Does that bland turkey sandwich keep coming back half-eaten in your kid’s lunchbox? When your go-to meal has grown tired for even the pickiest eater in your home, it’s time to shake things up. But coming up with creative school lunches that they’ll actually like can be daunting. No worries, though: We’ve got your back with exciting sandwiches, comforting pasta dishes and inventive handhelds. Think chicken salad-stuffed peppers, BLT pasta salad, hummus wraps and beyond. Read on for 60 easy, kid-friendly school lunch ideas that will put the cafeteria’s food to shame.

RELATED: 50 Easy Kid-Friendly Dinners the Whole Family Will Love

Tips for Packing School Lunches

Just like when you’re cooking for adults, presentation is everything. Here are a few pointers for packing a lunch your picky eater is bound to love:

  • Get them a fun lunchbox. We love bento-style lunchboxes that keep all their snacks organized. Some metal ones even come with fun magnets that the kids can play with while they eat. Let your kid help choose their lunchbox at the beginning of the school year, then help them decorate it with markers, puffy paint, stickers and beyond.
  • Spend a few minutes making their lunch visually appealing. For instance, rolling their sandwich and cutting it into pinwheels, or skewering their fruit salad on toothpicks. Keeping their lunch creative and surprising will likely make it more appealing. Slicing and assembling the least appetizing elements (aka the fruits and vegetables) of their lunch in a fun way may help warm them up to eating things they don't want to eat. Think ants on a log, veggie sushi or fruit sliced with pretty, fun-shaped cookie cutters. (Oh, and a sweet note from Mom never hurts.)
  • Let them help choose and make their lunch. Whether it's spreading cream cheese on a bagel or sprinkling Parmesan on pasta, kids love getting their hands dirty. And if they see dumping croutons into a salad as a fun activity, they just might be more willing to actually eat the salad. Also, if your picky eater is involved in the packing process, they're more likely to enjoy their meal with no complaints, whether it be choosing sandwich fillings, picking a juice box flavor or packing their favorite snack.

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

1. BLT Pasta Salad

Give the typical sandwich routine a fun upgrade and change up the carbs in your kid’s lunch with a deconstructed BLT (see ya, soggy bread). This pasta salad boasts a pleasing combination of textures and plenty of savory flavor.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

2. Lunch Kebabs with Mortadella, Artichoke and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The novelty of eating lunch off a stick will likely be enough to win 'em over—at first. But kids will keep coming back for more of this kebab, thanks to the mouthwatering mix of artichoke, salty olives and decadent mortadella. Bologna who?

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

3. Avocado Chicken Salad

A tired cafeteria classic gets a surprising makeover in this updated chicken salad recipe, which calls for only a sparing amount of mayo. Plenty of herbs give the protein-packed meal a bright, fresh flavor profile.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

4. Italian Deli Pinwheel Sandwiches

The salty, peppery trio of Italian deli meats in these pinwheel sammies pairs so well with the mildly sweet taste of provolone that kids won’t even be tempted to pick out the kale. (Maybe.)

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

5. Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Salad

Bacon makes it better: A well-known fact that will absolutely get your kid to eat more greens. Case in point? This scrumptious and savory pasta salad, which cleverly disguises a heaping serving of cruciferous vegetables with a dose of crispy, salty deliciousness.

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Damn Delicious

6. Peanut Butter and Banana Roll-Up Snack Box

Peanut butter brings plenty of protein and healthy fat to the table and bananas provide energy-boosting carbs. What happens when you roll ‘em up together? A satisfying, healthy lunch that tastes like dessert (but definitely isn’t).

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Damn Delicious

7. Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

Let’s be honest, everyone enjoys a cold pizza snack. That said, your kid’s lunch will look and taste infinitely better if you cook up some of these cuties instead of throwing in a soggy slice from last night’s delivery.

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Sweet Peas and Saffron

8. Chickpea Salad Bento Box

Mild, creamy chickpeas are arguably the most likable legume, which is why kids won’t whine when they encounter this healthy no-cook salad at lunchtime. The red onion, celery and dill keep the mash fresh and light, while mayo gives the dish a rich mouthfeel.

