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Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

July 13, 2022

Start your child off on the right foot for eating lunch at school with these easy to follow, practical tips for lunchbox packing!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Back to school lists

Pencils, paper, glue, scissors, markers…it’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it?! Honestly I don’t remember supply lists being this intense as a kid, but I probably wasn’t paying much attention to it either! We love our teachers though, and really want them to have all the tools they need to help our kids be at their best for school, and I think sometimes the school lunch thing gets a little over looked.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

It really does matter

And I say this with all the love that I have for you dear momma. Because I know there is a lot on your plate, and I know what it is like to be an overwhelmed mom. But even more important than the brand of pencil that the teachers want your kid to have for the school year, is having a child that is well fed for a full school day. It’s that whole hierarchy of needs thing, ya know? If a child is hungry, they can’t focus for squat, and that fancy paper or folder you bought for them isn’t going to matter if they can’t make it through their afternoon. Those school days are long for any school aged kid, and we want to set them up for success with full bellies and fed brains so they can make it through.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Sustainable lunch packing rhythms

What goes into their lunch does matter, but, especially for any moms reading this that are newer to having school aged children, I want to help you be successful at lunchbox packing for the whole school year – not just the first week. So let’s dive into some practical thoughts I have for you, now that I have 2 middle schoolers and my last little one in elementary school!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Give your child time to practice using their lunch gear

Multiple years of being room mom in early elementary classrooms has taught me many things – and one of them is this tip! If you are reading this post and it is summertime, purchase your child’s lunchbox now so that you can pack it up for your summer outings (or even just lunchtime at home!) to practice how to use it! Latches, zippers, pouches, buttons, lids – those take time for little hands to figure out, and it will save them time when at school. Also be sure they know how to properly close their water bottles so you don’t end up with a soggy backpack on the way home! If you need lunch gear suggestions, take a peek through my Lunch Gear Resource Guide! It’s free!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Consider lunch gear & foods that don’t involve a lot of separate containers to open & close

Speaking of practicing lunch gear! One thing I have noticed in these classrooms, is that kids with lunches packed in multiple food containers, or lunches packed in containers with multiple compartments that need to be opened and closed, took longer to eat. If you are in the market for lunch gear, and have little ones, this is a good thought to consider before buying. If you need some lunch gear recs, here is my Lunch Gear Resource Guide with multiple suggestions to help you decide!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Pack familiar food

If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am all about helping your children become adventurous eaters! However, the first week of school is not the time to try out new foods. Think about your little one’s first days of school – even the entire first year or so. There are so many new things going on, rules to remember, friends to meet – it is SO. MUCH. Their little brains can only regulate so much at once! You throw a new food on top of all that and they may think “Hmm, I just can’t do one more new thing right now, and this feels scary, so I’m just not going to eat it.” And it really could be something they would like if they weren’t so overwhelmed! Just try new stuff out at home first. Serve it for dinner, and the talk about how you would like for them to help you pack it in their lunchbox some time.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Understand your child’s school snack and lunch schedule

This is a big one because everyone’s school schedule varies. Does your child have a morning snack time? When is snack time in relation to lunch time? This will all determine what and how much you pack for lunch. You know your child best. If the kids have a snack at 10 and eat lunch at 11:30, then perhaps you need to make the snack small so they are still hungry to eat their lunch at 11:30. Or maybe you split the lunch up into 2 smaller meals so they get part of their lunch at snack time and the other part at lunch. They may have lunch closer to 1pm, so you might want their morning snack to be a mini meal so they can make it to 1pm. Also find out how much time your child will have to eat that lunch. This will help you pack accordingly. Regardless of how we feel about a 10-15 minute lunch time (I think we would all agree that is pretty rough for a little kid!), if that is how it is at your school, you’ll want to be sure to pack easy to eat foods that pack a filling punch so your child is ready to focus for the rest of the school day.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

