22 Healthy Cold Lunch Ideas For Kids or For Work
Let's be real: who has time in the morning to whip up a homemade lunch for their child or themselves to enjoy later on? Some people, probably — but certainly not everyone. Making lunch the night before, or days before, if you're a batch-cooker, can help abate the chaos of your morning routine. And when you're meal-prepping lunch, cold lunch ideas are the way to go.
Cold lunches tend to last better than lunches that need to be reheated, which can start to go mushy as the days pass. And they're just so easy. No need to fiddle with a microwave during an all-too-short lunch break. No need to pack multiple containers to separate what needs reheating from what doesn't. Especially in the summer, when you're not necessarily craving a steaming hot soup or meal midday, all we want are cold lunch ideas for our kids and ourselves.
On that note, we've rounded up some of our favorite kid-friendly cold lunch ideas for school or summer camp that will last throughout the day and that your child will actually enjoy. And the best part is, these recipes double as cold lunch ideas for work too. These cold lunch ideas are also full of the nutrients the whole family needs to stay full and energized throughout the busy day. You and your little one won't miss the microwave one bit, we promise.
— Additional reporting by Lauren Manaker
Air Fryer Hard Boiled Eggs
This air fryer recipe somehow makes hard-boiling eggs even easier. Hard-boiled eggs are a source of high-quality protein, and key nutrients that
growing brains and bodies need, including vitamin B12, choline, and iodine.
Because hard-boiled eggs pair so well with other wholesome foods, there
are plenty of ways to serve these nutrient powerhouses at lunchtime, from
using them as a salad topping to including them in a kid-friendly bento box
paired with whole grain crackers, veggies, and fresh fruit. Kids may also
enjoy a hard-boiled egg veggie "pop", which involves inserting a cut carrot
or celery stick into the wide end of a hard-boiled egg and serving it with
tasty dips like hummus or guacamole. Let your imagination run wild.
Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
Got a sweet tooth on your hands? These gluten-free cinnamon roll overnight oats are a great option that provides both protein and fiber while also satisfying sugar cravings. Cinnamon is a great alternative to sugar, and as it's filled with antioxidant properties and acts as an anti-inflammatory, but it still taste magically sweet.
Very Favorite Stir Fry Noodles
This recipe can be either served hot or cold - and as we recommend meal prepping for an easier week, try serving this stir fry dish cold with a splash of reduced-sodium soy sauce for added flavor. Stir fry is a versatile dish, as you can add or subtract any veggies to cater to your child's specific taste palette - and don't forget to add a protein of your choice to ensure fullness throughout the day.
Avocado Chicken Salad
Chicken salad is a cold lunch staple - but why not mix it up a bit? Adding avocado to your chicken salad provides essential nutrients like vitamins C & E as well as magnesium and potassium. Herbs like parsley and mint create a really unique flavor combination that your child is sure to love, and placed on whole wheat bread or a croissant, you've got a gourmet lunch box meal.
Chickpea Lettuce Wraps
Protein can be found in various foods - not just in meats - and chickpeas have it in spades. This chickpea salad is a great option for a lighter yet satisfying cold lunch that, with the addition of cucumber and tomato, offers further nutrients like fiber and antioxidants. Feel free to substitute red onion with more kid-friendly veggies like peppers or snap peas. And if you have leftover chicken, you can use your poultry as a protein source instead of (or in addition to) the chickpeas.
Berries and Yogurt Parfait
This five-minute berries and yogurt parfait recipe is the perfect go-to for busy mornings. Low-fat Greek yogurt provides calcium and iodine, while granola and berries add much-needed fiber to your child's diet. For an added flair, drizzle with antioxidant-rich honey or protein-dense chia seeds and serve in a mason jar for the ultimate picnic feel. Don't forget to throw in a reusable ice pack to keep the yogurt cool until lunchtime.
Pesto Zucchini Noodles
Use your favorite store-bought pesto, or whip up some oil-free walnut pesto as this recipe suggests, and toss into spiralized zucchini noodles for a healthier lunch option your kids will devour.
Egg Salad Sliders
The duo of silky egg salad and soft rolls is so tasty, you'll have trouble not sneaking one of these egg salad sliders from your kid's lunchbox.
DIY Pizza Lunchables
Forget the store-bought stuff — set them up with this DIY pizza Lunchables situation.
Take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the next level with these peanut butter, jelly, and banana wraps.
If your little ones have PB&J fatigue, this jazzed-up version will make them fall in love with the combination all over again.
Crunchy Zucchini Noodle Wrap
Add a little healthy crunch to their lunch with these zucchini noodle wraps that also have avocado and cheese for maximum flavor.
Ranch Chicken Wrap
These chicken wraps are perfect for any ranch-loving kid. And the best part? You can shove a ton of spinach in them for crunch without them — hopefully — even thinking twice about it.
Cold Sesame Noodle Salad
Bring the cold sesame noodles from your favorite Chinese takeout to life using spiralized cucumber, zucchini, and carrot noodles. Pair them with a delicious sesame sauce, and you've got a yummy cold lunch sorted.
Turkey and Carrot "Sushi"
This turkey and carrot "sushi" is a fun way to encourage your little one to eat their veggies at lunchtime.
Italian Zucchini Pasta Spring Rolls
These Italian Zucchini Pasta Spring Rolls are a fresh and healthy take on an Italian hero sandwich.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Sweet Potato Noodle Rolls
These Prosciutto-Wrapped Sweet Potato Noodle Rolls are a clever and unique way to shake things up in your kid's lunchbox.