14 simple warm food ideas to pack in your kids' lunchboxes

Nutritionist Rebecca Stevens shares her expert advice

Rebecca Stevens

September is a month of change. For many it signifies the end of summer with children going back to school and the days becoming shorter and cooler. This year in particular, your children might feel a little anxious about change following a difficult year that saw seemingly endless coronavirus lockdowns affect their schooling. 

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This is why warm food makes such a welcome addition to your child's packed lunch box. Not only is warm food comforting during the cooler months (now more so than ever), it encourages your child to eat a variety of different foods – and it has sustainability benefits by helping to use up leftovers!


Children's back to school lunches don't have to be cold

Warm food preparation:

You may feel that warm food is just one step too far in an already busy morning.

However, there are just two simple steps - warming up the Thermos/insulated food jar so that your kid's food is still warm when the lunch bell rings, and heating up the food to go within it.

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Helpful hack:

  • Fill your Thermos/jar with boiling water and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes
  • Empty the water and fill with the hot food of choice, add the lid straight away to retain the heat
  • Ensuring the lid is on tightly, pack with the other lunch items and a spoon/fork if needed

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A range of Thermos or insulated food jars to suit all ages can be purchased from major retailers – we love this cute blue flask from Amazon.


WayEee Food Flask, £16.13, Amazon



Child-friendly warm lunch options:

There are plenty of warm lunch options that are healthy, nutritious and filling. What you decide to add to your kid's Thermos will largely be down to what you know they’ll likely to eat and what you have in the house.

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Remember, it is fine to mix up warm and cold lunch options during the week if you don’t have anything suitable to hand.

Of course, warm food doesn’t always have to be the main event, it could be a side dish or a pudding! For options that don’t contain any vegetables, always serve with some raw chopped veg.


Keep it simple with balanced meals 

Main courses:

  • Meat or vegeballs with tomato sauce and rice/pasta
  • Pasta with tomato sauce or pesto, served with grated cheese
  • Pasta bakes (tuna, tomato and vegetable) or lasagne
  • Macaroni cheese – try and add some vegetables such as peas and sweetcorn to up their vegetable intake
  • Fried rice with vegetables and/or chicken, egg or tofu
  • Grilled chicken or salmon with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables (e.g. carrots, broccoli, green beans)
  • Grilled chicken or salmon with noodles and vegetables
  • Mini burgers – beef, chicken or vegetarian
  • Pizza strips – cut to fit in the Thermos
  • Soups – try to opt for a soup with protein as they are more filling, served with wholemeal bread/rolls


  • Corn on the cob
  • Roast potatoes 


  • Mini pancakes – cut to fit in the Thermos
  • Crumble – if you had a roast on the weekend and have leftovers, why not heat it up and your kids can enjoy it as pudding?

Rebecca Stevens is a registered nutritionist supporting women and families to eat well, to find out more about her visit or on Instagram here.

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