In this post, you’ll find healthy lunch ideas you can make quickly and tips for keeping those lunches fresh inside the lunch bag.
Cold Lunch Ideas
If you struggle to come up with new lunch ideas for school, you’re not alone. I’m here to share that this can be a simple task when you simply think about it as mixing and matching ingredients your child already enjoys.
The ideas below can be prepped ahead, packed inside a lunch bag with an ice pack, and enjoyed at room temperature at school. Make sure to click through for all the tips on keeping each of those lunches fresh till lunch.
Cold Lunch Ideas that Come Together in Minutes
There are two types of cold lunches: the type centered around a main food item and then you add sides, or the type where you mix and match ingredients and end up with a bento-style lunch.
The main food item can be a delicious sandwich, a filling wrap, a high-protein main item, a pasta salad, or a healthy salad. To that main food item, you add one or two lunch sides, and you’ve got a meal!
If you love visuals, watch this video where I share some of these cold lunch ideas:
101 Packed Lunches eBook
All my best kid-friendly lunches from over a decade of creating meal plans. Add some variety to your child’s lunchbox with these epic lunches, plus receive my Pack Meals Like a Pro ebook, free with purchase!
Room Temperature School Lunches
Whether you put an ice pack inside the lunch bag to keep the contents chilled or not, all of these school lunches can be enjoyed at room temperature without worrying about whether the food is still safe to eat.
Lunch Sides that Don’t Need Refrigeration
Lunch sides like fruit, veggies, and dips are always great to make any lunch more filling. They can be store-bought sides or one of these homemade recipes.
Bite-sized treats and bars are great too, because they keep in the fridge all week and one recipe yields enough to add a few to the lunch box each day.
Tips for Packing Cold Lunches
No matter what you pack for lunch, these tips will help keep your cold unches fresh until lunch, so even if you’re packing lunches in a hurry, they’ll stay good and delish!
Keep liquids and sauces in separate containers
For salads and dips, pack any sauce and dressing in a separate, small-lidded container.
Ice packs are the thermostat for your lunch bag. Throw one in there and keep the food chilled until lunch. You can also freeze a juice box, an apple sauce pouch, and even your cheese sticks.
Pack the lunch the night before and keep it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, the contents will be nice and cold when you put them inside the lunch bag.
Use an Insulated Lunch Bag
While paper bags are great for disposable camp lunches and some people still use them daily, if keeping things cool is a concern, make sure to use an insulated lunch bag or a freezable lunch bag like this one!
20+ Cold Lunch Ideas for School (quick & easy)
Main Lunch Item:
- Egg cups
- Healthy salad
- Pasta salad
- Fruit: apples
- Veggies: Peppers
- Dips: hummus
- Treat: bites
Build the lunch:
- Pick a main food item and place it in the main compartment of the lunch box, separate from moisture-containing ingredients.
- Select your sides to bulk up the lunch. From fresh fruit, cut-up veggies, dips, chips, yogurt, and store-bought items, anything goes!
Pack it right:
- Refrigerate the lunch until ready to pack inside the lunch bag with an ice pack if necessary.