The 2-minute lunchbox tour

Before packing that lunchbox into their backpack, open it up and show your child. Ask them what they think are the foods in there that will help them feel good for the afternoon and focus for school. Help them learn where the protein is, and important bites that will help them so they can start there. That way, if they don’t have time to finish, they will have at least gotten something filling in. This 2-minute lunchbox tour can happen the night before while you are packing the lunchbox together, or it can happen in the morning before you pack it up in their backpack! Before you know it, they’ll have so much more body awareness and independently know what kind of foods help them feel their best.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Macro balance

And speaking of foods to help them feel their best! Every child has different macro ratio needs – but all the macros matter for growing kids. So just take a quick scan of the lunchbox each day and be sure it’s all in there – fats, protein, and carbs. It all matters! If you need some great balanced lunchbox inspiration to see some examples, you can check out my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook! Inside there are 60 different lunchbox examples, all balanced with what your child needs to get through their day.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

My child is coming home with a lot of leftover food consistently – what should I do?

Kids’ appetites can ebb and flow depending on growth spurts, illness, life changes, sleep, etc. Noticing some food coming home every once and a while is normal, but if they are bringing food home day in and day out, here are some things to think about:

  • Re-evaluate your child’s snack and lunch time schedule, and portions. Is your child eating a big morning snack only to have lunch an hour later? Are the portions you are sending realistic for your child? How long are they allowed for eating? Re-visit the above section called “Understand your child’s school lunch and snack schedule,” where you will find more information on addressing each of these.
  • Help them realize their hunger after school. If they are crabby or emotional in the car on the way home, seem sleepy, or tell you they are “starving,” and you notice they didn’t each much of their lunch, help them make that connection! Kids aren’t always body aware enough to realize that not eating lunch is why they feel so crummy. Present it nicely – no shame. But remind them they will feel so much better when they focus on their food at lunch time.
  • Ask them why! “Hey, I noticed that there is a lot of lunch left in your lunchbox – did something happen at lunch time?” Don’t make them feel badly for not eating – just ask them. There may be a good reason!
  • Chatty Kathy’s or Ken’s! Sometimes that reason is that you might have a “Chatty Kathy” or “Chatty Ken!” Ask them who they sat with at lunch. This age does not understand the time management of lunch at school yet. Help them understand that with time, they will learn how to manage talking with their friends AND eating at the same time! Sometimes just making them aware is all you need to do.
  • Reconsider hard to eat foods for little ones. As a health food leaning blogger, you know that I value getting veggies into kids. But there are so many ways to do it in an easy to eat way, OR maybe save larger veggie portions for at home when they have more time. Your goal in a school lunchbox is to get the most nutrient dense food into your little one in the amount of time that they have to eat. It is easier to eat cooked veggies versus raw, so my kindergarteners were rarely bringing raw veg and dip or salads. They were bringing blended soup purees to slurp with a straw, or leftover roasted veggies from dinner. Or frozen veggies that thaw. It is faster, and easier to eat, which leaves them less stressed.
  • Help them prioritize with the 2-minute lunchbox tour. Leftover food is going to happen sometimes, but I’d rather them leave the strawberries than leave the sandwich – you know what I mean? That is the reason for the 2-minute lunchbox tour! See the above section about the 2-minute lunchbox tour and learn how to help your child learn what part of their lunch will help them feel their best for the afternoon so they start with eating that first.
  • Some foods are just “at home foods.” Listen, my kids adore sardines and liver pate – but I’m not going to do that to them! Unfortunately, to most children, those are just really weird foods to pack, and it might make your child uncomfortable if they are constantly getting questions about unfamiliar foods. I’m definitely not saying pack junk food every day! But I am saying, if there is a food that is consistently coming home, check with your child and see if they are not comfortable with bringing it to school. I think I ask my girls yearly if they really do want me to pack tuna salad for lunch – one of their favorites, but clearly doesn’t smell the best! Every year they surprise me by saying they want it, but I am perfectly fine with making certain food “at home food.”
Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Tips for navigating lunchbox questions at school

It’s inevitable, that if you focus more on whole foods in your child’s lunchbox, you are bound to get a few wandering eyes and curious kids asking your child questions about their lunch. Here is how we have approached that at our house.

