Lunch Box Ideas for Kids Who Don’t Like Sandwiches

I am not a big sandwich eater and as a result we tend to eat other foods for lunch at home. This tradition has continued since both girls have started school. They will go through short spurts of requesting sandwiches but most of the time they ask for alternatives. While cold meat and salad is my go to sandwich alternative, with many days and years of school lunches ahead of us I like to have other choices on offer. Here are some or our favourite sandwich alternatives, and some tips for general tips for school lunches from my years as a teacher and a mama.

Lunch Box Tips for Kids Who Don't Like Sandwiches

15 Lunch Box Ideas for Kids Who Don’t Like Sandwiches

  1. Fried rice in a child’s lunch thermos (here’s our favourite fried rice recipe)
  2. Tuna patties (eaten cold with salad)
  3. Homemade bangers (sausages)
  4. Baked beans in a child’s lunch thermos (here’s the recipe for our homemade Baked Beans)
  5. Rice paper rolls filled with chicken, cucumber, carrot and bean sprouts
  6. Homemade, oven baked chicken nuggets
  7. Pizza rolls or savoury scrolls
  8. Boiled egg and salad
  9. French toast/Eggy bread (here’s how I make French Toast fun in lunch boxes)
  10. Sushi
  11. Rice or pasta salad
  12. Toasted sandwiches – they eat them cold! Here’s how I stop them from going soggy
  13. Mini quiche (here’s my go-to, super easy mini quiche recipe)
  14. Omelette, chopped into strips
  15. Cold meat, salad and pasta or crackers

School lunch ideas for kids who won't eat sandwiches

A few lunch box tips from my years as a teacher and now a Mum…

  • It is always a good idea to introduce (potentially) new lunch box foods at home first and school holidays/vacation offer the perfect opportunity to do so (though weekends work well too). For example, Immy and I experimented with pizza scrolls (like those shown above) during the recent school holidays.
  • A small, wide mouthed thermos is great for keeping lunch foods warm. We have a Foogo by Thermos. Just like new foods, give your child the opportunity to use any new containers at home first.
  • I try to balance Immy’s lunch box by being sure to include a serve of carbohydrate (preferably those of the slow release kind for sustained energy), protein and dairy each day, alongside with a fruit and a vegetable.

Our favourite lunch box containers

(these are affiliate links – click the image for more information)

Sistema QuaddieFoogoSmash food containers
If you are looking for more ideas, and hang out on Pinterest, my Lunch Box Ideas board which contains links to recipes for many more suggestions. You can follow me on Pinterest here.

These suggestions are based on my research and experiences as both a teacher and a Mum, they do not constitute nutritional advice.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of sandwich alternatives?

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    1. Thank you for pinning, Kim, am following along on Pinterest now πŸ™‚

  1. Claire @ FergDelight says:

    Ahhhh Christie… you’re a woman after my own heart. I’m going to forward this to my client. Check your messages and then get in touch. Can’t wait to hear from you.

    Claire x

  2. I love your ideas! What fun it would be to find any of them in a lunch! I am now following you on Pinterest.

  3. Now if only you could come up with lunch box ideas for children who don’t eat!?!?

    Her non-eating ways don’t bother me at home (doesn’t bother her either since she is actually a little heavier and taller than her twin who eats!) but I always feel like everyone is judging me if I send her to school with only an apple! LOL

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Oh Katepickle! I’m so glad I’m not the only one!! I was looking at my list going, yeah, she won’t eat that stuff either! I will be trying some of these, but she hates when foods touch (e.g. meat and bread, ham and cheese, anything where 2 items touch)

  4. Terri jackson says:

    I love your ideas and most days I pack our ‘home adventureer’ lunch boxes like this (2 YO and 4 YO), however be careful with the routines at school and how these might effect how your children eat. There is often a eat before play rule and all children who have lunches that take additional time to eat either don’t eat in their rush to play or get left out of games. This is also true of hard to open packages, we spent a week at home playing games so the kids could open their new ‘Nudi’ boxes easily. In the rare cases we have prepackaged treats I cut the ends of muesli bars etc. Yes they can do it and at home with all the time in the world I expect it, however in the school environment I understand the children’s need for haste. Just some ideas to keep in mind as we create these yummy lunchboxes.

