When it comes to lunch ideas for kids, most of us can use all the help we can get. Break out of your lunchbox rut and try one of these 20 ways that go beyond the PB&J and will increase the chances that your kids will actually eat their lunch. Read on for the scrumptious ideas.

photo: Siri Daly

Grilled Cheese Roll Up Dippers

Food blogger, mom of three and regular TODAY food contributor, Siri Daly is all about making parents’ lives a bit easier in the kitchen. Check out the full recipe here for one of the yummiest versions of a grilled cheese we've tried in years. 

Alphabet Veggie Soup

Use a thermos and serve up some warm soup for those chilly days. Try this alphabet veggie soup for a lunch they’ll L-O-V-E. 

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Ultimate Kiddie Cobb Salad

Pack a salad loaded with goodies, and add a container of dressing on the side. Try out this kiddie cobb salad from Katie Sullivan Morford of Mom's Kitchen Handbook.

Breakfast Bento

French toast sticks, waffles, mini pancakes, sausages, fresh fruit: kids love breakfast foods so why not guarantee they actually eat their lunch with a little morning food in the afternoon?

photo: Jennifer Martine

Sweetie Pie Quesadilla

Cheese is high in protein and popular among the pint-sized eater, which makes it a win-win for a kiddo’s lunch. We love this Sweetie Pie Quesadilla from the recipe book, Best Lunch Box Ever.

“Nachos” with Black Beans

How do you turn lunchtime into a real fiesta? With these easy deconstructed nachos, courtesy of What Lisa Cooks. This idea not only skips the mess of traditional nachos, it can also be thrown together in about 5 minutes. Get the how-to here.

Pinwheel Sandwiches

If all your usual bread sandwiches are feeling a little, well, staleThe Pioneer Woman can help. Not only are these pinwheel sandwiches a creative alternative (seriously, the flavor combos are endless), they’re also simple enough for kids to make. Plus, they’re the perfect size for little lunchboxes. Get inspired here.

Tofu “Egg” Salad Sandwiches

Put these eggless salad wraps on the menu today! Lunchbox Bunch notes that steaming the tofu first brings a firmer, eggy bite. We love how this can be eaten cold (aka made the night before) as a real time saver. Visit Lunchbox Bunch for the full recipe and more yummy vegan eats.

Pizza Buns

Thanks to Simple As That, you can treat little pizza connoisseurs to a creative ‘za lunch that doesn’t involve foil-wrapped slices. These cheesy buns are simple to whip up (kids can even help with the prep work) and they can be tossed in the freezer for those days when you need a lunch or snack ASAP. Get the recipe here.

Peanut Butter & Jelly on a Stick

Sometimes a home run lunch isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Just take this oh-so-clever idea from A Whisk and Two Wands. It’s got all the favorite flavors of the traditional PB&J, but in a kid-friendly kabob form. Alternate your sandwich bites with healthy fruit and you’re all set for school. Learn more here.

Almond Butter and Mango Sandwich

Can’t quite convince your picky eater to give up her PB&J? For a play on the traditional, we love this sophisticated and nutritious grilled sandwich from Connoisseurus Veg. While it’s crazy simple to make, it’s amazing to munch on, whether wrapped in foil or fresh off the griddle.

Monochrome Lunch

Sometimes you just need to embrace kid food quirks—like when they get attached to one particular color. This genius idea from The Mom 100 groups great green munchies like pesto pasta, broccoli, and grapes (Psst! If your kid is hooked on a different hue, The Mom 100 also has orange and yellow lunches on her blog!).

Carrot and Hummus “Sushi” Sandwiches

We love how this idea, found on the UrbanFamily blog, incorporates fun flavors and lots of great grated carrot. It’s perfect for when you want to amp up your kids’ veggie intake–or when you want to pack a lunch that looks impressive but takes minutes to make. Learn more here.

Homemade Lunchables

Kids love the DIY aspect of Lunchables (go figure), but those unmade lunches can get pricey. Cue Snap. Eat. Run., which outlines how to make your own cheaper and healthier version of pizza Lunchables. You only need a few minutes to get these ready, and you can even make them ahead of time and toss them in a school bag on the way out the door. Learn more here.

Mini BLT Wraps

What do you get when you take the classic BLT and give it a school lunch twist? These bite-sized rollups from The Girl Who Ate Everything! These are easy to put together and adaptable too, so feel free to get creative with whole wheat tortillas, hummus, sprouts, sliced chicken or whatever else is in the crisper drawer. Learn more here.

Nut-Free Crispy Chicken Tenders

Teacher, foodie, blogger, and supermom Lexi of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen is our hero. She created this paleo-friendly recipe with flaxseed, tapioca flour and a whole lot of flavor for lunchtime. Pack a little dipping sauce and handi-wipes for the best finger food lunch in the cafeteria!

Applewiches

Think beyond bread! Add a Pinch shows how to include savory applewiches in your little one’s lunch. The filling ingredients include cheddar cheese and peanut butter–but if your kids’ school is a peanut-free zone, you can always sub in other kinds of nut-butter. Get the scoop here.

Homemade Uncrustables

Step away from the store-bought Uncrustables! You can easily make your own version of this kid-favorite thanks to Wendy Finn. Hint: you don’t need any fancy cutter or equipment, you can make them ahead of time and freeze for later, and you can alternate your fillings for any day of the week. Learn more here.

Easy Soba Noodles

Talk about using your noodle! This idea from Hip Foodie Mom can be whipped up quickly in the morning and features tasty Asian flavors (Think low-sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, and more.). It’s great for kids who are tired of the ol’ sandwich route, and great for those who have mini lunch containers, too. Get all the tasty details here.

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sammy

Blogger Catherine McCord always has simple and fun ideas to please even the pickiest eaters. These sandwiches from Weelicious channel tea party fare and are a total hit when it comes to school lunches. Just make sure to stash a cold pack in those lunch bags so the cream cheese can stay cool all morning! Learn more here.

 

What’s your favorite lunch box combo? Share with us in a comment below.

— Abigail Matsumoto

 

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