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Dinner at the Zoo

9. Taco Pinwheels

Cute, colorful and packed with chicken and veggies, these Mexican-inspired pinwheels are held together by the most kid-friendly ingredient in your kitchen: cream cheese.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

10. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad

Kids are suckers for corkscrew pasta—and really, who isn’t? Capitalize on that with a pasta salad that scores high on nutritional value by delivering healthy fats, protein, fiber and a whole lot of flavor. (Pro tip: Feel free to skip the jalapeño.)

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Ambitious Kitchen

11. Peanut Butter, Strawberry and Banana Quesadillas

If a PB&J sandwich is the only item on your kid’s lunch menu, it’s time to branch out. Test out this quick and easy quesadilla from Coterie member Monique Volz for something different, yet familiar enough to become an instant favorite.

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Damn Delicious

12. Turkey Spinach Pinwheels

Do something daring next time you pack your kid’s lunch by giving deli turkey a whole new look. Without the bread around to dull their savory flavors, simple cheddar and turkey really sing—so much so that the kids won’t even mind the spinach.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

13. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers

Chicken salad has never looked as appetizing as it does in this colorful and kid-friendly stuffed pepper recipe. Opt for a store-bought rotisserie bird for a no-cook school lunch that’s a cinch to prepare.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

14. Vegetarian Sushi Cups

Don’t have the time or inclination to try your hand at homemade sushi? Same. Skip the seaweed and serve up this vegetarian version instead. Full of veggies and umami, kids will be eager to gobble up these tasty, dainty cups.

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100 Days of Real Food

15. Meal-Prep Mayo-Less Potato Salad

Potato salad without mayonnaise may sound like sacrilege, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it. This innovative update uses sour cream for a dish that tastes every bit as yummy as its classic counterpart, just with a lighter, tangier twist.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

16. Grilled Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Sandwich

The sad-looking ham sandwich of your youth just got a fancy upgrade. Sweet, creamy and savory, your kid will be wild about this sammie and so will you. (We'd make two if we were you.)

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The Minimalist Kitchen

17. Chicken Pesto Focaccia Sandwich

Fluffy focaccia, breaded chicken, candy-sweet sun-dried tomatoes, salty feta and pesto. The ingredients kind of speak for themselves, but let it be known that this sandwich is anything but boring and sure to please every palate.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

18. Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

When butternut squash season arrives, get to the farmers market and make your mini a gourmet meal that goes down easy. To be honest, this pasta salad is almost too cool for school...but it still tastes just as divine in the cafeteria as it does at the dinner table.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

19. Avocado Egg Salad Sandwich

Avocado gets a little kick from a dollop of Dijon and a couple tablespoons of capers. Yep, this egg salad sandwich promises to go down like a breath of fresh air at lunchtime.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

20. Buffalo Chicken Wraps with Blue Cheese and Celery

If you score a rotisserie chicken, this boldly-flavored lunch wrap comes together in mere minutes. You may need to adjust the Buffalo sauce for young ones who are sensitive to spice, but the effort-to-reward ratio makes it hard to beat.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

21. Salami, Artichoke and Ricotta Pasta Salad

Ah, salami: The cafeteria staple that rarely stirs excitement. Unless, of course, you toss it into a restaurant-worthy pasta salad with artichoke hearts and creamy ricotta, in which case you have the kind of lunch that won’t come back home with your kid.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

22. The Ultimate Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Ready to not talk turkey? Make this grilled chicken sandwich—complete with creamy yogurt sauce and crispy onions—for your little one and you’ll both be singing the praises of poultry once again.

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Secrets of Great Second Meals

23. Mozzarella Meatball Frittata

Frittatas are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making the most of leftovers (in this case, meatballs) and no matter the mix-in, they’re reliably delicious without reheating.

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Cookie and Kate

24. Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Creamy Chipotle

Swap the chipotle mayo for something milder like garlic mayo or green goddess dressing for kids who can't take the heat, but don’t let it deter you from sending your little one to school with these scrumptiously seasoned (cumin, we love you) vegetarian tacos.

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Mom on Timeout

25. Creamy Cilantro Lime Southwestern Pasta Salad

Rotisserie chicken, black beans, mild cheese and sweet corn mingle in this pasta salad, which is plenty filling at lunchtime and definitely not dull.

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Spoon Fork Bacon

26. Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Three cheers for a creamy, flavorful and protein-packed vegetarian sandwich that your kid won’t be bitter about having for lunch.

