105 Kid-Tasted-and-Approved Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Kids Lunch 1080X675 1 | 105 Kid-Tasted-And-Approved Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Move over Cheetohs and Fruit Roll-ups!

“Kid food” and school lunches are getting a makeover with these updated (healthy, gut-friendly and brain-friendly) spins on some of our old childhood favorite food “classics.”

Here’s your School Lunchbox Survival Cheat Sheet—101 lunch ideas to pack healthy lunchtime meals for your kids (or yourself) all year long—no added sugar or additives.


Growing up, what did you like to pack in your lunchbox for school?

Every year, I always had a new kick.

  • In kindergarten, I was all about crustless PB & J sandwiches on Iron Kids Bread with a side of Lay’s Potato Chips, Grapes and Oreos.
  • In 1st grade, my taste buds matured on to turkey and Kraft cheese singles, or Oscar Meyer’s bologna and cheese, on my Iron Kids Bread alongside some Doritos and Fruit Gushers.
  • Come 2nd grade, I reached “cool kid” status when my mom bought me turkey and cheese Lunchables, and on special occasions, Pizza or Nacho Lunchables.
  • And by 3rd and 4th grade, I expanded once more to turkey sandwiches on honey wheat bread, other types of fruit and pretzel sticks, and once more, on special occasions, Bagel Bites or Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets with a Capri Sun.

Oh, sigh. The good ol’ days…

As a kid of the Processed Food Generation, I somehow lived to tell about it  (although, I KNOW my gut health in future years suffered tremendously).  And, chances are, if you have kids (or you eat like a kid yourself), they are somehow living to tell about eating these “kid classic” foods and snacks too.

Unfortunately,  in a society where 80% of the foods on grocery store shelves are Man-Made-Food-Like-Products, we’ve raised our kids (and ourselves) to believe that t kids ONLY eat “kid food.”

We tell them (and ourselves) that kids are “picky,” and we’ve trained them (and ourselves) to believe that anything outside of the packaged, processed or sugar-filled version of a food is “yucky.”

In order to get them to eat anything “real” (an apple, broccoli, chicken, sweet potato), we have to dress it up in a sugar-filled peanut butter, fake cheese sauce, breaded coating or ketchup.

And we wonder WHY

Is there something in the water?

Our brains and bodies eat what our mouths eat.

While Goldfish, Gushers and Lunchables are definitely tasty “kid-friendly” foods, we are no longer living in the 80’s and 90’s—when processed foods were way cool.

Knowledge is power, and today, we have the knowledge (and awareness) that what we eat (and what our kids eat) matters for our brain health, gut health  and quality of life overall.


Maybe you DO recognize that “food matters” and you are onboard for feeding your kids “healthy food”—however…pop question:

What IS healthy food anyway?

Is it whole grains? Organic boxed mac and cheese? Sugar-free pudding and Jell-O? 100% real fruit juice? Low-fat cheese?

Or is it something else….

A comparison between the Standard American Diet to the original human diet—real food (before processed foods and Twinkies happened), reveals two completely different versions of health.

On the left, we have:

Standard American Diet

  • Pretzel Sticks
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Low-fat Baby Bella Cheese
  • Go-Gurt
  • Watermelon Juice
  • High-Protein Chocolate Milk
  • Low-Sugar Cheerios Cereal

On the right, we have:

Original Human Diet

  • Meats, Fish, Eggs
  • Leafy greens, starchy tubers and fibrous veggies
  • Fresh Fruits
  • Plant Fats (Avocados, Olives, Coconut)
  • Animal Fats (Butter/Ghee, Tallow, Lard,
  • Nuts and seeds

—Foods our bodies (and our kids’ bodies) recognize as real food.

If “health” is being the most optimized version of a human being we can be (brain health and gut health included), you cannot go wrong with real food.


Never say never…


The good news?

“Healthier” foods don’t have to equal cardboard rice cakes, dry salads or grainy wheat bread.

