Top Lunchbox Picks for Back to School from a Nutritionist and Mom


I have to admit that as a nutritionist and a mom, I’m a bit obsessed with lunchboxes and finding the perfect non-toxic lunch containers for my daughter (and myself). I own and have tried many. While all of my choices at home are BPA-, phthalate- and lead-free, I’m still not thrilled with plastic options. I’m uncomfortable that they may find out that they are not as non-toxic as they think they are. I try to avoid as much plastic as I can for this and many other reasons.

As such all of the products and lunchboxes here are BPA-, phthalate-, lead-free, and the food and beverage containers are also plastic-free. Planetbox is our family favorite. It has held up for years. It’s easy for little fingers to open. It has individual sections and there are no containers or lids to lose.

Here are some of the best choices for non-toxic options. Let us know your favorite!

Full Lunchbox System


Stainless lunchbox system with carrying case and place for water bottle. Be careful as not all of the compartments are water-tight although you can get waterproof containers that fit inside for yogurt, apple sauce, or anything liquid.  This is by far my favorite lunchbox system. My daughter has had this same lunchbox going on the third school year. Three years for a lunchbox is amazing! It’s very durable. There are thin ice packs to go with it and a carrying case.

Water Bottles


Finally a glass water bottle that doesn’t break, and no more metal tasting water!  Glass water bottles with a silicone sleeve. 9 oz bottles fit well into most lunch boxes.  Even better, these are Life Factory’s baby bottles with a solid cap so they can be reused after baby is older or purchased new if you’re just discovering them.  They also have 12, 16 and 22 oz sizes with straw, sport, and screw on tops.

Hydro Flask

If you can’t take glass to school or you want your beverage to stay insulated (from either the cold or the heat), this series of water bottles is one of my very favorites. We own several, including: one with a flip lid for hot beverages like coffee, and a couple with screw tops for water.

Reusable Sandwich Bags and Clingwrap (Plastic-free)

LunchSkins – These reusable storage bags are dishwasher-safe and resealable. They come in different sizes and are easy to open and close. They have a grease-proof and moisture-proof lining that helps keeps food fresh.

Abbego – Like a peel or rind, this wrap protects and breathes. It extends the life of foods by shielding it from air, light & moisture, while letting off-gas escape. And each ingredient comes from the earth!

What food to put in your lunch box

And, what about what to pack inside those lunchboxes? A special diet doesn’t have to mean boring or mean sandwiches everyday!

Here are some creative alternatives that can be adapted for any diet:

Packing school lunches doesn’t have to be another chore for you or boring! I know it can be tricky not feeling like you are stuck in a rut with the same things over and over again. With a little planning and creativity, your child can have delicious, allergen-friendly lunches every day of the school year. In fact, if you want a downloadable resource, I also have a list of 50 lunch box ideas for you.

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Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


  1. Thank you for this info. My kids love pizza but I haven’t found a dairy free cheese they like. Also the ingredients in most of them don’t appeal to me either ( vegetable oil, canola, etc). Is there any you’d recommend?

    • You’re right Azar. The dairy-free cheeses have a lot of non-appealing ingredients. To some extent that’s hard to avoid since trying to make the texture of cheese without dairy is difficult. With that said, I like Miyoko’s the best – there are no “junky oils” and minimal additives.

  2. Planetbox is amazing, look for it on 15% off sale as expensive, also cheaper if you do the package deal. These are very well made – going on year #5 with them, we just get a new carrier (on sale) every other year and I have found reusable ice packs for $1-2 that fit perfectly in there. My son is very hard on things, reportedly had been launching them off tables, dropping etc. so had to readjust the hinge once and there are some dents but it works like a champ. He likes selecting the magnets for the day, mixing and matching. Makes good stocking stuffers. The partitions help me to keep the right amount of food going to school for him.

    • Lorrie, I love hearing your experience. Thanks for mentioning the ice packs and magnets – we love both of those too!!

  3. These meals sound great but when you’re dealing with an autistic child that is a very picky eater it’s extremely hard… All of the items suggested my son will not eat. Any thoughts/recommendations?

    • Chanelle, I understand. Picky eating is very common in autism. Without knowing what he eats right now, let me give some general ideas rather than specific recommendations. I’d suggest to just do your best. Small step by step changes are often the best way to transition a child’s diet. Consider looking at texture and finding things he does like. Try them at home and when you do find healthier items that he enjoys then try adding them to the lunchbox.

  4. Life factory bottles are awesome & don’t break easily. I dropped my 22 oz. Bottle today at waist height, full of water, on to gravel, & it didn’t break!


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