My son just finished a full year of kindergarten, and I remember thinking before the school year started “what can I pack a picky kid for lunch???”. Now the school year is over, and I’m sharing my kindergarten lunch ideas for picky eaters – the real-life edition! – to encourage you that it doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect.

(This post probably contains affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is quite boring, but you can read it here if you’d like!)

What can I pack a picky kid for lunch?

Honestly? Pack them back to school lunch boxes full of things they like to eat. Listen, I’m all for not raising picky eaters and trying to get them to eat variety. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. My take on feeding my picky eaters easy, healthy meals is this:

  • Breakfast: healthy, food to fuel the day, not a lot of variety, he gets to choose or gets served what I know he likes on most days.
  • Lunch: he gets to eat what he likes 90% of the time.
  • Dinner: this is where we try new things, eat new foods sometimes, and still enjoy family favorites.

This means, all those fancy kindergarten lunch ideas you’ve seen can be thrown out the window! By all means, use them for inspiration to try new foods and include variety…

How to include variety in your Kindergarten school lunch ideas

I buy mostly foods that I know he will like and eat. I keep the processed food to a minimum most days but hey, it’s real life. If he wants fruit snacks or mac-n-cheese, I just try to buy the ones that have less sugar.

But I do want him to try new foods so every once in a while, I’ll add something to his lunch box that he hasn’t had in awhile (or ever). Some things he tried this year that I wasn’t sure about:

  • Pickled beets (loved them!)
  • Celery with cottage cheese (didn’t like the cottage cheese with celery but will eat it with chips, go figure)
  • Make your own tacos
  • Make your own pizzas
  • Pepperoni and salami (nope, hates it)

Whether he likes it or not, is not the point! I’m presenting new things for him to try without the pressure of me telling him to try it. And he tries it all! Honestly, I think it’s peer pressure (in a good way!) because he sees what other kids in kindergarten have in their school lunch boxes and now his doesn’t seem “weird”. Either way, I’ll gladly take that win!

Also, planning school lunches ahead is key! This is how I plan school lunches to make sure I was giving him a lunch box full of healthy-ish, balanced meals.

What should I pack for kindergarten lunch?

I tried to keep it simple but made sure I always gave him a healthy lunch box – protein, carbs, fat, fruit, and a vegetable.

Keep in mind, they are also might be getting used to having a time limit for lunch in Kindergarten. My son was not used to this short lunch time, even though he went to pre-school.

I truly thought he was not going to get to eat anything because he’s a talker. But he adapted, and I found that a variety of small snacks in his kindergarten lunch usually got finished before a “meal” did.

What’s the best bento box for kindergarten?

I remember looking at lunch boxes last summer and trying to decide between the Bentgo and the Yumbox. I spent way too much time agonizing over this decision (hellooooo analysis paralysis anyone???).

Well, I ended up going with the Yumbox based on reviews and that I got a good price on it. That being said, a good friend used the BentGo and loves it, so honestly, I think either are great choices!

we’ve been through an entire year of kindergarten with the Yumbox, and I thought I’d share the pros and cons, and also if I’d buy it again.

We bought this style for Kindergarten but there’s also this style if your kid isn’t into sandwiches. There are so many fun colors to choose from too!

Pros – benefits of the Yumbox:

  • Perfect size!
  • I loved this style that fits a sandwich – or multiple things – in the large side
  • Easy to clean and never had any mold on it (even after it was left in a backpack all weekend long…)
  • Easy for little hands to open
  • I love the little tiny round space – it just seemed to hold anything I needed it to. (except yogurt – tried that once and it was a mess! But cottage cheese worked fine!)
  • Fit perfectly in his thermal lunch bag with a juice box, a spork, and sometimes a yogurt.

Cons – things I didn’t love about the Yumbox:

  • Made his lunch bag and backpack heavy
  • The design was scratched off by the end of the school year (even though it never ever went in the dishwasher) – see above.
  • The inside of the lid was stained by spaghetti sauce once (but it is plastic so kinda to be expected)

So, will I buy another one for next year? Yes!

My vote for the best bento box for kindergarten is still the Yumbox Panino!

What should I put in my kindergarten lunch box?

