Real Food Lunch Ideas for Kids

For the last twenty days, I’ve been taking pictures of every lunch I’ve served to my kids. I wanted to share how easy it can be to serve up “real food” lunches that kids will enjoy. These are all real lunches and, by that, I mean they are easy, simple, and realistic lunches that anyone can throw together quickly. And that’s exactly what I do! Literally, almost every day, I just serve whatever I can find from the refrigerator or pantry. It works for us. These aren’t fancy lunches and they’re all put together without much thought or planning. I meal plan for my dinners, but not lunch (or breakfast, for that matter). Read below to find out what I served my three kids for lunch over the course of the last twenty days!

20 Lunch Ideas for Kids

I know we all tend to get in ‘lunch ruts’ sometimes and don’t know what to feed our kids. There is nothing overly unique in this list of lunches, but maybe you’ll find some new ideas or remember some old ideas that you had forgotten about! I don’t put much focus on the elements of each lunch: i.e. protein, grains, dairy, veggies, and fruit. I feel like I do a pretty good job of serving items from all food groups, so my assumption is that by the end of the week, it all balances out.

Many of these lunches could also easily be packed into school lunch boxes, too (some might require a thermos). I know I’ll probably regret saying this, but I’m actually looking forward to packing my daughter’s lunch when she starts Kindergarten next year! I think it will be a fun challenge to come up with foods that she enjoys and looks forward to eating…especially because I know it won’t be long before she’s asking why she doesn’t buy school lunches like some of her friends!!

So, here they are…

20 Real Food Lunch Ideas for Kids:

Note: Many of the foods below are organic. Also…keep in mind that these pictures are almost always just the first serving. My kids are BIG eaters for their age and usually ask for seconds (and thirds)!! As long as they finish eat item on their plate, I’m happy to give them more until they’re content.

  1. String cheese, nitrate-free turkey slices, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppersLunch 1
  2. Grilled cheese sandwich, sliced celery, raspberries
    Lunch 2
  3. Toast with butter, string cheese, strawberries, apple slices, bell peppersLunch 3
  4. Nitrate-free turkey slices, clementine, raw cashews, bell peppersLunch 4
  5. ABC muffin, apple slices, cheese, cucumbersLunch 5
  6. Leftover shredded chicken, mustard, applesauce with cinnamon, celery, whole wheat tortilla with melted cheese (“cheesy roll-up”)Lunch 6
  7. “Ants on a log” (celery with natural peanut butter and raisins), clementine, dry roasted peanuts and raw pumpkin seeds, bell peppersLunch 7
  8. Non-GMO pretzels from Whole Foods, cheese, celery, bell peppers, clementineLunch 8
  9. Scrambled eggs, leftover broccoli, toast with butter, clementineLunch 9
  10. Apple chocolate chip granola bar, celery, clementine, dry roasted peanuts, blackberriesLunch 10
  11. Celery and carrots to dip in peanut butter, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, bell peppersLunch 11
  12. Peanut butter and raw honey on my homemade bread, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrotsLunch 12
  13. Oatmeal with maple syrup, cinnamon, & raisins, apple slices, celery, bell peppers, cucumbersLunch 14
  14. Greek yogurt with homemade granola, apple slices, carrotsLunch 14
  15. Baked potato with a little butter and melted cheese, apple slices, carrots, clementineLunch 15
  16. Air-popped popcorn with butter and salt, apples, carrots, clementineLunch 16
  17. Peanut butter & jam sandwich on homemade bread, mango, leftover corn, clementineLunch 17
  18. Peanut butter & raw honey on homemade bread, banana, carrots, cheese slicesLunch 18
  19. Apple cinnamon waffles with maple syrup and a bananaLunch 19
  20. Whole wheat tortilla with melted cheese, leftover taco-seasoned (grass-fed) ground beef, & chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, carrots, applesauce with cinnamonLunch 20

So, there you have it! Twenty very simple lunch ideas…most of which were thrown together at the last minute without any prior thought. Sometimes I eat the same thing as the kids, sometimes I eat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, and sometimes I make a variation of what the kids are eating. I keep all of our lunches very easy and uncomplicated.

My tips for lunchtime success:

  • Serve small portions of each item to start. When kids are hungry, they’re more likely to eat the healthier foods at which they might usually turn up their noses.
  • I don’t allow my kids to have seconds of anything unless they’ve finished their entire plate. I think this teaches kids not to be wasteful, as well as making sure they eat a good balance of foods each day. (Note: I never make my kids eat something if they don’t want to. I just don’t allow seconds until they do. And they can be finished eating at any point in the meal if they say they’re done. However, if they hardly eat anything, I tell them they can’t have a snack later if they don’t eat at least a little more. That almost always gets them to focus on the meal again…instead of wanting to get down early to play.)
  • Cut up raw veggies and fruit for every lunch. Super simple and I’m always surprised at what my kids will eat…simply by putting it in front of them and walking away!
  • If I’m serving a couple vegetables that I know my daughter isn’t as crazy about, I let her pick what she would like. If I say, “Do you want carrots?,” she’ll usually say no. However, if I ask her, “Do you want carrots or peppers?,” then she’ll usually say she wants carrots. When I place the carrots in front of her, she knows that she requested them and is more likely to eat them. I love how that can work to my advantage! 🙂
  • Encourage kids to eat their crust, whether it be from a sandwich or pizza. My kids always eat their crust and actually wouldn’t even consider not eating it (unless they were full and it was their second or third helping). Again, we don’t like our kids to be wasteful, so they’ve never gotten another half of a sandwich or a second slice of pizza unless they ate ALL of the first one. This is just a ‘kid pet-peeve’ of mine and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject. Kids will eat their crust if you set that precedent early on in the feeding ‘game!’