Your kids (and you) CAN have your cake and eat it too with

105 Kid-Tasted-and-Approved Healthy Lunch Ideas (Real Food Included).

The best part?

You (and your kids) get to choose your adventure!

The following Real-Food School Lunch Cheat Sheet included categories with each of the food groups that make up a “balanced” meal—proteins, healthy fats, carbs (namely veggies and fruits) and of course, some healthy treats.

All you (and the kids) have to do?

Simply choose your adventure—mixing and matching different options at lunch time for TONS of flavor and variety for the year ahead!

Here’s to real food, healthy brains and loved guts.

All you need?

  • A Cool Insulated Lunchbox

(Bonus: You may, just may, notice a difference in your own kiddo’s behavior, demeanor and health the more you feed him or her real food options).

Thrive’s 101 Kid-Tasted-and-Approved Healthy Lunch Ideas (Real Food Included).



Pick and choose one option from each group. (Or see Meal Combo Ideas below for inspiration on how to put together a mean, lean lunch that puts the Hot Pockets to shame)


  1. Burger Patties
  2. Rotisserie chicken meat
  3. Grass-fed burger sliders
  4. Ground turkey patties
  5. Hard-boiled Eggs
  6. Canned or packet of wild tuna/salmon
  7. Grilled salmon
  8. Homemade egg/tuna/chicken salad (made with Dijon or Primal Mayo)
  9. Taco Meat
  10. Pulled Pork
  11. Homemade Chicken Nuggets (made with almond flour, arrowroot or coconut flour)
  12. Fish Sticks (made with almond flour or coconut flour)
  13. Turkey/Bison Meatball Bites
  14. Homemade Chili or Chicken Soup
  15. Organic Chicken Thighs
  16. Salmon Burger Patties
  17. Chicken Drumsticks
  18. Meat & Veggie skewers
  19. Egg Muffins or Omelets
  20. Omelets
  21. Nitrate-free Prepared Meats
    • Bacon
    • Hot Dogs
    • Jerky
    • Sausages
  22. Nitrate-free Deli Meat
  • Chicken
  • Ham
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Turkey
  • Prosciutto



  1. Plain Grass-fed Yogurt
  2. Olives
  3. Avocado/Guacamole
  4. Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, or Sunbutter
  5. Coconut Butter & Coconut Oil Packets
  6. Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing http://amzn.to/2vWzfoi
  7. Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard
  8. Grass-fed Butter
  9. Ghee
  10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (drizzle on salad greens or veggies)
  11. Olives
  12. Paleo Mayo (avocado oil)
  13. Raw, Grass-fed, Full-fat Cheese (cheddar, goat cheese, feta)
  14. Full-fat, Plain Coconut Yogurt
  15. Raw, Grass-fed, Full-fat Yogurt (Strauss Family Creamery or Wallaby’s plain, no-sugar added)
  16. Goat’s Milk Yogurt & Kefir
  17. Nuts (opt for raw; Almonds, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Macadamias, Pistachios, Walnuts)
  18. Seeds (Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds)



  1. Asparagus (wrapped in turkey bacon)
  2. Beets, Steamed
  3. Bell Peppers
  4. Broccoli
  5. Butternut Squash (diced) or “Mac & Cheese” version (see above)
  6. Cabbage/Slaw
  7. Carrots/Carrot Fries
  8. Cauliflower/ “Cauliflower Popcorn”)
  9. Cauliflower Mash/Rice
  10. Celery Sticks
  11. Cucumber (with mayo dip)
  12. Crispy Brussels Sprouts
  13. Green Beans
  14. Kale/Kale Chips
  15. Kimichi (or sauerkraut)
  16. Lettuce/Salad
  17. Pickles
  18. Spinach
  19. Snap Peas
  20. Spaghetti Squash
  21. Sweet Peppers
  22. Sweet Potatoes/Sweet Potato Chips/Fries
  23. Tomatoes (Baby)
  24. Zucchini Chips (Baked)
  25. Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)