I kept it simple – a fun napkin, juice box, and one of these sporks, which I think was the best purchase ever! (also they’re much cheaper than the mainstream camping brand of sporks and they lasted us all year!) They come in an 6-pack of fun colors and they were cheap enough so if he loses one, I really don’t care (although, he never did!). Seriously, get the sporks. You’ll be glad you did!

20 Real-life Kindergarten lunch box ideas

These are pictures of actual lunch box ideas for kindergarten that I gave to Thor. He’s picky with some things (like chicken nuggets?!?) but not others (like italian sausage?!?) but most days he finished everything.

Sometimes I would try something new (like pickled beets or celery with cottage cheese) because I’ve found he’s more likely to try it if I’m not nagging him to try it.

So I send him new things once in a while and I honestly don’t care if he eats it or not.

But he has surprised me a few times, like with the pickled beets – he LOVES them! Who knew??? So here are the images and lists of my easy kid lunch box ideas for kindergarten:

    1. Turkey mini croissant sandwich with carrots, grapes, goldfish, and raisins.
    2. Cheese “quesadilla” (melted in microwave) with Aidell’s Chicken & Apple sausage, rainbow carrots, raspberries, and Annie’s bunny fruit snacks.
    3. Mini pancakes and breakfast sausages, hard-boiled egg, cheese cubes, apples, and carrot sticks.
    4. Crackers, cheese stick, mixed berries, Aidell’s Chicken & Apple sausage, carrot sticks, and mini brownies.
    5. Aidell’s Chicken & Apple sausage, Annie’s mini pizza bagels, cut-up cheese stick, pickled beets, and cantaloupe.

  1. Bacon, lettuce and cheese on a hot dog roll, grapes, pickled beets, and Annie’s bunny fruit snacks.
  2. Half a bagel with cream cheese and jelly, Aidell’s Chicken & Apple sausage, carrot sticks, grapes, and cheddar cheese slices.
  3. Spaghetti and meatballs (heated and wrapped in foil packet), string cheese stick, and strawberries.
  4. Half a croissant with butter, GoGo apple sauce, hard boiled egg, orange tomatoes, and watermelon chunks.
  5. Leftover pizza strips, mandarin oranges, orange tomatoes, and dry cereal Oh’s.

More lunch box ideas for kindergarten:

  1. Italian sausage (heated and wrapped in foil), cheese “quesadilla” (melted in microwave), goldfish, carrot sticks, and watermelon chunks.
  2. Hot dog, lettuce and mustard mini sandwiches (please don’t ask!), celery sticks with cottage cheese, and pineapple chunks.
  3. Cheese “quesadilla” (melted in microwave), large carrot stick, hot dog, watermelon chunks, and mini cookies.
  4. Bacon strips, mini naan breads, string cheese stick, blueberries, pretzels, and cherry tomatoes.
  5. Turkey, cheese, and lettuce sandwich, bacon strips, mixed berries, and orange tomatoes.

  1. Mini pancakes, hard-boiled egg, Laughing Cow cheese wedge, mixed fruit, Teddy Grahams, and yogurt.
  2. Ham and cheese sandwich, watermelon chunks, Trader Joe’s fig bar, Annie’s bunny fruit snacks.
  3. Naan bread with egg & cheese omelet, sliced peaches, Babybell cheese, mini pancakes, and natural jelly beans.
  4. Mini croissant with turkey and mustard, cucumber slices, fresh mozzarella balls, mixed berries, and orange tomatoes.
  5. Hot dog and bun (warmed and wrapped in foil), clementine orange, string cheese stick cut-up, mixed berries, and dry cereal.

I hope these real-life Kindergarten school lunch ideas were helpful to you! I highly suggest you plan your back to school lunches ahead of time, especially if you have a picky eater going into Kindergarten! It will help you not waste time in the morning!

School Lunch Planner

Be sure to grab my School Lunch Planner template in the Freebie Library here:

More back to school lunch ideas and resources:

13 Healthy Homemade Snacks (perfect for kids lunch boxes)

10 Bento Box Ideas (your picky eaters will actually eat)

Make back to school dinners easy using Ultimate Theme Nights

Back to school organization and tips:

How to organize absolutely everything for Back to School

How to get your kids ready for back to school

Teach your children to make their own school lunches

How to save money on back to school clothes