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The Mom 100

27. Pasta Salad with Salmon and Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Salmon pairs beautifully with rich and mildly tangy dressing. Bonus: Rotini is definitely the most fun of all the pasta shapes. Make a double batch and treat yourself to a fancy, effortless lunch. (A glass of white wine is optional, but recommended.)

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

28. Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki

Add some zucchini and tomato to these tasty chicken skewers for a healthy, kid-friendly lunch that—served hot or cold—basically tastes like a Mediterranean vacation.

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Allison Day/Modern Lunch

29. Citrus Shrimp and Quinoa Salad with Feta

Don’t worry if you can’t tempt your kid with shrimp cocktail. Tangy citrus, sharp feta and briny olives can take it from here in this wholesome and savory quinoa salad.

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Aran Goyoaga/Cannelle et Vanille

30. Roasted Squash Salad with White Beans, Bread Crumbs and Preserved Lemon

Creamy white beans melt in the mouth, bread crumbs add a pleasant crunch and preserved lemon adds just a bit of zing to nutty-sweet squash in this mild, but well-balanced salad.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

31. Slow-Cooker Meal-Prep Burrito Bowls

Succulent pork shoulder and creamy avocado are a mouthwatering match, only made better by a tangy crema topping. Kids will go bonkers for these burrito bowls—and we promise no one will miss the tortilla.

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Allison Day/Modern Lunch

32. Lemon-Roasted Potatoes, Chicken and Spinach with Tzatziki

Greens, starch, protein: This gorgeous and well-rounded meal packs big Mediterranean flavor into a bento box for a delicious, nutritious lunch experience that can be savored without reheating.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

33. Grilled Caprese Skewers with Halloumi and Sourdough

This clever sandwich hack involves skewered ingredients. The end result? Sweet, ripe tomatoes, salty cheese and satisfying, crusty sourdough that doesn’t lose its luster like most sandwich bread.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

34. Grilled Flatbread Pizza with Artichoke, Ricotta and Lemon

Thanks to ricotta, the creamy cheese that never congeals, your kid will be more than happy to munch on this homemade white pie cold or at room temp.

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The Almond Eater

35. Mediterranean Hummus Bowl

Hummus: The dip your kid will be shocked they love once they try it. Stir some (homemade or store bought) into this plant-based bowl of deliciousness for a healthy lunch they'll have no trouble putting away.

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Inspiralized

36. Mini Potato and Carrot Quiche Cups

A rich and savory egg custard that really struts its stuff at room temperature, quiche is always yummy but not always good for you. The exception? Coterie member Ali Maffucci’s healthy update, which boasts carrot-potato filling.

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Pinch of Yum

37. Meal-Prep Sesame Noodles

Toss your kid’s favorite protein into this Asian-inspired, make-ahead lunch for loads of customizable flavor. The best part is the silky sesame sauce that clings to cold noodles like a charm.

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Inspiralized

38. Broccoli and Cheddar Brown Rice Muffins

Didn’t think you could turn a muffin into a meal? Think again. The broccoli and cheddar make for filling whole grain muffins that are nutritious, savory and totally scrumptious.

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Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

39. Homemade Pepperoni Pizza Rolls

Finger foods are a big win when it comes to school lunches, and boy do we have good news: Your kid’s favorite food just got a less sloppy new look. As for the pepperoni and mozzarella combo? Just as delicious as ever.

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Two Peas and their Pod

40. Spinach Pistachio Pesto Pasta

Sauce is by far the best way to conceal a serving of folate-filled greens, which explains why pesto is a parent’s best friend.

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Two Peas and their Pod

41. Roasted Chickpea Avocado Toast

Avocado toast has been trending for years and it’s no wonder why, since avocado is full of healthy fat. Get your kid in on the action by piling this protein-rich chickpea salad atop of a crusty piece of bread. (Add another slice on top to minimize the lunch box mess.)

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Foodie Crush

42. Hummus Veggie Wrap

Introducing an absolutely delicious veggie wrap from Coterie member Heidi Larsen that can be pulled together with whatever produce you have on hand. To make it extra tasty, just add a generous amount of homemade hummus.

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The Almond Eater

43. Lemon Orzo Salad

Pasta is an easy and pleasing school lunch option, but orzo is the unsung hero of the bunch. This delicate, rice-shaped pasta allows the other ingredients to take centerstage. In this case, we’re talking about zucchini, tomato, feta and basil.

