Amanda's Kids' Lunch

13 Greatest Hits from Amanda's Kids' Lunches

September 19, 2016

If you have a small person in your life, you probably are or have been tasked with packing them lunch—and this can be a challenging task (especially on days when it seems like packing your own lunch might be unlikely if not impossible). Some kids demand only sandwiches—some only PB&Js. Some want anything other than PB&Js. Some days you pack a very well-intentioned meal and it's spurned and you can't help but feel a little defeated. (It happens.)

Our co-founder Amanda Hesser has long chronicled the lunches she packs for her twins, Walker and Addie, turning leftovers, greens, beans, fruit, and myriad sauces from the back of the fridge into meals that look so darn good that we've been inspired to pack them not only for kids, but for ourselves, too. Here are 13 winners to inspire your lunch routine (and a rule that's clear from the photos: Lunch dessert is important.).

  • Sandwiches of cream cheese, soppressata, peppery greens, pickled onions + chocolate olive oil cake
  • Freekeh salad (freekeh, celery, lemon zest, parsley, garlic) + ham + Camembert + Greek yogurt
  • Beans + greens (mizuna + chopped green beans) + oil-packed tuna + creamy, garlicky dressing + chocolate olive oil cake
  • A composed salad of roast chicken, arugula, and chopped radishes + cheese crackers + an apple
  • Rice and quinoa with yellow squash, chimichurri, pistachios, and avocado + plumcots (!) for dessert
  • Bean salad (corn, yellow beans, green beans, red onion, olive oil, sherry vinegar) + German potato salad + goat cheese + Triscuits + caramels
  • Sandwiches of cashew butter, ricotta, and honey + apples
  • Couscous salad (oil-packed tuna, haricots verts, capers, olives, garlic, lemony vinaigrette) + carrot sticks + big pieces of chocolate chip cookie
  • Chicken salad (roasted chicken, celery, Dijon, mayo, tarragon) + whole-grain bread for piling it onto + chocolate spice cookies
  • Chickpeas with tuna, parsley, Meyer lemon, a pinch of hot smoked paprika, olive oil, and avocado + Satsumas + chocolate
  • Prosciutto and butter sandwiches + Castelvetrano olives + apples

What are your kids' favorite lunches? (What are your own?) Share some ideas with us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • isa_3
  • Rebecca Lavender
    Rebecca Lavender
  • Gillie
  • Suburban_Dad
  • liz okamura
    liz okamura
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


isa_3 September 9, 2022
Just saw this article -- these all look delicious! Lots of ideas to get inspired from. Have to say though, I was shocked at the rudeness of these comments. And as adults, we should give kids more credit and not limit them with low expectations... furthermore, if you don't have something kind or thoughtful to say, then don't say anything and move on. Thank you Caroline and Amanda for these ideas -- I for sure got inspo from them for myself and the kids I cook for...!
Rebecca L. September 8, 2022
WTF kind of article is this?
Rebecca L. September 8, 2022
Mainly, why do I care what one person serves their children for lunch on any given day. These "snapshots" are neither relevant for most American children (I appreciate the comments regarding other countries/school systems) or useful in any way - time saving, cook ahead, ANYTHING.
HalfPint September 12, 2022
Might want to ask yourself why you had such a negative reaction to some lunch ideas. Why read so much into some pictures? At no point in the series did Amanda Hesser ever imply that YOU or anyone should be feeding your kids these foods.

It's nice to have new ideas instead of the same thing every day. Kids don't learn to enjoy new things if we don't put it in front of them. Same for adults.
Gillie September 8, 2022
I would like to know what sort of school these twins attend? My granddaughter is a celiac who is also allergic to milk and eggs. She was bullied every at lunch. My youngest grandson has texture related food issues and was bullied for bringing the same thing every day. So the question is, not will children eat these meals, but would they be allowed to eat them in peace.
My granddaughter finally refused to bring lunch to school and spent her lunch periods in the library.
Suburban_Dad August 31, 2022
Suburban_Dad August 31, 2022
liz O. August 29, 2022
No how, no way!😄
alygator October 17, 2018
I love when "Amanda's Kids' Lunches" makes it rounds again on Food 52. I do hope that people can read this for entertainment and not continue to overanalyze whether these are kid friendly or not. Enjoy it! I love the presentation of the meals and find them totally inspiring for a 41 year old who needs creative inspiration in the lunch department.
BeyondBrynMawr March 21, 2018
I realize that I'm seeing this post a lot later than most, but I think some people have missed a key sentence from the post: "Here are 13 winners to inspire your lunch routine" - although they are lunches that Amanda Hesser packed for her children, the post isn't presenting them as suggestions for other people's children's lunches.
Personally, I think the lunches look delicious, although more involved and more expensive than I'd usually pack for myself. And there are a few lunches up there that I would've happily eaten as a child at lunch, although I realize that not all child would.
Monica B. October 13, 2016
I happen to be a professional cook and a nutrition educator so the ins and outs of food and getting kids to eat well is not foreign to me. I agree 100% with Frederique Matteau L. Those meals look delicious... for me and my older child. If my younger kid eats apples, cheese and crackers for lunch--I am thrilled with myself.
Another point of contention is that packing dessert other than fruit for kids is something that I don't do. First of all, many schools have a no sugar policy. Secondly, daily dessert is not an expectation that I set up for my kids. They tend to get some sort of sweet from school, friends, or events several times a week. And we enjoy homemade or high quality pastries and sweets on the weekend.

