20 Fun and Healthy Back-To-School Lunchbox Ideas

It’s back-to-school time! That means crafting your kiddos’ daily lunches again -- so why not consider making lunchtime more fun when you work these adorable and healthy ideas into their lunch boxes? You can even get the littles at home to help. They’re sure to keep them smiling all day while providing a burst of energizing nutrition at the same time! Some of these are so delicious that adults in the house may want to have extras around for their lunch, too!

*For some of our favorite creations, an insulated container would be ideal. Something like a bento box, stainless steel lunch container, or a thermos would be great, so long as it is insulated. Look for whatever works best for you with this in mind: you’ll want something sturdy to protect the shape of some creations, which will keep some cold, and others hot. (Just so you know, we don’t receive anything if you click on a link below. We just want to provide some fun, healthy ideas for your family!)

To make any of these recipes healthier, opt for sprouted, whole grain or sourdough bread. Check ingredients to be sure there aren’t a ton of added sugars. (Peanut butter, jelly, yogurt, and even bread can be terrible culprits of hidden added sugars.)

1. Woodland creature sandwiches
Woodland creature sandwiches

It just takes a few extra minutes to make these adorable, protein-rich goodies for your kiddo’s lunch box. All you’ll need are a few cookie cutters, a pinch of fruit, some different colored breads and a couple of high-quality proteins of your choice, and voila! A critter-filled lunchbox to surprise them at the lunch table.

How to make it

Want to try some variations on these? Basically, anything you can cut with a cookie cutter (or a knife, if you’re a little bit artistic), and that keeps its shape in a lunchbox can work. Check these out:

Olympics Torch sandwich

Flower and star sandwiches

Self-portrait sandwiches

Love bug sandwiches

2. Butterfly snack bags
Butterfly snack bags

Pack healthy fruits, nuts, crackers, and cereal mix in super cute style when you use this fun idea! Paula from Beauty through Imperfection shares her method of beautifying otherwise boring lunchbox contents with pretty painted butterfly clothespins.

You’ll need 8 simple supplies (including scissors, ziplock baggies, and the snacks themselves), several of which you likely have at home already. Set aside an afternoon crafting with the kiddos before they start school, and they can help you make these -- then it will be extra special when they see them in their lunches for the first time! It can help them remember to recycle their snack bags, too.

How to make it

3. Lunch kabobs
Lunch kabobs

Forget last year’s sandwich and fruit and take things up a notch with lunch on a skewer! There are so many different kinds of kabobs you can make, and as long as your kiddo can handle a skewer without hurting themselves or their tablemates, this idea is good to go. Here are a few ideas for starters, and how to make them (follow the link):

PB & J kabobs ← How to make the kabobs pictured

Mini bacon cheeseburger skewers

Chicken and waffle skewers

Classic club sandwich skewers

Meatball and breadstick skewers

Magic wand fruit kabobs

Grilled veggie skewers

Mini alphabet melon skewers (super cute for kids learning to spell their names)

Sweet and sour meatball skewers

Pepperoni pizza, Cobb salad, BLT, chicken quesadilla kabobs & more

4. Pizza muffins
Pizza muffins

Step aside, blueberry and banana nut! There’s a new muffin in town, and it’s taking over your kids’ lunchboxes. Pizza muffins have everything you normally put on pizza, neatly packed into a flavorful, healthy lunchbox muffin. No muss, no fuss, no microwave needed.

There were actually a few of these savory lunchbox muffin recipes that caught our eye, so we’ll keep a short list below in case you want to try them instead.

Cauliflower cheese muffins

Baked corn dog muffins

Spinach & feta muffins

Cheesy bacon and veggie muffins

Frittata bites (slightly different than a bonafide muffin, but tasty and protein-rich!)

Chicken and rice muffins (with kale & broccoli)

Easy mac and cheese muffins

Savory sweet potato muffins

5. Banana sushi
Banana sushi

Give them a nice dose of potassium and vitamin B6 with this yummy mid-day treat. A fresh variation on the old school peanut butter and banana sammie, this healthy lunchbox creation makes a great side to just about any main you pack it with.

*If you want to keep your bananas looking fresh until lunchtime, try gently tossing them in a little fresh-squeezed lemon after you slice them (but before you construct the sushi rolls, of course).

You can also turn these into a healthy dessert by adding 1 dark chocolate chip to the center of a slice

How to make it

6. Colorful bento box ideas
 Colorful bento box ideas

Based on a Japanese tradition of packing healthy boxed meals on the go, bento boxes are now a hot new trend for American lunchboxes, especially fun if you buy the dividers and sauce cups to go with them. You don’t have to buy the expensive kind -- just make sure they’re made of a safe material like stainless steel or BPA-free plastic and start crafting creative lunches--and keep it colorful!

Here are some of our kid-friendly favorites:

Mini-pancakes with fruits & veg

Taco bento box

Reading time bento box

Hearty pasta & meatballs w/peas and sides

Shel Silverstein-inspired bento box

Mermaid bento box with pasta and quinoa

Italian orzo pasta salad w/fruit, cheese & pistachios

Bird’s nest bento box

7. Healthy pinwheel sammies
Healthy pinwheel sammies

If you can slather or sprinkle ingredients across an open tortilla or soft piece of flatbread, you can roll it up, slice it, and make pinwheel sammies. Some of these work with puff pastry as well. There are a million different ways to make them, including bread-free options like these turkey, bacon, and ranch pinwheels. So, take a look at some favorites below and get creative!

Turkey, cheese & lettuce pinwheels

Avocado, bacon, and cheese pinwheels

Rainbow veggie pinwheels

Mexican pinwheels

Pizza pinwheels

Vegan pizza pinwheels w/olives

Buffalo chicken pinwheels

Ham and cheese pinwheels

Avocado cucumber pinwheels (breadless)

8. Homemade lunchables
Homemade lunchables

It’s easy to make your own lunchables. Basically, all you need is:

2 healthy proteins (i.e. lean turkey and organic cheese)

1 carb (potato, quinoa, beans, banana, and carrots are great sources of nutrient dense carbs- or you can go simple with whole grain crackers or bread)

1 or 2 fruits and veggies (applesauce, celery slices)

1 drink (water in a reusable