So, what do you think? Do you feed your kids ‘random’ lunches like this or do you meal plan lunches? I find that it’s easiest and least stressful for me to “wing” my lunches, but plan out my dinners. Again, this it what works for our family!

Make sure to Follow me on Facebook to see what else I serve my kids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m always sharing EASY and kid-approved ideas there! And make sure to checkout my first roundup of SCHOOL LUNCHBOX ideas here: Real Food School Lunchbox Ideas and my second one here: Real Food School Lunchbox Ideas: Round 2.

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LeAnn Nome

Hi there! Here's a little info about me: I've been married to my husband for over 10 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom to our three young kids (a six year old daughter and four year old twin boys). As you might imagine, they keep me quite busy! In early 2013, we decided that we wanted to be a healthier family. To do this, we cut out all processed foods from our home and we now eat only REAL, whole foods. (When we're on vacation or at someone's house, we're not quite as strict.) We also try to exercise every day. Our goal is to raise healthy, happy kids...while maintaining our own health and happiness along the way! I hope you will follow along with us in our journey.

16 thoughts on “Real Food Lunch Ideas for Kids

  1. I agree with asking my daughter “do you want scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich?” Then she’ll choose which one she wants. If I ask her in 2 separate questions, she’ll say no to both, then request popcorn or m&m’s. That makes for a bad start to lunch! And if my daughter eats well, I like to give her a trail mix as “dessert,” so she gets a few m&m’s, but then she’s getting peanuts and raisins too.

  2. A great reminder. I used to fix a veggie and fruit filled lunch for my kids, but now that they’re starting to get a bit older they fend for themselves more and don’t eat like they used to. I did laugh though, because your kids are obviously still little. Every one of these lunches would be seen as a snack by my boys…and a small snack. Yikes, growing boys can eat 🙂
    Thank you for the reminder and push. I’m going to do some better lunch planning.

    1. Thanks, Kelly! Ha–yes, I’m sure my kids eat very little compared to older, growing boys! (I’m already nervous for when my three are in high school and probably active in sports…I’m sure it will be expensive!) The lunches above are almost always their “first round.” I serve them this way so it guarantees they eat their veggies and fruit right away. I don’t remember a time when they didn’t come back asking for seconds and thirds! For as little as they are, they are already big eaters (compared to other kids their ages)!

  3. One lunch that I like to make for my 20-month old (and myself!) is a pita pizza! I buy the small size whole wheat pitas from Whole Foods (Trader Joe’s has a version that’s okay, too, but the WF one is “cleaner” – just four ingredients I believe). Top with Muir Glen organic pizza sauce and a slice of Applegate provolone cheese (I like this because it’s round and exactly the same size as the pita), pop on a baking sheet and place in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted. My son eats one of these pizzas; I need two to feel full. We eat with some fruit or veggies and it’s a filling meal.

    1. That’s a great idea, Valerie–thank you for sharing with me! I added pitas to my list for the next time I make it to Whole Foods (along with your idea so I remember to make them). Thanks!!

    2. Ooooh, that’s a good idea! Very quick and easy. I don’t want to spend much time preparing lunch! 🙂

  4. Great ideas! I definitely wing lunch and plan dinners. A lot of those plates look familiar! 🙂

  5. Hi! I love the lunch ideas and I have really been trying to make healthier, cleaner choices for my kids. Can I ask you about the whole wheat tortillas? Do you buy them or make your own? I tried making them, but it took a lot of time and with 2 small kids, I just can’t do that every week. Is there a real food brand that you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Hi Tabitha! Whole wheat tortillas are one of my biggest struggles with eating real food where I live! They are the only food that I cannot easily find in my town. Whole Foods carries a brand that I like (365 Everyday Value organic whole wheat tortillas), but the closest one to me is 90 minutes away. When I go there, I usually get a few packs, but I’ve found they don’t do well with being frozen and thawed out–seems like they go rancid very quickly and I don’t feel comfortable eating them anymore. If I lived by a Whole Foods, I would go there whenever I needed tortillas. However, since we don’t…I rarely buy tortillas anymore. 🙁 Which is such a bummer because it’s such a convenient way to serve up so many foods! I will occasionally buy non-real food approved brands, but I don’t like to. It’s a struggle for me, too. And I’ve also made them myself, but it was a pain and not something I want to be doing when I need a quick lunch for my kids. I have heard that if you have any local ethnic grocery stores near you, you can possibly buy some there as they make them fresh (but would probably still use regular enriched flour), but I haven’t even attempted to look around in my city. Sorry I can’t be of much help! You are not alone in this tortilla struggle! 🙂

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