Frederique M. September 23, 2016
I'M glad Amanda's kids eat and love these lunches btw, im just not keen on an article that is there for the purpose of having other parents pack these lunches like THEIR kids will eat it. Have them made into supper recipes, and if the kids love them, THEN the parents can pack them for lunch!
Frederique M. September 23, 2016
My daughter eats incredibly well for her age: she is 6 and has eaten all sorts of cheeses, including the stinky ones, tasted foie gras, loves kale, proscuitto, "lentils bourgignon", "magret de canard" and all other things trendy and fancy that most mac-n-cheese eating american kids have never even comme into contact with. We bring her to fancy french restaurants (ok it helps that my husband was born and raised in france!), sushi restaurants, ethiopian, Coreen, portuguese etc. and never ever force her to eat the horrible kids menus made of chicken fingers and pizza (she does love my homemade sourdough pizza topped with proscuitto, kale, mushrooms and sharp mix of cheeses, that said!). We expose her to every type of food possible, and the rule is to try EVERYTHING at least once. I tend to have her retry every month if its something i love and eat regularly (their tastes DO change), and have had great success in having her love new things (it took me trying all types of egg versions for 1.5yrs before she finally loved eggs, and 4yrs to have her eat mushrooms, and now she has them even raw!). Point of story, i know kids SHOULD taste and eat all sorts of things, that kids should eat what's on the table and not have a short order cook, and i agree totally that they CAN eat the type of lunch pictured above, but one thing DOES bother me: Kids NEED fuel for their day, and i don't think giving them something completely new and fancy as a lunch is a great idea as the lunch will most likely end up still in the lunch box at the end of the day and you will have a famished child waiting for dinner. Trying new things is for supper, lunch should be simple, nutritious, quick and easy to eat and something they love so they will eat it. So even if my daughter has duck, kale, forest mushrooms and quinoa at dinner, i'm happy to know her lunchbox will come back empty, even if she had me put a cream cheese bagel, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and apple sauce. Oh, and my daughter would never eat radishes, olives or mustard tarragon dressing at 6. just saying.
Leslie February 25, 2017
Thank you so much for making this point! I consider my daughter to be a reasonably good eater but the lunchbox is not the time to experiment. Save the potential tears and confusion for home or risk a strongly-worded email from your preschool headmistress.
Amanda T. September 23, 2016
The very idea of packing my kindergartener a lunch made up of ancient grains mixed with celery, lemon zest, parsley & garlic, Camembert, etc. is laughable.
Cherie H. September 23, 2016
My son, in comparison to most kids, is a fantastic eater but seriously he would be unlikely to eat one of these and to be honest a bowl of salad isn't exactly appealing to me either. My son's lunchboxes are always healthy and damn tasty too, no boring bean salads in sight!
Lisa September 22, 2016
I would be SO happy if my son would eat any of these lunches! I wish I knew how to get him into eating new things. But at least now I have plenty of ideas on what I'm going to have for lunch soon!
Alicia P. September 22, 2016
My kid would eat most of this. We have to give kids a chance (sometimes many chances) to like good food & expand their horizons.
HogarthPress September 21, 2016
This all looks so good! Is the recipe for chocolate olive oil cake posted anywhere?
Caroline L. September 21, 2016
There will be one in Amanda & Merrill's new cookbook, out in October! (I was lucky enough to sample this cake in the test kitchen, and it is very, very good.)
I U. September 21, 2016
The only kids that would eat any of these lunches would be ones in starving countries.
BelBivDevoe September 20, 2016
I'm going to chalk this list up to the author having never met a child in his/her entire's the only explaination for these ridiculous "kid friendly" lunch suggestions.
Caroline L. September 20, 2016
Hi BelBivDevoe,

I actually do know (and cook for) kids pretty regularly—and I think they'd eat most of what's on this list. (They are particularly fiendish for kale, which is something I admittedly would've turned my nose up at as a kid.) And these are all lunches Amanda truly packed for her twins! I think it depends a lot on the kid's palate, but many kids are more adventurous eaters than we (including me!) give them credit for. I hope, even if you didn't find a kid's meal here, you found inspiration for your own lunches!
Melina H. September 27, 2016
Amen, Caroline! Stepping aside of our expectations of what kids will and won't eat is crucial! Real, fresh food presented beautifully is something anyone can relate to, especially in tandem with educating our kids on the treachery of advertising and packaged food products. These recipes harken to the same ethos in Kid Chef. Yay!
witloof February 26, 2017
My friends who live in Europe, three different families in three different countries, all had me to stay for long visits when their children were quite young. They ate absolutely everything that the grownups did. There was never any discussion of chicken nuggets at the dinner table. The three year olds were served octopus, duck, chicken livers, squid ink pasta, many kinds of salads and vegetables, whole grain breads, stinky cheeses, and steak tartare. Not only did they clean their plates, they exhibited lovely table manners. Children can be great eaters if the adults go about it properly.
Rosy September 19, 2016
oh my gosh these all look so good. I work as a ballet dancer and I always need quick, healthy lunches to take with me. These are perfect!