  • Remember that kids are genuinely curious. Especially for younger children that truly aren’t at the “peer pressure” age yet, they might just truly wonder what it is! This age group is so blunt, aren’t they?! If they have never seen something before, they have no filter, and they are going to ask! Remind your preschooler through 2nd grader this, and help them understand that some kids might not have had the chance to try that food yet! In fact, I have found that the kids asking these questions are the ones coming to school with the same thing for lunch everyday…perhaps they are even wishing that they could have a variety of lunch like that.
  • Ask them how they feel about the food. I always ask this question when one of the girls says “so and so asked what this was.” Nine times out of 10, when I ask them how they feel about “that green soup” or a pinwheel roll up, or even olives, my girls have answered, “well I love it” about that food. So we talk about that! Just because other kids might not like something, or don’t know what it is, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it! Positively start teaching them about gently standing up for themselves by eating foods they enjoy, even if others think it’s strange.
  • “At home foods” are ok! In the section above, I described some examples of “at home foods” that we have labeled in our house. Leaving some of the “less popular” healthy foods for at home, is totally fine. We want our children to be confident in their food choices, but we don’t have to cross the line!
Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School


I’m all ears! If I didn’t hit on a lunchbox issue that you are having, please ask! And if there is something not listed here that you have found helpful with lunchbox packing, please share! Teachers, we want to hear from you too!

Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Products & Books We Love! Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Raising Generation Nourished School Lunch Gear Resource Guide

August 2, 2020

This all-inclusive school lunch gear guide will help you select what lunch gear works best for YOUR family and how YOU pack lunches in YOUR home!

Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Simplifying life

It is so very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the lunchbox choices that we have today. While we have certainly improved from the squished brown paper bags and endless plastic baggie waste of our 1980’s and 1990’s youth, we have also been inundated with enough lunch gear choices to make any mom’s head spin. My hope is to give you a comprehensive guide with my own veteran momma thoughts on packing so that you can select gear that works for YOUR household.

“Build Your Own BLT Lunchable with Amazin’ Bacon Dipping Sauce” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Bentgo Kids Box

There’s no one right way to pack a lunch

This has become a mantra of mine when teaching about lunch packing every school year, and I mean every word of it. Every household has a different rhythm, and my rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. Your bestie momma friend’s rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. We all have different schedules, different likes and dislikes, and of course – different kids!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Colorful Rainbow Pinwheels” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a BriGenius Bento Box

So as you walk through this guide think about how YOUR household runs.

How YOU like to pack lunches. And then match that rhythm to lunch gear that fits.

  • If you like to incorporate dinner leftovers, soups, and warm items weekly, be sure to check out the thermos options section.
  • If your kids prefer “snackier” cold lunches with lots of choices, then a multi-compartment bento might work better for you.
  • If your child gets overwhelmed by too many choices, pick a simpler box and set up.
  • If your kids like lots of variety, you might want to invest in both a thermos type of lunch box as well as a cold lunch bento. You are truly in the driver seat!
“The Best Chinese Take-Out Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a thermos



Planetbox has been a favorite in our household since pre-school ages, my now 11-year-old still uses the same Planetbox she had from her early elementary years!