  1. Apples
  2. Apricots
  3. Bananas
  4. Blackberries
  5. Blueberries
  6. Cantaloupe
  7. Cherries
  8. Figs
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Grapes
  11. Kiwi
  12. Mango
  13. Nectarines
  14. Oranges
  15. Papaya
  16. Peaches
  17. Pears
  18. Pineapple
  19. Plums
  20. Pomegranate
  21. Raspberries
  22. Strawberries
  23. Tangerines
  24. Watermelon
  25. Dried Fruit (eat sparingly; opt for no added sugar/high-fructose corn syrup)
    Apple Chips
    Banana Chips
    Dried Dates
    Fruit Leather (no sugar added)
    Plantain Chips


  1. Simple Mills Crackers (grain-free crackers)
  2. Siete Coconut Flour Tortillas
  3. Siete Tortilla Chips
  4. Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potatoes
  5. Grain-free Granola (Like Paleonola)
  6. Small Square of Dark Chocolate
  7. Evolved Chocolate Patty
  8. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  9. Homemade Larabars (fruit included) by Chocolate Covered Katie
  10. Homemade Banana Bread (made with almond/coconut flour)
  11. Homemade Muffins (peach, strawberry, blueberry, banana) by Cook it Up Paleo
  12. Avocado-Carob Pudding by Sweet Treats
  13. Chia pudding made with coconut milk
  14. “Powerballs” (made with 1 TBSP nutbutter, 1 TBSP coconut flakes and 1 TBSP Enjoy Life chocolate chips per ball; store in freezer then move to fridge once hardened)
  15. Homemade Protein Balls by Unbound Wellness

THE MENU: 10 KID-FRIENDLY LUNCH IDEAS (includes proteins, veggies and fats in one)

“Cheesy” Spaghetti. (Spaghetti Squash* + Ground Turkey Meat + Shredded Grass-fed Cheddar or Dairy Free Cheese Sauce* ). Side of Broccoli Fritters.*

AB & J. Natural Raw Almond Butter (Other options: Sun-butter, Peanut Butter, or Turkey & Cheese) + Coconut Flour Bread* or Coconut Flour Tortilla + 100% Natural Fruit Preserves (Other option: Sliced Bananas or Apples) + Baby Carrots + Goat’s Milk Yogurt (Redwood Hills)

Mini Pizzas. Coconut Flour Crust (Other option: Capello’s Pizza Crust) + Toppings of Choice (Organic Ham + Pineapple +Roasted Broccoli + Dairy-Free Shredded Cheese*)

Sandwich Wrap: Coconut Flour Tortillas + Grass-fed Cheese + Organic Turkey + Bell-Peppers + Primal Kitchen Ranch Dip

Turkey Meatball Bites (Jay’s Baking Me Crazy) + Honey Mustard* + Carrot Fries

Chic-Fil-A Chicken Tenders* (Stupid Easy Paleo) + Sweet Potato Fries* + Zucchini Chips*

Organic Chicken Sausage Links + Celery Sticks with Sun-butter + Berries + Dark Chocolate Square

Tuna Salad with Primal Kitchen Mayo + Cucumbers + Diced Grapes + Simple Mills Cheddar Crackers   

Easy Egg Muffins* + Asparagus + Homemade Ranch + Cantaloupe

Grown Up Lunchable Organic Turkey & Ham Roll-ups + Simple Mills Crackers or Homemade Plantain Crackers* + Grass-fed Cheese or Coconut Butter + Apple Slices


Want help getting started, meal planning, transitioning your kiddo to real food or “food chaining” (introducing new foods)?

Contact Dr. Lauryn or Book a session at Thrive Wellness & Recovery to learn more about her Family Fuel Program and her 1-on-1 work with kids and their families to improve their health, from the inside out.

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