Top 20 Easy and Appealing Lunch Ideas for Picky Eater Success

lunch ideas for picky eater success | else kids shakes held by a happy girl

Top 20 Easy and Appealing Lunch Ideas for Picky Eater Success


Need to expand your lunch repertoire for a picky eater? Finding the delicate balance between what’s healthy and what’s happily eaten is no simple task. In this guide, we offer 20 nourishing and enticing lunch ideas for picky eaters, designed to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.

From personalizing lunch boxes to mixing familiar foods with new tastes and crafting hot, comforting meals, you’ll discover options that promise to ease the lunchtime standoff and maybe even introduce a new favorite or two. Explore our lunch ideas for picky eater suggestions and make mealtime a breeze.


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Key Takeaways

  • Involving children in selecting a lunchbox with appealing features and designs can make them more excited about meal times and encourage them to eat.

  • Introduce new foods gradually alongside favorites and ensure a balanced meal with the ‘Rule of 5’, incorporating protein, carbs, fats, fruits, and vegetables to support health and development.

  • Offering creative, customizable lunch options, such as DIY deli meat roll-ups, fun-shaped whole grain bread, and playful skewers, can make food more enticing and enjoyable for picky eaters.

Picking the Perfect Lunchbox for Your Picky Eater

Variety of colorful Bento boxes


The search for the ideal lunch starts with the perfect container: lunch boxes. It’s the treasure chest of the midday meal, and its appeal can make or break your child’s interest. Imagine the excitement of your little one flipping open a lunchbox they handpicked, adorned with their favorite colors or characters.

This isn’t just wishful thinking; involving children in the choice of their lunchbox can be a game-changer in motivating them to eat their meals. Some ideas for involving your child in the choice of their lunchbox include:

  • Letting them pick the color or design of the lunchbox

  • Allowing them to add stickers or decorations to personalize it

  • Considering their favorite characters or themes when selecting a lunchbox

By involving your child in the choice of their lunchbox, you can make lunchtime more enjoyable and increase their motivation to eat their meals.

The perfect lunchbox should have the following features:

  • Visually appealing design

  • Lightweight and easy to carry

  • Easy to clean

  • Comes with compartments for organizing different foods

  • Smaller portions to avoid overwhelming younger diners

  • Encourages involvement in meal prep

  • Bento boxes are a great option for small portions and exploration of new foods while still providing comfort

  • You can check out our Ready to Drink Kids Nutrition Shakes, for a convenient, whole-food based addition to your kiddo's lunchbox - that they'll actually love!

The Art of Mixing Familiar with New in School Lunches

Mixing familiar and new foods

Taking a culinary journey with your picky eater involves navigating a path that combines the comforting familiarity of known foods with the thrilling discovery of new tastes. One new food at a time, anchored alongside well-loved favorites, makes new foods less intimidating and more acceptable. Think of it as a culinary buddy system - a great example of ideas for picky eaters.

Keeping a regular rotation of familiar lunches provides consistency and predictability, acting as a comfort zone for picky eaters. And when it comes to introducing those new foods, consider the ‘one day on, one day off’ method, where a new item is offered every other day to prevent overwhelming their delicate palates. With these lunch ideas for picky eaters, you can ensure a balanced and enjoyable mealtime experience.

By creating a diverse menu based on established preferences, you keep the lunch box a hub of healthy fascination rather than a box of boredom.

Building a Balanced Meal: A Guide for Parents

Just as a skilled architect knows that a lasting structure needs a solid foundation and a balanced mix of elements, so too does your child’s lunch. A balanced meal should include:

  • Protein

  • Carbohydrates

  • Healthy fats

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

A rainbow of nutrients is the cornerstone of a balanced meal, with each element playing a role in your little one’s health and development.

Adhering to the ‘Rule of 5’ guarantees that your lunch plan comprises at least five distinct food items, laying the groundwork for a fulfilling and balanced school lunch. If the thought of sneaking vegetables past your child’s discerning eyes excites you, get creative by blending them into smoothies or combining them with their favorite foods. With these school lunch ideas and healthy school lunch ideas in mind, you can ensure your child enjoys a nutritious school lunch every day while packing school lunch.