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The Almond Eater

44. Cottage Cheese Chicken Salad Sandwich

Lighten up your kid’s lunch a little with this variation of classic chicken salad. Mayo is still in the mix, but there’s much less of it since the cottage cheese provides plenty of savory, creamy goodness.

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The Mess is Ours

45. Vegan Taco Salad Wrap

Easy to make and stuffed full of walnut ‘meat,’ these vegan and kid-friendly ingredients combine for a chilled wrap with Mexican flare that tastes like a fiesta in your mouth.

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Two Peas and their Pod

46. Turkey Cheddar Apple Pinwheels

Apples give a pleasant crunch and add a delightful combination of sweetness and acidity to these pint-sized turkey wraps—a major improvement on the white bread and turkey sandwich that has been haunting cafeterias for decades.

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The Mess is Ours

47. Mini Spaghetti Pies

Every kid has, at one time or another, thrown spaghetti on the floor. Fortunately these compact pasta pies are mess-proof (and taste even better cold than the real thing).

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Cook at Home Mom

48. Pepperoni Pizza Frittata

This incredibly easy lunch combines sweet tomato sauce with pepperoni slices for an eggy lunch your kids will rave about.

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Dinner at the Zoo

49. Avocado Tuna Salad

Budget-friendly canned tuna gets an elegant upgrade in this kid-friendly lunch made with brightly-colored vegetables, creamy avocado and a little lime dressing. Serve it as is or pile it between two slices of bread—either way, this one won’t disappoint.

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Dinner at the Zoo

50. Banh Mi Sandwich

Vietnamese lunch fare at its finest: baguette is stuffed with juicy grilled pork, pickled vegetables and aromatic herbs. Bonus? This yumminess is meant to be enjoyed cold.

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51. Caesar Pasta Salad

Two of their favorite dinners united in cheesy harmony. The homemade dressing calls for avocado in place of traditional egg, which eases the load on your end. But feel free to skip the anchovy paste (we're sure your kids would be none the wiser).

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52. Pizza Bagels

TBH, the less fancy they are, the better they taste. We're talking store-bought bagels (or English muffins), pre-shredded mozz and your kid's favorite sauce. Feel free to go wild with their go-to toppings.

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53. Ritz Crackers with Whipped Honey Ricotta and Bacon

They're basically grown-up Lunchables. Pack the crumbled bacon in its own tiny container or bag so it stays crispy and include a tiny knife, so your kid can assemble each cracker however they like.

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54. Ants on a Log

These crunchy, creamy celery sticks slathered in peanut butter are timeless for a reason. Feel free to use any nut butter that your kid will actually eat, or swap raisins for nuts, dried cranberries or broken pretzels.

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55. Veggie-Loaded Stuffed Bell Peppers

The best thing about this recipe is its flexibility. You could easily swap quinoa for leftover rice or small pasta, if your kid prefers. And you can substitute just about any of the vegetables inside (though we think corn, tomatoes and zucchini are a solid starting place for picky eaters).

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56. Buffalo Tuna Melt

Your kids will be too busy relishing in buffalo-ranch tuna salad and melted mozzarella to notice the chopped celery and carrots in the mix. You could also serve the tuna with crackers or in a wrap if they won't be able to reheat the melt at school.

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57. Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Parenting 101: Hide veggies in their meals every chance you get. Here, broccoli florets are blended with pine nuts, basil and other essentials until smooth to create the pesto. Skip the olives if you think their briny flavor will be a dealbreaker.

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58. Tomato and Yellow Zucchini Risotto

If your kids like mac and cheese, they'll be down to try this creamy vegan dish. (And they'll have no clue that the key to its richness is yellow zucchini—not butter and cheese). Might we suggest making it for dinner and sending them off with the leftovers?

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59. Everything Bagel-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Behold: Your children's new favorite dinner. Luckily, it tastes just as good at lunchtime and only requires a handful of pantry staples and 35 minutes to come together.

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60. Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

You can never go wrong with a classic. We're partial to tart black raspberry jam and creamy PB, but of course, it all comes down to your kid's preferences. Serve it with apple slices, cherries or mandarin oranges.

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RELATED: 15 After-School Snack Recipes Your Kids Will Love

For even more great recipes, check out our first cookbook, Only the Good Stuff.

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