A mother packing school lunches with her children

A mother packing school lunches with her children (Photo by Hillshire Farm on Unsplash)

The days of meals packed in brown paper bags are long gone thanks to the evolution of the best lunch boxes. Today’s top lunch pails are durable, compartmentalized, insulated, and even heated as needed. Not only can you save cash versus buying lunch, but you can enjoy your lunch any time of the day as fresh as the moment you packed it. 

Even after parents buy that perfect lunch box, they have another hurdle to jump: packing it. Two in five parents are the most stressed out before the school day even begins. That’s according to a survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children that looked at some of the biggest pain points for parents getting ready for back-to-school season. Trouble begins at the grocery store of all places for more than half of parents (54%). The top hurdle is trying to stay within a budget (50%), with accommodating all their loved ones’ unique taste preferences coming in a close second (49%). Nearly three in five (59%) parents say they’re stressed just thinking about packing their kids’ lunches again — with expensive groceries (56%) and just not having enough time to make lunch (40%) sending parents spinning. 

It’s hard to pick foods that will give your child the nutrition they need but won’t be chucked in the trashcan at lunch time. Despite seeing a decline in junk foods in children’s lunches over the last ten years, a new study shows there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned. There’s a lack of vitamins and minerals compared to over a decade ago. Only one in five children had any kind of salad or vegetables packed. Many students had no dairy in their bags or boxes, and meals did not meet the standards for calcium intake. An estimated more than half of kids in British primary schools have a packed lunch. In response to this low number, researchers from the University of Leeds are suggesting the food industry generate strategies for parents. That way, it’ll be easier for parents and caretakers to pack a nutritious lunch.

Ready for the hustle and bustle of going back to school? The lunch containers of today will protect and secure your kid’s food, and their backpacks, no matter where you go. With so many options StudyFinds did the work for you, searching the internet for expert reviews on the best lunch boxes for kids. This list includes the top-recommended vessels, but of course, if there is a different one you use, let us know in the comments!

kids lunch
Kids eating lunch (Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels)

The List: Best Lunch Boxes for Kids, According to Experts


1. PackIt Freezable Lunch Box

The PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box offers the unique feature of a built-in ice pack. “With insulated, re-freezable gel walls, you don’t have to worry about your child accidentally tossing the ice pack when dumping wrappers in the trash. It collapses into a sleek profile when empty, expanding to hold all your child’s favorite foods. Place it in the freezer at night, and it is ready to go by morning. The lunch box is made of food-safe and non-toxic canvas on the exterior and a water-resistant liner inside. It features a non-insulated zipper pocket on the outside for small items, and the easy-to-carry handle has a buckle so that you can attach it to a backpack. With many eye-catching designs available, one to suit your child’s personality,” shares Baby Gear Lab.

PackIt Freezable Lunch Box
PackIt Freezable Lunch Box

No need to search for ice packs in the freezer for this lunch box. “The PackIt lunchbox is designed to be frozen, so it’ll keep lunch cool the next day. It folds down flat and can go in the freezer the night before. It’s easy to unzip and can even buckle onto your backpack. Kids will love all of the fun colors and patterns, too,” offers Food Network.

This PackIt lunch box can be flattened and placed inside the freezer overnight to keep the walls cool enough to keep the food and drinks cold for hours. “In addition to a soft-sided zip interior that can hold a kid’s bento box and a 12-ounce drink, the lunch box has a slim exterior zip pocket that can hold ID cards, napkins, wipes, and more, and its buckle handle lets your child clip it onto their backpack, PackIt says. Available in over a dozen kid-friendly patterns, the lunch bag has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 1,400 reviews on Amazon,” says nbcnews.com.

2. Bentgo Kids Lunch Bag

The Bentgo Kids Lunch Bag is a jack of all trades. It is roomy, functional, and stylish. “This kids’ lunch box comes in over a dozen print options, like construction trucks and fairies, and features a water-resistant exterior to protect the food inside from potential accidents. One of our writers received a sample of this lunch box from the brand and loves the portability options, like an adjustable carrying strap for crossbody or shoulder wear. Plus, two D-hooks on the front of the bag and a clip on the handle allow it to attach to a backpack easily,” states Very Well Family.

Bentgo Kids Lunch Bag
Bentgo Kids Lunch Bag

Not only is the Bentgo Lunch Bag high on most lists of best lunch boxes, but it is also one of the top-rated lunch bags on Amazon. “Bentgo’s lightweight bag offers thick, double-insulation to keep food cold longer. The water-resistant exterior is easy to clean and has an adjustable strap for ultimate comfort,” shares Today’s Parent.

