Packing a lunch sounds simple.
But, when you have to do it every day, it’s easy for you (and your kid) to get bored.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to shake things up without getting up at the crack of dawn to start cooking.
Here’s our pick of lunch ideas for kindergartners — perfect for your five-year-old foodie.
In this article: 📝
- What do you put in a lunch box for kids?
- What do you pack a picky eater for lunch?
- Kindergarten lunch recipes
- Kindergarten lunch foods to avoid
What do you put in a lunch box for kids?
What’s a healthy lunch for a five-year-old?
In an ideal world, your kid’s lunch will tick a few boxes:
- It’ll cover the main food groups — that’s fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy.
- It’ll include protein and/or whole grains to keep them full for the rest of the school day.
- It’ll have something to keep them hydrated.
The trouble is, you also have to pack a lunch that you know they’re going to eat.
And the circle in the middle of that Venn diagram can be pretty small.
What do you pack a picky eater for lunch?
Sometimes, a little bit of positive peer pressure in the lunchroom means that kids try things that they wouldn’t normally eat at home.
Other times, you find yourself unpacking their bag and wondering if their apple enjoyed its day out at kindergarten.
When it comes to lunch ideas for picky kindergarteners, there’s no magic formula.
It’s always a good idea to make sure that they have at least one ‘“safe food” that you know they’re going to eat.
That might mean sending them to school with plain bread, crackers, or cold pasta instead of a traditional sandwich, but at least you know that they’re not going to go hungry.
Beyond that, it’s sometimes less about what you give them and more about how you pack it.
Some fussy eaters prefer to literally pick at their food.
If this is the case for your little one, try to add a few different finger foods for them to enjoy.
You can also add fun little picks or utensils for them to stab their food and eat it off the pick!
Dried fruits, cubes of cheese, rolled-up ham, or sticks of cucumber or carrot are a good place to start.
Think of it as deconstructed lunch.
Some people pay extra for that when they go out to eat, right?
It’s also a good idea to think about how the food is going to travel.
If your little picky eater already has a texture issue and then discovers that their banana has done ten rounds with their water bottle, they’re not likely y to eat it.
Bento-style lunch boxes are great because they keep foods from touching, mixing, or being squished.
If you need to make the sections even smaller (like if you’re packing a handful of raisins), you can use cupcake cases as extra dividers.
Kindergarten lunch recipes
If your kindergarten lets kids bring in a flask with hot food, it opens up a lot more options.
As a bonus, batch cooking and reheating a soup or a stew means you’ll only have to think about making lunch once or twice a week.
1. Pasta sauce
This recipe from Healthy Little Foodies is a great lunch idea for kindergarteners.
It’s full of hidden veggies like carrots, zucchini, and pepper.
BBC Good Food has a whole page of kid-friendly soup recipes.
You’ll find everything from kid classics like tomato or carrot to a tortellini soup with extra pulses and parmesan cheese.
This Moroccan-inspired fruity chickpea stew is great with couscous.
It’s good to have some cold options up your sleeve too.
4. Tuna and sweetcorn pasta
It’s easy to make with store cupboard ingredients.
If your kids are bored of sandwiches, they might prefer wraps.
And, because — let’s face it — some kids like to be gross, you can always roll the wraps and cut them widthways to make tortilla “snails.”
For fillings, try cheese and salad, chicken and pesto, or carrot and hummus.
Speaking of tortillas, a quesadilla is also an option, as long as it’s had time to cool down before you send it on its way.
This recipe from Food.com takes inspiration from pepperoni pizza.
7. Savory muffins
They’re full of vitamins, travel well, and are easy for kids to eat.
You could make a batch of these cheese and broccoli muffins to take care of a week of lunches or freeze some for later.
8. Mini quiche
Hard-boiled isn’t the only option if you want to send them to school on an egg.
These mini quiche recipes from Culinary Hill use store-bought pastry to speed up the process, but you can also skip the crust altogether if you prefer.
Because dipping food is fun!
Falafel is a great choice here, and you can blend your own hummus with added veggies.
This recipe from Super Healthy Kids has options for baking or frying the falafel mix depending on what you prefer.
Let’s be honest — everyone loves a treat at the end of a meal.
Traditional flapjacks have great slow-release energy from oats (yay!), but they’re full of sugar (less yay).
This recipe for apple flapjacks subs in apple juice and dried apricot to help avoid a mid-afternoon crash — the perfect end to lunch for kindergartners.
11. Sweet potato mini-muffins
Healthy Little Foodie uses raisins to sweeten these sweet potato mini muffins.
(If you’re keen to explore further, there are a number of other lunch box dessert options on the site.)
Kindergarten lunch foods to avoid
So what foods should parents not pack in the lunch box?
Your kid’s kindergarten might have its own rules about what isn’t allowed at lunch.
Some of the rules are there to keep things fair.
Imagine being the teacher trying to keep the peace while only one member of the class tucks into chocolate chip cookies.
Some rules are about health and safety.
Maybe one of your little one’s classmates has a severe allergy that could be set off by someone eating PB&J.
If this was the case, the kindergarten might ask that no one brings nuts into the building.
And other rules are about healthy eating policies.
There might be restrictions on common lunch foods like sugary yogurts, processed meat products or pouches of fruit puree, for example.
It’s also important to avoid common choking hazards like uncut hot dogs or grapes.
Kids don’t necessarily concentrate on chewing when they’re with their friends.
So the official advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to cut these foods lengthways until your child is at least four years old.
Finally, you’re going to want to think about whether the food will spoil before lunchtime rolls around.
You could get an ice pack to keep things cool.
Or there are certain foods like yogurt pouches or some premade sandwiches that you can pop in their lunchbox from the freezer which will thaw by lunchtime.
Or you could use this elastic band hack to keep foods like apples and avocados from turning brown.
Aside from these rules, you generally have a lot of flexibility to make your school lunch ideas for kindergartners happen.
Why not try these Healthy Snacks for Toddlers and Toddler Lunch Ideas You’ll Both Love for some more ideas?
And you can always ask the other mamas in the Peanut Community for more inspiration.