says

      I think I’m pretty lucky in that my boys actually are NOT that picky about eating warm foods at room temperature, so I generally just send them as-is. The one food that they refuse to eat at room temp, however, is quesadillas. Last year we solved that problem by adding a hand warmer packet (like the kind that people use inside their gloves/boots in winter) to the inside of their lunch box (outside of the Easy Lunchbox container, but inside their lunch box). I made sure not to send any other food that needed to be kept cold that day, and it worked great! The quesadillas were warm, but not hot, and the lunch box actually stayed warm until after lunch time.

  2. sharon says

    Hi, great ideas! My friends son and my nephew are severely allergic to peanuts. Also most schools and daycares have banned peanuts. I wouldn’t send my daughter to school with peanut butter, but maybe an alternative like Wow Butter.

    Just an idea!

    • says

      I absolutely agree! Peanut allergies are very prevalent these days and incredibly serious. I’m actually surprised that there aren’t MORE schools in our area that are peanut-free. My children’s school still allows peanut products, but we often substitute sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) as well since my kiddos love it almost as much!

    • Erin says

      I would not send peanut butter to school, either. Peanut allergies are very serious. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for one of my kid’s classmates being hospitalized! That said, does everyone know about sunflower seed butter? It’s tastes very similar peanut butter but is nut-free. It’s an easy way to let your kid enjoy a faux PB&J while making being safe for other students. We eat sunflower seed butter all the time and it’s great! Available pretty much everywhere these days, too.

      • says

        I completely agree! Many schools are now going peanut-free, and sunflower seed butter (also called sunbutter) and almond butter (if allowed) are definitely delicious alternatives! My boys love sunbutter, so we eat that a lot, too. :)

      • Jennifer says

        Our school nurse says you can never guarantee your school is nut free. If we eat peanut butter for breakfast and I accidentally grab a lunch box with peanut residue on my hands and my child takes that bag to school we could unintentionally expose a child to peanuts. She recommended having nut free tables where children with allergies could sit and eat. Because hot lunch is an option the nut free table was always for the hot lunch kiddos too. Our kitchens don’t have any peanut products in them so it is safer to assume those lunch trays are nut free. Plus she insisted on hand washing the minute students entered the classroom and frequently throughout the day. We learned a lot about keeping a classmate safe last year and thankfully he was never exposed to peanuts at school! :)

  3. says

    You say for Picky eaters – my eight year old daughter will eat 3 from your Main Dish list. You are lucky – having no idea about picky eaters. I need innovation – any good suggestions?

  4. Nadia Brunt says

    This is great! I will tweak it to my son’s likes and such, but it will let him ‘control’ his lunch choices.

  5. Ashton Shea says

    LOVE!! I’m going into the eleventh grade and I’m still picky. Loved the majority of these :)

  6. Channon says

    These are good ideas for kids, but really not for picky kids. My daughter won’t eat any spreads, sauces, dips or condiments. It’s pretty infuriating. I am going to show her this list and have her circle what she will eat. Wish me luck!


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