    1. I agree completely with you point about considering the time taken too eat lunch box foods, Terri. Playing with friends is much more exciting than eating.

  5. Our most common entree is Greek yogurt. I buy plain Greek yogurt in a large container a d put a bit with a sweetener into a bowl with lid the night before, store in fridge. Then in the morning I stir in some frozen berries, what kind can be varied. It’s yummy, varying fruit varies flavor, and keeps it colder longer. Also Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt.

    Hummus is also a great option for my other kid.

    1. Love this tip, Corinne, we must give Greek yoghurt and frozen berries a try πŸ™‚

  6. My son loves cheese quesadillas with salsa. Sometimes I add a little sliced ham. When I was pregnant and lunchmeat was not an option or not appetising, I ate a lot of bean soups or cous cous with haloumi cheese. It was easy to make aheadand I could dress it up wth raisins and toasted almonds if I had them on hand.. quiche and veggie slice is another favourite. Veggies and hommos. Yum I’m making myself very hungry.

    1. So many great suggestions, Diane. When I was writing the post I actually wondered how quesadillas would travel in the lunch box, must give it a go πŸ™‚

      1. I find if you let them cool completely before packing they travel better

  7. My kids’ favourite lunch is “bits and pieces” – we have the tupperware bowls with the 3 compartments so they have crackers/biscuits with cheese, luncheon meats, almonds , dried apricots, puffed corn, dry cereal, dip, dried fruit, soya crisps, olives, sundried tomatoes, cream cheese, carrot sticks, celery sticks – a combo of whatever we have on hand!

  8. Dannie (A Dose of Dannie) says:

    wow! Christie! Love this post as My daughter Chloe can’t eat bread as it makes her sick so many cool ideas . I had a few but was running out of them fast! Loving the Tuna and veg patties ~Thank goodness she loves Tuna hey lol πŸ™‚

  9. Glad to see you on Pintrest. I spent a lot of time there while my daughter was nursing.

  10. Christie, thanks for the ideas, I always like to be able to give parents some ideas for the lunch boxes, especially if it’s their first child or a non-bread eater. I had one little boy this year who had corn on the cob & chicken drumsticks, as he was not so fond of bread.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, Kierna, Immy loves corn on the cob at dinner time so I will have to add it to the lunch list.

  11. Thanks for the ideas and leading me to your boards. We live in Nebraska in the U.S. and our state being big on beef has decided to continue to serve dog food, I mean lean beef trimmings to our kids in the public schools. So I have to get into gear and have all the ideas for lunch ahead of time, might be a bit harder since I am trying to go back to school myself so thanks for the help!

    1. Oh no, Timmi, I am sorry to hear that. Hope you find a little inspiration here.

  12. Love these ideas Christie. Our little ladies have an aversion to the cut sandwhich as well. I often pack a savoury muffin or mini quiche. We also pack a little container of ‘brain food’ just for a little pick me up during the day.

    Thanks for the ideas. I’m off to check out your pins now.

    Kellie x

    1. I would love to know what you include in your brain food, Kellie πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Christie, am due for a little catch up of your blog posts so am aiming to do so today (amongst catching up on chores around here). I am finding our lunches becoming a bit ‘boring’ and repetitive lately too so am grateful for this post and will check out your Pinterest board for sure. When you pack things like cold meat and salad for Immy, do you pack an ice pack or something to keep it cool? I like your suggestion for trying new foods/containers at home first πŸ™‚ I can’t count the number of times as a teacher I had to open packaging for little ones πŸ™‚

    1. I use a mini ice brick (or two in summer) and pack everything in an insulated bag – both of which I bought from Kmart.