The Bentgo Box seems to have endless features including drop-proof rubber-coated edges in case it takes a tumble. It also has an exterior zippered pocket to hold napkins or utensils. That isn’t all. “There is an interior mesh pocket to hold snacks, and another exterior mesh pocket for water bottles. No need to worry about lunch staying fresh all day long—this Bentgo lunch box features ultra-thick, double-walled insulation. The inner compartments are different shapes to hold a variety of food and snacks—even dipping sauce!—and there are seals to keep the contents from leaking into your child’s backpack. The inner tray can be put in the microwave and dishwasher, and the box is made from BPA-free materials,” says The Spruce Eats.

3. Omie Bento Box

The removable thermos compartment in the OmieBox keeps foods like pasta and soup warm for up to six hours. “For cool foods like sandwiches, you can remove the leak-proof bowl and use the removable rectangular compartment. It also has three other divided sections to house fruit, crackers, and other snacks,” shares Very Well Family.

OmieBox Bento Box for Kids – Insulated Lunch Box

While it’s hand wash safe only, the box completely disassembles for a thorough cleaning. It’s made of stainless steel food-safe plastic and silicone. “Your kids can dig into last night’s spaghetti with a side of fresh fruit. The vacuum-insulated Thermos (hot) container is removable making room if a sandwich is preferred. It’s easy to open and close — perfect for elementary school little hands,” states Food Network.

This box is at the higher end of the price range for lunch boxes, but its durability and replaceable parts mean you’re likely to get multiple years of use out of it. “The OmiBox is spacious, durable, and versatile. It has three compartments, and a removable divider to create four if needed—although that divider went missing pretty quickly during real-life testing. (OmiBox does offer replacements.) Still, the three compartments are generous and you can fit a whole sandwich in the largest one. That compartment is also built to house a removable 8.5-ounce Thermos for hot food, and the Thermos lid is designed to be easier for little hands to open. My youngest struggled to do it solo at three-and-a-half, but my five-year-old had no trouble at all,” says USA Today.

4. Wildkin Insulated Lunch Box

Your child will have so many lunch varieties with the Wildkin Lunch Box which is spacious enough to accommodate a bento box or several plastic containers. “This insulated lunch bag has 18 colorful designs. It’s sturdy and easy to clean and kids love the joy-sparking designs. Ample insulation keeps food at safe temperatures, and with a collapsible fabric, it’s great for on-the-go or easy storage,” shares Today’s Parent.

Wildkin Kids Insulated Lunch Bag for Boys & Girls

The Wildkin Lunch Box is free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates, so you can rest assured that your food is in good hands. “Lots of bold colors and patterns make this lunchbox a favorite amongst the elementary school crowd. It’s durable and has plenty of room to store any kind of school lunch (plus an ice pack if you need it!),” offers Food Network.

The Wildkin Lunch Box really does seem like one of the most kid-friendly in terms of style. “It is designed for ages 3-15, and it comes in more than a dozen fun patterns to showcase your child’s personality. It’s slim enough to fit inside a backpack-style diaper bag easily and light enough that little kids can carry it, says The Spruce Eats.

5. L.L. Bean Lunch Box

The soft-sided lunch box from L.L.Bean has a five-liter capacity making it very spacious for your child’s lunch. “The brand says the lunch box’s internal mesh pocket can hold an ice pack to keep your child’s food cold throughout the day. It comes in a variety of colors, including green, neon pink, and teal, and for an additional charge, you can also add a monogram to the front of the lunch box to ensure your child knows which pack is theirs. It has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,100 reviews on L.L.Bean’s website,” says nbcnews.com.

L.L. Bean Lunch Box
L.L. Bean Lunch Box (llbean.com)

The L.L.Bean Lunch Box is a favorite insulated bag because of its proven durability and reliability. “This lunch box is made of the same hard-wearing nylon as L.L.Bean’s much-loved backpacks. Its smooth interior is easier to wipe clean than the interiors of many other models with exposed seams and crevices that trap food and residue. It has plenty of room for multiple containers and a food thermos, and the interior mesh pocket can hold an ice pack to keep contents cool. As with all of its gear, L.L.Bean covers this lunch box with a one-year satisfaction guarantee. Among the box’s few flaws: Its soft sides don’t do much to protect fragile foods, getting tough stains out can be challenging, and its mesh pockets are likely to catch on things and rip,” states the NY Times

If you need even more room than the L.L. Bean Lunch Box provides, it also has an expandable version, which unzips to provide about two extra inches of depth. “The slim design makes it easier to slide into backpacks but still contains plenty of space for all of the food. An exterior mesh pocket can easily hold an ice pack or cutlery,” shares Food Network.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Janelle Davis

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