  • Material :: Planetbox styles are all stainless steel.
  • Design :: These lunchboxes are multi-compartment bento boxes depending on the style – see the styles below. The bento box comes with magnets to customize the lunchbox if you want (be sure to pull these off before washing however or the steel will rust underneath!)
  • Leak-Proof? :: The actual compartments do keep items separate very well, but they are not leak-proof. Each Planetbox does come with leak-proof containers though, so things like salad dressings, ketchup, other dips, can go in a condiment container neatly in the box. And other leaky items like juicy fruit, applesauce, and yogurt can go in the larger round containers. Again, these leak-proof containers come with your Planetbox.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Planetbox and all of the accessories are dishwasher safe. I would recommend pulling the magnets off before washing to prevent water from getting under the magnet and rusting the box.
  • Age Group :: Depends on the style Planetbox – see each style below.
  • Planetbox Style #1 – “The Shuttle” :: The Shuttle is a really nice size for toddlers and pre-schoolers. My youngest was in Young 5’s two years ago, and we used this for her for the first part of the school year.
  • Planetbox Style #2 – “The Rover” ::The Rover is really the ultimate elementary aged sized lunchbox. Lots of compartments to separate food without being overwhelming, easy to open and close, with everything presented just like a plate at home. My kindergarten through late elementary aged kids used this box.
  • Planetbox Style #3 – “The Launch” ::The Launch lunchbox is a great size for middle school ages and beyond (I even used it to pack sometimes as an adult!). If you have an upper elementary aged child that has a really good appetite, then the Launch might work well for him as well.
  • Lunch Bag :: You’ll have to use the Planetbox lunch bag to fit the unique design of the planetboxes. These have lasted my kids many years. I have only bought a new one for my oldest once, and it was mostly because she wanted a different color.
  • Price Point :: While the price point on this lunchbox feels high, I have considered it a very worth investment as it is the only lunchbox I’ve had to buy my kids in 7 years of schooling so far!
“Charcuterie Board Lunchbox from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Rover style Planetbox
“Colorful Rainbow Chicken Salad with Fruity Poppyseed Dressing” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Launch style Planetbox


The BriGenius has been a fun lunchbox to play around with, and I can see this working very well for both younger and older children with it’s simple set up for ease of eating for little kids, and plenty of space to pack for older ones.

  • Material :: The BriGenius bento box is made of BPA free wheat fiber. (Does anyone know what this means for Celiac kids? I tried researching this and came up empty – please comment below!)
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento. It feels lightweight like plastic and washes up well. This bento box comes in one color, but the lid is plain and might do well with a some fun laptop stickers to customize!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The compartments keep food separated well, but only the middle compartment is leak-proof, perfect for dips. I did not think it did well with thinner dressings, but thick dips like ketchup, hummus, or a creamy dressing do well.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box washes up well and fuss-free. It is dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: While this box advertises “older kids and adults,” I can see this bento box being great for little kids too. It is a simple set up for little ones and easy to open/close.
  • Lunch Bag :: This lunchbox would fit in most lunch bags you can find at the store measuring 7 inches X 8.7 inches X 2.7 inches.
  • Price Point :: I love the price point on this lunchbox, though I have only had it about a year, so I can’t comment on how long they last. If anyone has one and would like to comment, please do below!
“Best Busy Kid Approved Veggie Nuggets” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

Bentgo Kids

Bentgo Kids is perfectly made for your younger crew!

  • Material :: Bentgo Kids is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento box. You can get Bentgo Kids in one color designs, two-tone color designs, or with patterned designs too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Bentgo Kids is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: The tray comes out for dishwasher safe washing, but outside of the box with the leak-proof seal is recommended to be washed by hand to maintain it’s leak-proof nature. I have a feeling you will want to pull the rubber leak-proof parts out to wash here and there unfortunately or it might start to smell/mold.
  • Age Group :: They recommend ages 3-7, though I can see your younger toddlers being able to manage this box. Also, my 7 year old is able to fit her portion sizes into this box, so I can see this box working through 1st or 2nd grade.
  • Lunch Bag :: The box measurements are 8.5 inches X 6.5 inches X 2 inches, so it is going to fit in most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: The price point on this lunchbox is great, and it does have a 2 year warranty. I’m not sure if that means they plan on it being worn down by then or not! If anyone has experience with years of use using a Bentgo, we would love to hear from you below!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Crunchy Honey Oat Nature Valley® Granola Bar Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook


The UpBento brand is very similar to Bentgo in design and age range, but I liked the versatility of having 2 trays with different set up options that this box gives. It makes it stretch past the age 7 in my opinion.