    2. It’s also a good idea to practice them with food in them, not just empty. And for the parent/lunch packer to practice, as well. I *cough* may have tightened a thermos too tight once to the point where the kid I baby-sit’s teacher had trouble getting it open.

  14. I just started showing my son the bento style lunches. He was interested ( not going all out with cut outs, he will be in 5th grade) One thing he agreed on was hummus sandwiched between Ritz crackers.

  15. Thanks for linking to my oven baked nuggets recipe Christie!

  16. My oldest son doesn’t like sandwiches either, and can’t eat either dairy or eggs, so he’s always a challenge to pack for. I have sent him many days with homemade soup in a thermos, because I can pack many different kinds. This is his favorite.

    I also have sent him with shredded chicken or pork I’ve cooked ahead of time and heated. We sometimes make chicken wraps, where he takes fake ranch dressing and chicken with cheese in a tortilla. We’ve also done nutella and bananas in a tortilla.

  17. Great ideas! A container of hummus and a baggie of Stacy’s pita chips is a staple with my non-sandwich eater. Also, she likes to take cold cheese tortellini is a little chilled container.

  18. Oh, I wish my mom had this for me as a kid! I’ve never liked bread. My lunches were always so boring and repetitive!

  19. Such great ideas! I got so bored with sandwiches as a kid, then Mom switched to Lunchables to save time. These are great, healthy alternatives!

  20. I enjoyed your links and your suggestions. Thank you for livening up our lunches.

  21. Wow, after reading this article and comments I realize I have it really bad! πŸ™ My son won’t touch any of this with a ten foot pole….my daughter on the other hand might. I’m wondering though, some of these foods I’ve known to eat only warm, how would I keep them warm (so that they are still tasty)? Clearly using a microwave to warm up food isn’t an option at an elementary public school (or any that I know of). Boy, I really have to get creative, please help!!

    1. I was wondering the same thing. And scrolling down to see if anyone else had the same question. How to keep those savory pizza rolls warm and not soggy. I asked my son if he wanted to take some pizza left over from last night in his lunch and he said, “Cold?!? No way Mom.”

  22. I use the thermos containers a lot to keep warm food warm. My kids love dumplings, I heat them up in the morning and pop them in the thermos. If you want to add a lunch note, please check out my site, Every school day I post free printable lunch notes. Illustrated jokes, fun facts, etc. – please take a look.

  23. For some serious lunch inspiration, go to the weelicious page on facebook. Go into photos then albums. There are 4 albums entitled school lunch. More then 300+ ideas for school lunch. This is Catherine McCord’s page. She also has a website Lots of great healthy recipes for kids. I have been making recipes from her for almost 3 years now. My son loves them. Many things can be frozen as well which is a great time saver.

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  26. There are so many great ideas on here! Sushi rolls are definitely a hit (and the look cool). Nutritionist Paula Scromeda suggests some healthy lunch ideas as well:

    I love finding cool lunch ideas on Pinterest too. Rainbow spaghetti was a recent one.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, love the sound of rainbow spaghetti. I will have to see if I can find that one πŸ™‚

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  28. It’s always so great to find new ways to entice my daughter to eat great food on the run. Thanks for a really informative and creative blog post

  29. I’m a mom who’s a for are teacher as well, and my issue has always been how to get my son to eat nutritious COLD lunches because none of the thermoses keep food warm til lunch time. Now he primarily eats peanuts and crackers! He won’t eat sandwiches of any kind and won’t eat cheese despite the $20 lunch bag I invested in which keeps it cold til 4! I need help finding alternative foods that a FUSSY eater will take. Any suggestions??

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  32. marguerite says:

    I have an autistic son who is 5 yo … attends a special school that promote independence so can’t send his hot food that he normally eats at home … wont eat bread or pastry. .. can some one give me some ideas

  33. To make your food stay hot and fresh you can put it in a thermos. containers, you’ll be so sure that your kids will enjoy eating their pack lunch while it is still hot and fresh.

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  35. can you talk like an adult?

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