Any other moms feel a sense of dread every morning when it comes time to start packing their kids’ lunches? It has to be healthy! But your kids have to eat it! Maybe you ask them what they’d like and after carefully packing all their special requests, they come home at the end of the day with a lunchbox full of uneaten food. Sigh.
We’re here to make things a little bit easier. Below you’ll find some of our favorite cookbooks for kid-friendly lunch ideas, gear to make sure everything gets to school safe and sound, and some healthy packaged options for when you don’t have time to make anything from scratch.
Cookbooks for Healthy School Lunches
You might not think of buying a cookbook for lunch ideas, but trust and believe: it is so worth it. You’ll get a ton of inspiration and a lot of the recipes are simple ones that can be changed up to suit your kids’ tastes.
Little Bites: 100 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks // The wholesome, vegetarian snacks in this book are perfect for tucking into lunches.
Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love // We love that this cookbook is written by a dietitian—so you know it’s full of nutritious lunch options!
The Paleo Kids Cookbook: Transition Your Family to Delicious Grain- and Gluten-free Food for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating // Even if you’re not paleo, you have to admit: kids lunches tend to be pretty heavy on the carbs and sugar. This book has plenty of ideas for incorporating more healthy fats and protein.
Yum-Yum Bento All Year Round: Box Lunches for Every Season // If you’re feeling ambitious, your kids will be delighted with the fun lunch options in this bento book.
Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals // One of our go-to books for easy, kid-approved lunch ideas.
The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet: Make Lunches Your Kids Will Love with More Than 200 Deliciously Nutritious Meal Ideas // AKA the school lunch bible! This book is popular for a reason.
Baby and Toddler On the Go Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods To Take Out And About // Don’t let the name fool you—this book has some great recipes for bite-sized lunchbox ideas for younger kiddos, not just babies and toddlers.
Better School Lunch Gear
Cheap plastic lunch gear is no match for rough-and-tumble kids! Instead, opt for more durable options that are made without BPA and other toxins and swap out disposable bags and wraps for reusable ones to save both money and resources.
STATE Rodgers Lunch Box // Your kids won’t grow out of using this tasteful lunchbox sans tacky characters and blinding colors.
Bee’s Wrap // Ditch the plastic wrap and opt for this fun, sustainable alternative.
PlanetBox Rover // It’s an investment for sure, but this box will last for years–and it’s more fun to back than a traditional lunchbox too!
LunchBots Condiment Containers // Send dressings and dips to school safely in these leak-proof containers.
U Konserve Ice Pack // This ice pack won’t leave lunches soggy and wet—and it keeps everything cool for hours.
Bambu Spork // Whether your kid needs a spoon, fork, or both, they’ll be all set with this bamboo utensil.
Lunchskins Reusable Sandwich Bag // Sandwich bags are such a waste. You’ll save money with this simple swap and your kids will love picking out the fun patterns.
Kleen Kanteen Kid Kanteen // Skip the juice boxes and use this kid-sized, BPA-free bottle instead.
Lunch Lines: Silly Riddles For Lunchtime Giggles // Just because sometimes you need to send a little smile with lunch too.
U Konserve Nesting Trio // Perfect for stacking in a lunchbag and a safer, more durable option than plastic storage containers.
The Original Squeeze Silicone Pouch // Save money by skipping the pouches and making your own fruit purees and applesauce.
Nutritious Store-Bought Lunch Options Your Kids Will Love
While we’d all love to make everything in our kids’ lunches from scratch, it’s not exactly realistic. Try aiming for one homemade recipe, one fresh fruit or vegetable, and supplement with some of these healthier store-bought snacks.
And as a bonus, when you’re stocking up all these back-to-school foods at Whole Foods Market, you can donate at the register to the Whole Kids Foundation‘s Growing Healthy Kids Campaign to support their programs for the coming year—like their free Starting With Soil app, which helps children understand how organic produce is grown.
1. Enjoy Life Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed Baked Chewy Bars // These ancient grain snacks are like a blueberry muffin in bar form. (PS – The Caramel Blondie flavor is pretty amazing too.)
2. Sweet & Smokey BBQ Protein Crisps // These protein-packed snacks, from the makers of the well-loved PopCorners, are a healthier alternative to BBQ potato chips.
3. Annie’s Organic Chocolate Mint Grabbits // We’re ridiculously excited to find an organic version of everyone’s favorite sandwich cookie. And it comes in chocolate mint too!
4. SunButter On the Go // The perfect size for dipping apple slices and celery sticks—and a great alternative to peanut butter in classrooms with kids who have allergies.
5. SmartSweets Seriously Sour Low Sugar Gummy Bears // For a little lunchbox treat, you can’t beat these GMO-free, naturally colored and flavored gummies.
6. Snikiddy Baked Mac n’ Cheese Puffs // No neon orange here! These kid-approved puffs are made with real cheese.
7. Health Warrior Cinnamon Spice Pumpkin Seed Bar // Kids love granola bars, but you want to give them something with more protein and fewer carbs. Enter: pumpkin seed bars.
8. Harmless Harvest Coconut Water // If your kids think they don’t like coconut water, this is the one to try. They’ll love it and you’ll love that it’s made without all the funky colors and flavors that are in conventional juice boxes.
9. Bare Fuji & Reds Apple Chips // You don’t have to worry about apple slices going brown when you buy them in crispy baked chip form!
10. Peanut Butter Perfect Bar // If you were blessed with a child who refuses sandwiches, these non-GMO bars are a great way to make sure they get the nutrition (and protein!) they need.
11. Veggie Pasta Chips // Pasta Chips are completely irresistible and they just got even better with the addition of spinach, broccoli, and kale.
12. Strawberry Coconut YES Bar // One of the best nut-and-seed bars we’ve tried! Kids will love this fruity version, but be sure to stock up on Mocha Cayenne for yourself too.
Disclosure: We received samples of a few of these products, but all opinions are our own.