Complement main meals like ham and cheese roll-ups with sides of crunchy carrot sticks or sweet apple slices with dip for a balanced diet that delights. Remember, your own eating habits are the blueprint they’re likely to follow, so set a positive example by indulging in a variety of nutritious foods yourself.

And when it comes to variety, offering selections like turkey bites, gourmet cheese, and paired fruits and vegetables can turn a simple lunch into a diverse, balanced culinary experience with the addition of lunch meat.

Customizable Lunch Creations for Every Picky Palate

Child packing lunch with various ingredients

Visualize your child’s lunch as a blank canvas, with every food item being a brush stroke that forms a symphony of flavors. In the world of school lunches, offering customizable options allows children to express their individual tastes and take ownership of their meals. Let them take the helm by informing them about the lunch contents, providing pre-arranged options, or suggesting their favorite characters helped pack it - this can skyrocket their excitement towards meals and guarantee they’re more willing to eat their lunch.

From turkey and cheese roll-ups to a ‘build-your-own’ bento lunch with a smorgasbord of ingredients, the idea of deconstructed meals caters to the preference of keeping food items separated and gives children the autonomy they crave. By making school lunches visually appealing with bright colors and fun shapes, and tapping into the creativity that bento boxes offer, you encourage picky eaters to try new foods while enjoying the process.

The key to maintaining interest in healthy foods lies in menu variety, and strategies like Sunday meal prep allow kids to independently assemble their lunches throughout the week, making every meal an adventure.

Fun Shapes with Whole Grain Bread

Who would have thought that a simple cookie cutter could reveal your child’s affection for whole grain bread? Transform slices of this fibrous staple into stars, hearts, or dinosaurs, and watch as your picky eater’s eyes light up with joy. It’s a simple trick, but the fun shapes make healthy foods like whole grain bread suddenly look a lot more appetizing to those with a selective appetite.

Whether it’s a sandwich that now looks like a favorite animal or a whole grain toast shaped like a beloved character, playing with food shapes encourages children to have fun with their food and, more importantly, to eat more during mealtime.

Sweet and Savory Skewers

Skewers provide a fun variation on the standard lunch, transforming mealtime into a hands-on experience for selective eaters. Picture a skewer lined with chunks of deli meat, alternating with juicy grapes or sweet berries - it’s a novel presentation that’s as delightful to the eyes as it is to the taste buds. And for safety’s sake, using blunt-ended skewers or popsicle sticks ensures a worry-free lunch that’s as safe as it is scrumptious.

Don’t shy away from mixing and matching different foods on skewers; cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, and even melon balls can all find their place in your child’s lunchbox, creating a buffet of flavors that might just make them forget they’re eating their veggies. The key is to keep experimenting and finding the combinations that make your child’s palate sing with joy.

No More Soggy Sandwiches: Innovative Alternatives

Innovative sandwich alternatives

Say goodbye to the era of the dreaded soggy sandwich, and usher in a fresh wave of inventive lunchtime options. Tortilla pinwheels, for instance, are a delightful twist on the classic wrap, filled with anything from Hawaiian pizza ingredients to a sweet and satisfying smear of peanut butter and banana. Imagine the thrill of discovering a cold quesadilla in your lunchbox, packed with a medley of ingredients and perfect for dipping into a side of guacamole or tomato sauce.

And let’s not forget about the customizable mini pizzas on whole wheat English muffins - a fiber-rich, room-temperature treat that can be topped with a variety of healthy toppings to suit your child’s preferences. With these alternative ideas, we’re not just avoiding the dreaded sogginess; we’re embarking on a culinary journey that expands beyond traditional lunch ideas, incorporating:

  • soups

  • salads

  • quesadillas

  • breakfast items to keep things fresh and exciting.

Else Nutrition Ready to Drink, Plant-Powered Shakes are a Game-Changer for Picky Eaters.

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Envision a lunch choice that satisfies both parents and children, providing a solution to the timeless challenge of ensuring your selective eater receives all the necessary nutrients. Else Nutrition’s plant-powered shakes might just be the answer you’ve been searching for. These shakes are:

  • More than just a tasty beverage

  • Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals

  • Dairy-free

  • Clean Label Project Certified for your peace of mind.

