Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids - Action for Healthy Kids
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Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids

by Amy Roskelley of Super Healthy Kids

When it comes to school lunch ideas, we think of sending a sandwich, a fruit, a vegetable, and a treat. This has always been an easy formula for kids to remember while they pack a balanced lunch. When kids eat a balanced meal, they can focus better the rest of the school day, they have more energy to play, and they learn a balanced meal can take place at every meal.

To create a balanced lunch, we make sure the kids include:

  • A protein: Protein has staying power and slows the absorption of the meal. Thinking beyond deli meats, protein for lunch can be the hummus we spread on our sandwich, nuts, hard boiled eggs, beans or seeds.
  • A fruit: Don’t get hung up on the fact you don’t have any apples in your fruit bowl. Try applesauce, single serving fruit bowls, or dried fruit.
  • A veggie: Make sure they’re familiar, because school lunch is usually not the best time to introduce new veggies. You may want to leave the radishes and turnips at home. Instead, let them fill their lunch with carrots and cucumbers.
  • A grain: Grains can be a good source of energy and healthy carbs. We like bread for our sandwiches, but it could also be pasta or pretzels, too.

To continue sending a balanced lunch when the sandwiches get boring, here are some cold meal ideas that you can pack with an ice pack or put in the school fridge. Enjoy!

Bowtie Pasta Salad

16 oz – bowtie (farfalle) pasta, dry
3 cups – rotisserie chicken
1/2 teaspoon – salt
1/2 teaspoon – black pepper, ground
1 cup – cherry tomatoes
1 cup – pesto
1/4 cup chopped – basil, fresh
1 ounce – Parmesan cheese


2 cups – raspberries


  1. Cook pasta as directed on package; drain and set aside.
  2. Shred chicken into small pieces and season with salt and pepper. Slice cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Add chicken to a medium bowl along with the pasta. Stir in pesto, tomatoes, basil, and shredded parmesan. Mix well to combine.
  4. Serve pasta with raspberries on the side.

Fiesta Lettuce Wrap

1 medium – tomato, red
1 medium – avocado
1 medium – bell pepper, green
15 oz – black beans, canned
1 cup – black eyed peas, canned
2 tablespoons – ranch dressing, low fat
1/4 teaspoon – cumin, ground
1/4 teaspoon – garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon – salt
1 cup – corn, canned
12 leaves – lettuce, romaine


2 cups – pineapple


  1. Chop tomato, avocado and bell pepper. Drain and rinse beans.
  2. Mix dressing, cumin, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Toss chopped tomato, avocado, bell pepper, corn, and beans into a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the dressing until well blended.
  4. Lay out lettuce leaves, spoon a small amount of the filling onto each one, and roll up. Serve with pineapple on the side.

Pizza Kabobs

8 oz – tortellini pasta
1 medium – bell pepper, green
4 sticks – string cheese
4 servings – turkey pepperoni
1 cup – cherry tomatoes
12 wooden – skewers


2 cups – grapes
1 cup – pizza sauce


  1. Cook tortellini as directed on package. Drain, and cool to room temperature.
  2. Cut pepper and cheese into pieces so that all ingredients are similar in size.
  3. Fold pepperoni in half and skewer with the remaining ingredients in an alternating fashion.
  4. Serve alongside grapes, with sauce on the side for dipping.

Broccoli Salad with Pita

4 cups – broccoli, florets
1 medium – bell pepper, red
1 medium – bell pepper, green
1/2 medium – onion, red
12 jumbo – black olives, canned
1 cup – cherry tomatoes
4 oz – cheddar cheese
1/2 cup – ranch dressing, low fat
1/4 cup – sunflower seeds


4 large – pita, whole wheat
1 medium – cantaloupe


  1. Cut broccoli into small florets; dice peppers and onion. Slice olives and tomatoes in half; cut cheese into cubes.
  2. Toss everything into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Drizzle dressing over salad, sprinkle in the seeds and toss well to combine and fully coat.
  4. Slice pita into triangles; cut cantaloupe into cubes. Serve salad with pita triangles and fruit.

Homemade Lunchable

4 servings – crackers, whole-wheat
4 servings – crackers, Melba toast, plain
4 oz – cheddar cheese
4 slices – turkey breast, deli style
1 cup – grapes
4 medium – apple
1 medium – cucumber


  1. Slice cheese and turkey into small squares, core and slice apples, and slice cucumber into rounds.
  2. Divide each ingredient into 4 equal servings and place into separate compartments within each container, or serve side by side on a plate.
  3. Enjoy!