Lunchbox Remix: Healthy Picky Eater Lunch Ideas for Kids
Making lunch for your kid can be stressful—especially when you’re packing for a picky eater who turns away from healthy foods or comes home with a full lunchbox. Instead of stressing, or boring your little one with the same old foods, use these ideas to find inspiration and ensure your picky eater is getting the nutrients he or she needs.
As you try these lunches, or come up with some fresh ideas of your own, keep the following tips in mind from Alisha Gorgan, of Your Kids Table, a licensed pediatric occupational therapist and mom to three boys.
- Always provide at least one food your child usually eats. Gorgan explains, “A picky eater must see at least one food that is familiar or else they may as well be staring at a plate of cockroaches and will react that way.”
- Include foods with textures your child likes. If you’re not sure what those are, Grogan gives an example: if your child likes noodles of bread, he or she likely prefers soft foods, as opposed to crunchy.
- Don’t expect your kiddo to eat everything—this is an important mindset shift for you, as a parent, says Grogan.
- Use divided plates or compartments for one simple reason: “Simply making sure that unknown or new foods aren’t touching the foods they do like is critical.”
If you’re ready to remix your usual lunch plan, add these healthy picky eater lunch ideas to your recipe rolodex.
Packed with a variety of foods
If your picky eater goes running to the lunchables every time you get to the grocery store, give this creative idea a try. It comes from Kelly Kwok, mom of two and cookbook author. The foods recommended in this lunch, perfect for variety-loving kiddos, include:
- pita or tortilla triangles (use whole wheat or gluten free tortillas as needed)
- plantain chips
- zucchini or cucumber
- apple slices
- wholegrain mini crackers (use gluten free crackers or leave out as needed)
- fresh berries
- pumpkin seeds and cranberries
Hawaiian Tortilla Roll-Up
Packed with sweet potato chips and sides of cherry tomatoes and grapes
Kimber Matherne, mom and blogger, says this simple recipe is perfect if your picky eater loves hawaiian pizza. Stuffed with ham and pineapple, it’s the perfect blend of sweet and savory—just like your child’s favorite slice of pizza.
Mini Pumpkin Pancakes Lunch
Packed with a hard boiled egg and side of raspberries
This is another fun “mini” lunch idea from Fuentes, and one your sweet-tooth picky eater will want again and again. It’s also another “cook once, eat twice” meal, says Fuentes, so you can prep ahead on busy weeks.
No Cook Taco Salad Bento Box
Packed with tortilla chips, shredded cheese and taco sauce
Let your picky eater make the rules with this quick and easy taco lunch. With chips for dipping, your child can enjoy foods that are crunchy and soft, which may be just what your kiddo is craving, according to Melanie Potock.
In The Best Foods for Picky Toddlers, Potock says, “Toddlers typically like a moist crunch, especially if they are still teething, and the sound of that crunch gives them satisfying feedback to keep them interested.”
Advanced Picky Eater Lunch Ideas
For picky eaters who have made some progress, and are now be eating a wider variety of food, we have a few more ideas for you keep mixing things up.
Feta and Spinach Lunchbox Muffin
Packed with a sandwich skewer and sides of strawberries and veggies
Ciara Attwell, lunchbox creator, recipe book author and mom of two, recommends these muffins because they keep well (up to three days in the fridge) and can be made with a variety of flours. Plus, you can easily change the flavors. Swap out the feta for another cheese, or add in their favorite cooked meat, like sausage or ham.
Vegetable and Rice Salad
Packed with mini bell peppers stuffed with cheese and a side of fruit
This is another healthy picky eater lunch idea from Attwell. Her recipe calls for microwavable rice, to make it quick and easy. Plus, the cheese may be just what you need to get your little one to dig into their veggies. Cook a big pot of the rice on Sunday and serve this a few times throughout the week—for lunch or dinner.
Mini Quinoa Pizza Bites
Packed with pasta sauce for dipping and a side of carrots
Pizza-loving picky eaters will love this simple but tasty idea from Laura Fuentes, mom of three and creator of MOMables. What makes these even better is that they’re easy to make, using simple ingredients like quinoa, shredded mozzarella and your child’s favorite pizza toppings. Prep on Sunday for lunches and snacks throughout the week.
Bonus: Healthy Lunch Box Snacks for Picky Eaters
If you’re looking for more lunch box goodies, check out some of our Healthy Height inspired snacks, all of which are as tasty as they are nutritious.
- Protein Date Balls
- Chocolate, Banana and Oat Cookies
- Oatmeal, Apple and Cinnamon Muffins
- Vanilla Cake Balls