With up to 40% of kids being selective with their food, having an option like these shakes can be a lifesaver. It’s a delicious, nutritious shake that complements any meal, ensuring that even the pickiest of eaters are well-fed and ready to take on the day’s challenges.

Dips and Dressings: The Secret Weapon for Veggie Consumption

The moment has come to reveal the secret tool in the vegetable war: dips and dressings. These condiments can be the magic that transforms a boring vegetable into a tantalizing treat. By pairing veggies with dips that cater to a child’s preferred tastes, such as sweet peanut butter, creamy ranch, or savory hummus, you’re not just making the vegetables more palatable; you’re setting the stage for a love affair with healthy eating.

The act of dipping itself is a fun activity that builds comfort and familiarity, potentially leading to a willingness to try veggies on their own down the line. And when you pack a bento box with a variety of dips like ranch dressing, peanut butter, and different sauces, you’re creating a lunch that’s not only nutritious but also bursting with flavors that are sure to delight and entice.

The Snack Swap: Replacing Processed Foods with Wholesome Choices

Snack time need not equate to processed foods loaded with sugar and lacking in nutrients. Instead, it’s time to embrace the snack swap, replacing those pre-packaged temptations with wholesome choices that fuel the body and delight the taste buds. Some nutritious and satisfying snack options include:

  • Energy bites made with ingredients like oats, peanut butter, honey, and a dash of chocolate chips

  • Fresh fruit and nut butter

  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola

  • Veggie sticks with hummus

These snacks will not only satisfy your cravings but also provide you with the energy you need to power through your day.

And when it comes to dipping, homemade dips far outshine their store-bought counterparts in both health benefits and cost efficiency. Even the humble granola bar can be reinvented at home, with whole grains and minimal added sugars to create a snack that’s wholesome and delicious. For those looking for a crunchy alternative, why not try veggie or legume-based puffs and crisps? They’re high in protein and fiber, and low in sodium, making them a much better choice than traditional chips. And don’t forget about the power of seeds - sunflower, pepitas, and chia seeds can all be included in homemade treats like bliss balls, offering a nut-free protein option that’s packed with nutrients.

Thermos Treasures: Hot Lunch Ideas That Warm Up Picky Eaters

Thermos with warm, comforting food

As the school year’s cold weather begins, a thermos filled with homemade comfort food can warm both the heart and stomach. Imagine the delight of unscrewing the lid to find a steaming batch of homemade parmesan mac and cheese, perhaps with a hint of healthy greens like broccoli mixed in. Leftover dinner favorites, be they hearty bolognese or lasagna soup, can be given a second life as a thermos-packed lunch, offering a warm and satisfying midday meal.

And for those seeking a bit of comfort in a bowl, creamy chicken soup with rice, chicken nuggets, or a chicken pot pie risotto can offer the warmth and familiarity that makes lunchtime something to look forward to. With these hot dishes prepared at the start of the week, children can pack their own thermos portions in the morning, ensuring a cozy and delicious lunch every day.

Deconstructing the Classics: Lunch Box Edition

The technique of deconstruction is not confined to high-end dining; it’s a lunchbox trend changing our perception of traditional meals. By using bento boxes to keep components separate, each element of a meal can shine on its own, allowing kids to mix and match as they please. This approach isn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it empowers picky eaters to take control of their meal, combining flavors in the way that suits them best.

From skewers with turkey bites and cherry tomatoes to a spread of cheese cubes and crunchy veggies, deconstructed lunches are about offering variety and control in a fun, visually appealing package.

Fresh Takes on Fruit: Beyond the Basic Fruit Salad

Who declared that fruit must be dull? For sweet delights, there’s no requirement to adhere to the simple fruit salad. Instead, think outside the bowl with creative presentations like fruit kebabs or a whimsical fruit-in-cone. Imagine the delight of a child as they discover a fruit hedgehog amongst their lunch - it’s a playful and amusing way to entice picky eaters to enjoy a variety of fresh fruits.

And for those kids who love a good blend of flavors, pairing fruit with cheese and meat on a kabob can be a hit, offering a balanced bite of sweet and savory. By turning fruit presentation into an art form, you’re not just serving up a healthy snack; you’re making an irresistible, eye-catching treat that’s as fun to eat as it is to look at.

