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Looking for healthy school lunch ideas for picky eaters? These 30+ lunches for picky eaters are sure to spark your imagination and expand your picky child’s lunch menu options!

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Dealing with a picky eater can be a frustrating challenge, but sometimes all it takes is a little creativity and ingenuity to spark your culinary imagination! We’ve compiled 30+ mix-and-match school lunch ideas to help you build the perfect lunch for your picky eater!

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 not just one, but two picky eaters each day. Lucky me?

School Lunch Ideas For Picky Eaters

adorable young boys posing for school picture outside

In order to make my life a little easier, I sat down with these guys and compiled a list of all the foods that they might be willing to try at lunchtime. Naturally, they don’t agree on 100% of the foods on the list (honestly, they only agree on about 5% of them!), but at least it’s a start for those days when I’m running out of ideas! I thought it might be worth sharing if you also find yourself staring vacantly into the pantry before whipping up the gazillionth almond butter and jelly sandwich of the year. Variety is nice.

school lunch items and milk

IMPORTANT NOTE: Now, before I start listing the foods, I know that some of you are going to say “This isn’t a list for PICKY eaters!” or “MY kid won’t eat half of the things you have listed on there!” Bear in mind that this is not a magical list that is suddenly going to make your child stop being a picky eater. It is simply a bunch of different easy lunch ideas that you may not have considered or tried yet. It is intended to inspire you and your child to try something new and to potentially spark other ideas that your child will agree to.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with a picky eater, it can be super helpful to look at a large list of options that might encourage and inspire you to break out of the rut of serving the same three foods all the time. Kids can be fussy eaters in many, MANY different ways (all three of my boys are very picky, and there are only about five foods that all of them can agree upon – I wish I was kidding!), so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the picky eater situation. Different foods are naturally going to appeal to different kids, so find the ones that your child responds favorably to and develop different variations that you can try out. Continue to offer your child new foods on a regular basis along with your good old standby options, and hopefully, you will soon be able to introduce some new alternatives into your lunchtime routine!

easy lunch boxes made from tupperware containers

For my boys’ lunches, I use Easy Lunchboxes because 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!). Because we use the Easy Lunchboxes, our list of lunch ideas is actually made up of two different lists – one for the main compartment (entree) and one for the two smaller compartments (side dishes). Simply choose one item from the main list and two from the side list, and you can easily create a customized lunch that is sure to please your picky eater!

school lunch bag and lunch items

Main Dishes:

Side Dishes:

  • Applesauce
  • Fruit – Strawberries, Bananas, Grapes, Blueberries, Melon, Pears, etc.
  • Veggies – Carrots, Celery, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, etc. with a Side of Ranch, Peanut Butter, or Hummus for Dipping!
  • Whole-Grain Goldfish
  • Cheese – String Cheese, Babybel, Cheddar Cubes, etc.
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins or Dried Fruit
  • Dry Cereal
  • Crackers – Graham Crackers, Ritz, Saltines, Club Crackers, etc.
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts – Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, etc.
  • Veggie Straws
collage of bento box lunch ideas

Dressing up your lunch options as “cute food” can also help encourage picky eaters to try new foods. Cute food is a TON of fun, but it doesn’t have to be a ton of work! Take a peek at our 25 Quick & Easy Bento Lunch Box Ideas for Kids and 25 Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas and get inspired!


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33 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for all your fantastic ideas! I have already printed your meal suggestions, and I’ve placed them on the fridge. Every day my kids take their time looking at them while deciding what meal they want for the day to come. Now they are both happier because they get to choose what they are going to eat and I am so pleased as well with this time-saving process that allows my children to eat healthily every day!

  2. I’m a super picky eater and I’m going into 11th grade so I’ll be a junior. What doesn’t help is that I also have a SUUUUPER long list of things I’m allergic to so I try and stay plain and simple when it comes to food. My past two years in high school I would only buy a Poptart and an apple juice. I branched out a little at the end of the year but due to allergies not that much. This list really helps because I can modify some of the thing on it ( Nuts, and others) to things I can actually eat. Huge thank you!