  • Material :: The UpBento box is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box comes with 2 tray set-ups (a 4-compartment tray, and a 6-compartment) for versatile food options. There is just the one, 2-toned color pattern for the lunchbox, but it does come with some fun stickers that your child can personalize their lunchbox with. I’m not sure how long those stickers stay! If anyone has experience with this lunchbox, please let us know below!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The UpBento is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box is dishwasher safe. The leak-proof lid has a part that removes to wash – I think water will get underneath and start to smell if you don’t do that often just FYI.
  • Age Group :: They advertise the box as ages 3-8 but I know that my 7 and 9 year olds’ portions fit just fine in here (my 9 year old is going into 4th grade).
  • Lunch Bag :: The UpBento measures 8.9 inches X 6.9 inches X 2 so it will fit most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: This box has a 180 day warranty and an affordable price point.
“Party Time Confetti Bean Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 4-Tray Option of the UpBento Box
“Carnival Corndog Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 6-Tray option of the UpBento Box


I’m putting the OmieBox in the Bento Box section even though it has a thermos, because it is the only bento box with a thermos option! If you are a thermos packer, this is such a great option for your elementary aged children. Instead of a separate thermos and box to manage, everything is all in one which is perfect for little kids.

  • Material :: The OmieBox is made of BPA free plastic. The thermos is stainless steel.
  • Design :: The box has 3 compartments plus a thermos compartment that is completely removable for days that you don’t want to pack hot food – it is the perfect size for a sandwich or larger food. The thermos holds 6 ounces of hot food – which is truly a perfect size thermos for little ones. The other 3 compartments are plenty deep and hold a lot of food.
  • Leak-Proof? :: This box is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This lunchbox is dishwasher safe, though the rubber sealed parts do need to be removed to wash here and there or they start to smell – I have had this happen!
  • Age Group :: Pre-school to around middle elementary school years. My 4th grader’s portions would still fit in this box. I would say anything past 4th grade this box will be too small though. I will mention that my 4th grader thought this box was “too baby-ish” last year in 3rd grade though, so keep that in mind.
  • Lunch Bag :: I love that this box has a handle for carrying – you don’t need a separate bag! You could purchase the OmieBox carrying bag however in case you have to pack a cold pack sometimes.
  • Price Point :: Considering you are getting both a bento box and thermos in one, I consider this price fairly affordable.
I gave our OmieBox away to a friend – apologize for the stock image! If you have other OmieBox questions, I used it for 2 years and can answer them!

Stackable Bento Boxes

I wanted to share one other option for bento boxes that you might not think about! I can see stackable bento boxes working very well for middle school and high school, especially for kids that want a more space saving, compact lunchbox. This age carries around so many books and devices, that I think the compact nature of this style might be nice for them.

  • Material :: You can find stackable lunchboxes in stainless steel or BPA free wheat straw type plastic materials. It depends on how you like to clean your lunchboxes, as well as if the weight of the lunchbox matters to you. The plastic boxes will be lighter weight.
  • Design :: The main concept of these Japanese style lunchboxes is 3-5 separate compartments that stack easily on top of each other. The boxes are nice and deep, holding a lot of of food for older kids. I love that these compartments not only work well for staples like sandwiches, but also for big salads like taco salad, pasta salad, cobb salads, or chicken salads, and then have a compartment for sides like chips, fruit, etc. Great lunch options for older kids!
  • Leak-Proof :: Many of the stackable designs are completely leak-proof as each compartment has a separate lid.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: Most of the stackable designs are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: Upper elementary through high school and college. I wanted to also mention that the reason I wouldn’t pack these for younger kids is because of all the separate boxes and lids that aren’t attached. It is just too much for little ones to manage (and not get lost!), so for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this style for little ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: Many of these stackable designs have a strap or carrying handle making it so easy to travel. I think a taller lunch bag would be nice to have around though for packing with ice packs as needed. I found many on Amazon.
  • Price Point :: I just love the price points on the stackable lunchbox styles! I’m not sure how long they hold up, but I think they are quite affordable and super compact!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Fast Prep Brain Boosting Bow Tie Pasta Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Taco Tuesday” Fajita Salad from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook



We’ve been using LunchBots thermoses for years now, and I would say I’ll probably buy them again if we wear them out!

