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15 best warm meals to pack for kids' lunchboxes

Nutritionist Rebecca Stevens shares expert advice

warm packed lunch© Photo: iStock
August 29, 2022
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September signifies the end of summer and time for children to go back to school. With the autumn days becoming shorter and cooler, warm homecooked meals will make a welcome addition to your child's packed lunchbox.

SHOP: 28 best kids' lunch boxes, flasks and water bottles that parents will love, too

Not only is warm food comforting during the cooler months, it encourages your child to eat a variety of different foods – and it has cost and sustainability benefits by helping to use up leftovers!

healthy school lunches

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.

READ: How to meal prep: 3 easy steps to plan your meals like a pro

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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

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.

thermos flask lunch

WayEee Food Flask, £14.44, Amazon


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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.

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.

meal prep

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
  • Toad in the hole – sausages and vegetables with Yorkshire pudding


  • 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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