The Best Food-Storage Containers for Packing Kids' Lunch Boxes
At EatingWell, we have packed countless lunches for kids in the Test Kitchen and at home for our own kids. With all that packing comes the benefit of testing out a lot of products—the great, the not-so-great and the ones we just can't live without. Here are some of our favorite containers, bentos and bottles for packing kids' lunch boxes.
Tips for Choosing Your Containers
When you're choosing what products to use to pack a healthy lunch and snacks for your kids, here are a few things to consider.
Bento vs. Individual Containers
Individual containers allow for more flexibility. But we love bento lunchboxes for school-aged kids, because you can still keep foods separate, but there are fewer containers for kids to open (and for you to clean). Not all bentos are leakproof, and so you may still need to have some individual containers for dips, yogurts and dressings.
Is Plastic OK?
Even if plastic is labeled "BPA-free" you might be wondering if any plastic is safe to use for packing your kid's lunch. The truth is, BPA-free plastic does not necessarily mean chemical-free. If you are concerned about plastic, look for alternatives, such as stainless steel, glass and silicone. Also, to avoid chemicals leaching into your food, never heat food in any type of plastic container.
Glass vs. Stainless Steel
Glass is a great alternative to plastic storage containers. It's easy to clean, won't stain and can go in the microwave for easy reheating. Before you make an investment in glass, though, you might want to double-check to make sure your school or daycare allows glass containers. Look for tempered glass, which has been treated to be much stronger and resistant to breaking. Stainless steel is another great plastic-free alternative. It's safe, easy to clean and you don't have to worry about breakage. However, one downside is that it can't go in the microwave.
Perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables, that are left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours may enter the Danger Zone-the unsafe temperatures between 40° and 140°F, in which bacteria multiply rapidly. If your child does not have access to a fridge at school, pack lunch in an insulated lunch bag or container and include an ice pack to keep the food fresh and cold.
Bento Lunch Boxes
Bentology Bento Box Sets
An EatingWell Test Kitchen favorite, this bento doesn't leak, because it comes with lids for several of the interior containers. Made from food-safe plastic that contains no lead, BPA, phthalates or PVC, it's great for both little kids and school-age kids. Buy Bentology Bento Box Set from Amazon, $13.
This stainless-steel bento box is a great alternative to plastic and is so easy to clean, since it's all one piece. Just pop it in the dishwasher. The optional colorful cover makes this bento more fun for kids and can be washed while it's attached to the lid. This is not a leakproof bento, so you'll need to pack dressings, dips and yogurt separately. Buy LunchBots Trio from Amazon, $27.
See Our Full Guide: The Best Bento Boxes
Sandwich Bags & Wraps
Stasher Storage Bags
These sandwich and snack bags are the very best reusable bags. Made from food-grade silicone instead of plastic, Stasher bags are dishwasher safe, clean really well, don't leave any residue and are sturdy enough that the food in them doesn't get totally squished. They have an airtight seal, keeping food fresher longer, and are easy for kids to open. Stasher is also a member of 1% for the Planet and is a certified B corporation, a member of a network of for-profit companies that meet a rigorous set of social and environmental standards. Buy Stasher Storage Bags from Amazon, $13.
Bee's Wrap Sandwich Wrap
These sandwich wraps are a natural alternative to plastic wrap, made from organic cotton coated with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. Bee's Wrap products do have a beeswax scent that fades after a few uses. Wash, dry and reuse for up to a year-then compost when you're done. Buy Bee's Wrap Sandwich Wrap from Amazon, $11.
Food Storage Containers
Wean Green Snack Cubes (set of 4)
These colorful containers are made from tempered glass that's much stronger than regular glass-meaning it's less likely to break. They are leakproof and the perfect size for yogurt, salsa, hummus and dips. Buy Wean Green Snack Cubes from Amazon, $16 for a set of 4.
U Konserve Round Nesting Trio with Silicone Lids
These stainless-steel food storage containers feature leak-resistant, plastic-free silicone lids. The three containers nest within each other for compact storage and are the perfect size for packing up snacks or single portion meals. U Konserve is a member of 1% for the Planet, a network of environmentally conscious companies and brands, and has pledged to donate 1 percent of sales to nonprofit organizations that benefit the environment. Buy U Konserve Round Nesting Trio with Silicone Lids from Target, $29.
Hydro Flask Insulated Food Jar
These insulated food jars will keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until lunchtime. They're made with professional-grade stainless steel, so they don't retain or transfer flavors. These containers are great for bigger school-age kids, since the lid size is a bit wide for small hands to open. Available in three sizes and dishwasher safe, these food jars also come with a limited lifetime warranty. Buy the Insulated Food Jars from Hydro Flask, starting at $35.
Jarware Snack Pack
We use mason jars for everything. This nifty lid converter lets you convert your mason jars into snack packs. Store dips or apple sauce in one compartment, and veggies or fruit in the other. The snack pack is made from recycled BPA-free plastic and comes in two sizes for regular and wide-mouth mason jars. Buy Jarware Snack Pack from Amazon, $8.
Hydro Flask Kids Wide Mouth Water Bottle
A new product addition from my favorite water bottle brand, Hydro Flask now offers a flip-and-sip Kids Wide Mouth 20 oz. bottle for bigger kids (also available in 12 oz. size). The water bottles come in four island-inspired pop colors with an easy-to-clean straw cap for easy access and protective boot that helps small hands grip better. As with the food jars, these water bottles come with a limited lifetime warranty. Note: The straw cap is not leak-proof, but the bottle is interchangeable with any of Hydro Flask's wide mouth lids. Buy Kids Wide Mouth Water Bottle from Hydro Flask, $38.
Pura Kiki 11 oz. Water Bottle
This stainless-steel and silicone water bottle is 100-percent plastic-free. The smart design allows you to adapt the bottle to your growing child and can convert from baby bottle to toddler sippy to kid's straw or wide-mouth sport top simply by swapping out the lids. With the flat cap accessory, you can even use the bottle as a food storage container. Buy Pura Kiki Water Bottle from Amazon, from $21.
Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Lunch Ice Packs (set of 4)
These are the best ice packs because they stay plenty cold until lunchtime, but they're slim so they don't take up too much room in the lunchbox. We like these better than soft-sided ice packs because they are sturdy enough not to get punctured (because who wants yucky goo all over their lunch?). Buy Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Lunch Ice Packs from Amazon, $14 for a set of 4.
Don't Miss: Our Top Picks for the Best Lunch Boxes