Protein Powerhouses for Growing Kids

Protein serves as the foundation for growth, and adding diverse protein sources to your child’s lunchbox equates to supplying them with the tools for constructing a sturdy and healthy physique. Here are some creative ways to include this vital nutrient in their school lunches, such as a hard boiled egg:

  • Nut butter

  • Shredded cheese

  • Egg cups mixed with vegetables

  • Protein bento boxes

  • Frittatas with bacon and tomato

These protein-packed lunch ideas can fuel their day and provide them with the nutrients they need.

And for convenient protein snacks, think beyond the typical to include items like cheese sticks, drinkable yogurt, or even a savory biltong, all of which can make packing protein in your child’s lunchbox both easy and delicious. And don’t forget the veggies; adding protein-rich options like sweet corn and broccoli can boost the nutritional value of any meal.

Sweet Endings: Healthy Desserts to Look Forward To

Every splendid meal warrants a sweet conclusion, and the prospects for healthy desserts are as delightful as they are infinite. Here are some ideas for healthy desserts:

  • Frosty watermelon ice pops

  • Homemade mango rice pudding

  • Saucy spiced pears paired with yogurt

  • Slow-cooker baked apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg

Imagine the joy on your child’s face as they uncover a frosty watermelon ice pop in their lunchbox, or the contentment that comes from savoring a homemade mango rice pudding. For those who prefer a tangy twist, saucy spiced pears paired with yogurt can hit the spot, offering a dessert that’s both healthy and satisfying. And for a warm treat on a chilly day, slow-cooker baked apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg might just become the most requested dessert in your repertoire.

But if you’re looking to sneak in some veggies, consider the subtly sweet carrot cookie bites that provide a nutritious and delicious alternative to the standard cookie. And for a creamy, indulgent finish without the guilt, a chunky banana cream freeze might just become the new family favorite. With these healthier dessert options, your child can look forward to the end of their meal with the same excitement as they do the beginning.


As we wrap up our culinary journey, it’s clear that the path to a picky eater’s heart is through creativity, variety, and a sprinkle of fun. From the moment the perfect lunchbox is picked to the last bite of a healthy dessert, each lunch idea we’ve explored offers a chance to transform mealtime into an opportunity for growth, exploration, and enjoyment. Whether you’re rolling up deli meats, skewering fruits and veggies, or warming hearts with a thermos treasure, the goal is the same: to provide nutritious, appealing meals that even the pickiest of eaters will look forward to. So take these ideas, mix and match them to your child’s tastes, and watch as the lunchbox returns home empty and your child’s nutrition—and smile—goes full circle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to make for lunch for a picky eater?

You can try making chicken pot pie empanadas, apple-cheddar quesadillas, or chicken satay lettuce wraps to cater to a picky eater's preferences. These options can offer a variety of flavors and textures.

What can I eat for lunch if I don't like sandwiches?

You can try some non-sandwich lunch options like pesto chicken salad, cold noodles, burritos, pizza rolls, and veggie box. Some other ideas include pea and dill fritters with avocado salad, maple sweet potato and black bean salad, chicken and corn quiche, zucchini and ham potato patties, falafels with fattoush, and avocado and salmon rice bowl. Enjoy your meal!

How do you pack a picky child for lunch?

Pack a bento box and offer dips to make lunch more appealing for a picky child. Consider making it fun and including their favorite food as well. Get the whole family involved to make it an enjoyable experience.

What is a picky eaters favorite food?

A picky eater's favorite food might be something crunchy or very chewy, like dried apple slices or freeze-dried green beans. It can help calm their nervous systems.

How can I ensure my picky eater gets enough protein in their lunch?

Consider including hard-boiled eggs, nut butter, shredded cheese, or protein-rich vegetables in your child's lunch to ensure they get enough protein. You can also try creative options like egg cups or protein-packed bento boxes for added diversity and fun.

Our Protein-rich, ready to drink kids shakes contain 9g of plant-powered protein per serving, and also make an easy choice to help boost your kiddo's protein intake.

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