Inside: These healthy school lunch ideas for kindergarten are perfect for picky eaters.Today we’re sharing everything from non-sandwich ideas to how to pack a bento box, plus the best lunchboxes for kindergarten!
Friend, let me be the first to say congrats. You’ve made it to Kindergarten and suddenly a whole new chapter in your little one’s life has begun. They are no longer a toddler, they are a full-on little kid.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
For me, when my oldest entered kindergarten last year, I felt a huge shift mostly because she would be going from half-day Pre-K to full-day Kindergarten. Her teacher would essentially be caring for her all day, instead of me! It was a lot to think about.
One of my first thoughts was: “What should I pack for Kindergarten lunch?”
After all, she wouldn’t be coming home at 12:30 PM any more, so I needed to make sure I was sending a substantial lunch to fuel her throughout the day.
On top of that, my oldest can be a bit picky when it comes to lunches, and really, what kid isn’t? She’s got a handful of foods that she really likes (normal) and is okay with having them on repeat (also normal).
Our job, however, is to send a variety of nutritious foods, but also foods we know they will eat, since they’ll be in school all day and we don’t want them going hungry!
This can feel like a tall order when it comes to feeding a picky eater.
What should a 5 year old have for lunch?
Whether your 5 year old is picky or not, all kids benefit from being served a variety of nutritious foods from as many food groups as possible. Whether or not they’ll actually eat those foods is up to them. But it’s our job as parents to offer the foods we want our kids to eat, with no pressure to eat them.
Here’s my simple method for planning out healthy school lunches:
- Crunchy + Dip
And here’s how that looks packed in a Bento box:
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Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Picky Kindergarteners
If you’ve ever wondered: “what do picky eaters eat for lunch?” – Below you’ll find cold lunchbox ideas for picky eaters, simple sandwich and non-sandwich ideas, plus kid-friendly vegetarian options for little ones who don’t like meat.
1. Peanut Butter & Jelly
No need to reinvent the wheel here. If your 5 year old loves PB&J – go for it. Peanut-free school? Try sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or another alternative.
2. Mac & Cheese
Need a non-sandwich warm lunch idea? My girls LIVE for macaroni and cheese. While the peas may be a stretch, it’s worth a shot, right?
3. Turkey & Cheese Sandwich
Turkey not their thing? Try ham and cheese or another lunchmeat. If you can, opt for nitrate-free, organic lunchmeat as this is a much healthier option.
4. DIY Pizza Lunchable
This became my daughter’s favorite lunch. She loved assembling her own pizza and it was a much more economical & healthy option than buying pre-made lunchables (of course, nothing wrong with that in a pinch!).
5. Cheese & Crackers
Add some meat to make it a DIY lunchable, but just cheese & crackers can be a great “main” option for picky kindergarten kids who like to snack.
Not all kids will eat quesadillas in a cold lunchbox, but luckily, my 6 year old loves these cold. I add beans for extra protein, but if your child is extremely picky, try adding just cheese or cheese & chicken if they’ll eat it!
Another fun idea: 3 Ingredient Baked Taquitos
What is the best lunchbox for Kindergarten?
I have a few go-to Bento boxes for packing lunches. These are tried & true favorites that have served us well. You can see more of my daily lunchboxes on my Instagram! And you can also shop all of my lunchbox favorites all in one place in my Amazon Storefront.
1. Yumbox Original
While this box holds the least amount of food (love this one for preschool), this is a great option for half-day kindergarten or for a little one who doesn’t have a big appetite.
- 100% leak-proof
- Inner tray is dishwasher-safe (outer lid is hand-wash only)
- Lots of colors/designs to choose from
- Perfect size for littles, and very light to carry
The only negative I have found with these lunchboxes is that the inner silicone lid easily absorbs odors, even when frequently washed. I’ve learned that in order to prevent this, it helps to put a little cling wrap over certain foods like hard-boiled eggs, to prevent the lid from absorbing the smell.
2. Planetbox Rover
Yes, this Bento box is an investment, but certainly worth it as it’s made to last. This one holds a good amount of food and comes with a variety of matching lunch bags to choose from!
- Durable stainless steel
- Dishwasher safe
- All one piece (lid & base are attached)
- Comes with 2 leak-proof containers
- Can choose matching lunch bag & magnets to decorate the box
While the entire lunchbox is not leak-proof like the Yumbox, the Planetbox does come with two different sized leak-proof containers. The only other negative to mention for this box is that once packed up and put in the carrying case with an ice pack and water bottle, it becomes quite heavy for a little one. If they have a short walk from the carpool lane or bus loop to their classroom, it should be fine!
3. Lunchbots Cinco
Again, it’s a little pricey, but it’s made of quality stainless steel, and can continue to be used for many years. When not in use for preschool, even an adult could pack up this box for lunch.
- Durable stainless steel
- Lightweight (not too heavy once packed up)
- 2 big compartments for “mains” and 3 smaller for “sides”
- Not leak-proof but can add leak-proof containers
This is a unique pick as it holds a thermos for hot or cold foods, inside a regular bento box (all one piece!). The thermos can also be removed and that space is perfect for holding a sandwich.
- Holds hot/cold foods
- Deep compartments
- All one piece (lid attached)
- Dishwasher safe
5. Simple Modern Insulated Lunch Bags
These are my favorite lunch bags to store the Yumbox, Omiebox, and Lunchbots in. I put a flat ice pack on the top that keeps everything cool until lunchtime! The Planetbox comes with its own bag that fits the shape.