  • My biggest love for these thermoses (other than the fact that they keep food hot and my kids can get the lid on and off) is the size. These thermoses hold 8 ounces of hot food, which is the perfect size for most kids. It is a bit big for your really little guys (see the OmieBox in the bento box section above if you want a really small thermos), but my kindergartners have “grown into” their thermoses, and this thermos is still a great size for my 6th grader. I literally search every year for a thermos that holds 6-8 ounces, and have only found this one! Most other popular thermoses for kids (Thermos Brand, Skip Hop, Foogo) are all 10 ounce thermoses – they hold a lot of food but it really is a lot for kids. These sizes will work for older kids I’m assuming. The problem with a container that is too big, is that the food will get cold faster if the container is not filled up at least 3/4 of the way. By getting a smaller thermos, you can be sure the food won’t have a bunch of empty space to compete with keeping the food warm.
  • LunchBots thermoses are stainless steel and dishwasher safe. They are easy to clean by hand if you have to do that too.
“Creamy Tomato Bisque” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Lunchbots Thermos


The Mira Thermos was a new to me thermos while I wrote The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and it’s a nice one!

  • This thermos is stainless steel and dishwasher safe – it cleaned up nice.
  • The Mira thermos holds 9 ounces of hot food – as I said in the above Lunchbots Thermos section, I have found 8 ounces to be a good size for most elementary school aged kids, so you can judge what would work for your children.
“Back To School Fall Harvest Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Mira Thermos

Larger Thermoses for Middle & High School

So I’m planning on updating this section as my crew gets bigger. As of right now, my oldest is in 6th grade, and I am still finding the 8 ounce Lunchbots thermos works for her. If you have older kids, I would love to hear your thoughts on how many ounces of hot food they like to pack! Here are some bigger thermoses that I think older kids would like the look of and the amount of food they hold is great. I would really love to hear from you if you try any of these out, or have a thermos that your middle or high schooler loves! Please comment below!

  • HydroFlask – holds 12 ounces (These are popular with water bottles in this age group, so I think they would be more likely to pack a hot soup or dinner leftover with a thermos in the same brand!)
  • Thermos Brand – there is a 10 ounce, 16 ounce, and 24 ounce option here
  • Capsule – this brand has a 16 ounce food capacity and a sleek look I think older kids would like.
  • Iconiq – there is a 10 and 16 ounce option for this brand. I love the stackable option and the spot for the fold-able spork!
Dairy Fake Out Mac ‘N Cheese” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a larger, ArderLive Thermos that might work well for High School aged kids.


I wanted to include some ideas for the side items that get packed on a thermos day! You don’t need a huge lunchbox in addition to the thermos, so I have a small container that I use for things like their main items to go with a thermos of soup, or their side items to go with a thermos of spaghetti.


On most thermos days, I pack a Lunchbots Container with the girls’ main or side items to go with the thermos. I like the Uno or Trio for days that I want to pack something like a sandwich or wrap to go with a thermos of veggie soup, or a salad to go with spaghetti. And I like the Quad for days that I want to pack snacky sides to go with a thermos of dinner leftovers like stir fry.

  • Material/Design :: Lunchbots has a variety of set-ups from the Uno (one compartment) to the Cinco (5-compartment). They are all stainless steel.
  • Leak-Proof :: These boxes keep dry food separated well, but they are not leak-proof. They do have accessories like condiment containers that keep dips and dressings leak-free.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: These simple stainless steel designs wash up nice and are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: These boxes are easy to use, but do have a lid that is not attached. If your little one tends to lose things, you might practice before school starts for your child to put the lid under the box while eating so they are in the habit of keeping it in a safe spot. I think the portion size of these boxes is good for holding food to go with a thermos lunch for older kids. You might not need this much room for younger ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Lunchbots container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: While you may feel like these boxes are pricey when you have to buy a thermos to go with it, I have not needed to replace our Lunchbots containers since my 6th grader started school. No rusting, no damage – they look brand new. They are made very well and are a great investment!
“Winter Blues Buster Creamy Potato Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook with sides in a Lunchbots Trio

Kid Basix

From thermos side items to morning snacks, we love these containers!