  3. Great ideas!!! not for my kid though..i am honestly in shock that kids actually eat that things from the list? my girl’s fav food is a peanut butter sandwich with nutella, but peanuts are banned from school, and wowbutter got into “i dont like it”-list by her, so no sandwich i guess. For school lunch my picky eater will eat only fruits and veggies until she will starve herself, then maybe we will try something to eat , like a cheese string. Seriously, that’s my plan. Also I hope she will watch other kids eating different food, and she might want to try that too. Good luck to all little munchkins for the new school year!

    1. Thanks, Veronika! Each of my picky eaters will only eat a few things from this list (and all of them like completely different things!), but I compiled all of them together into one list in the hopes that the full list might spark a new idea or bring to light something that other picky eaters haven’t tried yet. In my experience, I have discovered that my kids ARE more willing to try something new if they see their friends eating it, so hopefully your daughter will become a little more adventurous in her eating habits as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Grandkids love waffles with strawerry/mixed berry cream cheese. Eggo Wafflers are perfect for small “taco” size.

  4. 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!

  5. Heres the issue my eighth grade daughter hates all of those things. she is pick towards the basics. any suggestions?

  6. LOVE!! I’m going into the eleventh grade and I’m still picky. Loved the majority of these ๐Ÿ™‚

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

  8. 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?

    1. I feel your pain here mom! I think my son would rather DIE than eat peanut butter. You will never catch him eating bread (or anything that is similar such as a bagel or crackers) as he will run from it as if it is the black plague! Also, due to dietary restrictions (he was having some serious behavioral issues so we put our whole family on the feingold program) he can’t have most of the stuff on this list. There are some great ideas though! I can always build off of the ideas that are given.

    2. I’m in the same boat with my 6 year old. My other 2 are not as bad. My 6 year old won’t eat sandwiches, hates peanut butter (makes me cringe just saying that!! who could hate such a magical food, lol), is now slowly surrendering from her 3 or 4 years long battle on Veggies, most items on this list would not fly, Last year I would make extra food in dinners and sent leftovers with the kids alot of days. Homemade or frozen chicken nuggets, taco meat (god forbid any other ingredient got on there, no cheese, lettuce sauce, anything), spaghetti oh’s (meatball flavor only!!), etc. I warmed it up in the morning then put it in a food thermos. They told me to stop making the food so hot because it would still burn their tongues at lunchtime (I tended to make it hot thinking it would cool down by then).
      I would roll up some lunch meat and made kind of a DIY lunchable with string cheese, grapes and goldfish. There were days I just didn’t feel like pounding my head to find something she would eat and sent her with grapes and yogurt as her main meal (my structure on school lunches is the main meal, healthy side, snack and drink, most would come back home, the snack, usually small bag of chips or a chocolate chip cookie never seemed to return. So many days I said please, at least drink your drink, I’d be sending the exact same drink, one she does like, every day cause she’d ignore it) She is over 90% in height and only 35% in weight for her age. Every year I ask her pediatrician if I should be concerned about her weight and every year she tells me, she wouldn’t be that tall or stay on the same weight line if her weight was an issue.

      The parent of a very picky eaters club is not one I recommend, lol.

  9. 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!

    1. 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!

    2. 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.

      1. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Wow, you consider this a list for picky eaters? I wish my kindergartener would eat 1/4 of the things on this list!!!!

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I wish my daughter would eat any of those things. Her idea of eating is fruit, peanut butter & jelly, chicken, bread & cereal. It’s so frustrating.

      1. Not all children are picky in the same ways, and these ideas are meant to help guide you into finding lunch ideas that your child will respond favorably to.

    2. I know what you mean. The list is great for school lunches, but my son won’t eat most of that.

  11. Great tips! My Picky eater makes packing lunches a real challenge. You just made my mornings a whole lot easier! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    Amy*

  12. Thanks a lot. I will definitely try these tips because unfortunately I’ve got two picky eaters too. Hope it works on him.

  13. 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?

    1. 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.

  14. Pinned it, and thanks for the Easy Lunchboxes idea, might have to get my hands on some:)

    Jessica

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