  • Material/Design :: Kid Basix boxes are a one compartment, stainless steel with a BPA free plastic lid that is attached. There are 3 sizes – small, medium, or large and a variety of lid colors.
  • Leak-Proof? :: These boxes are not leak-proof. I have found both Planetbox and Lunchbots condiment containers do fit in these boxes though, so if you need to pack a dip you could do it that way.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes
  • Age Group :: I used these most often for my younger girls on thermos days. They are smaller and have an attached lid! These also work fantastic for any age group for morning snack packing.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Kid Basix container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: These containers have a great price point and have lasted us literally years – since my oldest started school.


So let’s also briefly talk about drinking cups! Let me tell you a secret, dear momma! I am a drinking cup SNOB. I *loathe* washing drinking cup straws and accessories, so I am a minimalist. This is list is not all inclusive – just my favorites for ease of washing and safe materials. I don’t have a dishwasher, so part of my weirdness surrounding drinking cups has to do with the fact that I can’t just toss everything into a magic dishwasher!

Life Factory

I know, I know, glass. But hear me out! If your school allows it, I truly just love how glass washes up, and I have never had one break – even with my kindergartners.

  • Material/Design :: Glass with BPA free drinking top parts. There is an open spout option or straw (probably the ONLY straw cup I’ll use because it’s easy to wash!). Because these cups are glass, they are going to feel heavier than some stainless steel – though the insulated stainless steel cups are pretty hefty too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I recommend a cleaning brush for straws in the straw version.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through middle elementary. You can start with the straw top for littles, and buy an open spout lid when they are ready! The sizes for older kids come in 16 ounce or 22 ounce.
  • Price Point :: The price point on these cups are so affordable, and they last so long. I have never had to replace one or any of the parts.

Klean Kanteen

My favorite stainless steel option for cups with a simple, easy to clean design.

  • Material/Design :: All Klean Kanteen options are stainless steel with BPA free plastic lid/spout options. The single walled cups are very light-weight while the double walled/insulated cups are heavier.
  • Leak-Proof :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I’m not sure how long the spouts hold up using a dishwasher since I don’t have a dishwasher.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through early elementary. They have a sport top spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 27-ounce.
  • Price Point :: These cups have an affordable price point and we have had our cups for about 5 years without any issues.


I am including Hydroflask because we are trying them out this year. I know it is a “popular” brand and I wanted to give them a try so that I can speak from experience. In my research, I have found that Hydroflasks made after 2017 do NOT have the lead “dot” at the bottom (if you are unsure of what I am talking about – just Google how insulated water bottles that have the little dot at the bottom of the bottle have lead – it is eye opening!). So any Hydroflasks made after 2017 are safe.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for pre-school through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The size for older kids comes in 21-ounce size and has a sport cap top. There are some other larger sizes that perhaps might be good for high school aged kids.
  • Price Point :: I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth it! These are pricey IMO!!!


I am also testing out Yeti for kids this year. One of my older girls is getting a Hydro Flask and the other a Yeti, and I’ll keep you posted! I know both are popular and I want to be able to report on how they hold up if your kids are asking for one. From my research, Yeti does not contain the lead “dot” issues that some insulated stainless steel cups have.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for preschool through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 26-ounce but you have to buy a straw spout or spout top separately. It is just a wide-mouth open cup otherwise.
  • Price Point :: Again, I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth the hype – I know that I have loved my Yeti coffee travel mug for years, but I’m skeptical if having this spendy of a water cup for kids is necessary!
Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

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