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If your child is tired of cold sandwiches for lunch every day, it’s time to start sending hot lunches like soups, pasta, and leftovers. Fortunately, there are amazing lunch boxes that lock in the heat for hours. Find the best lunch box to keep food warm so you can send your little one with hot lunches every day of the week!
Best Lunch Box to Keep Food Warm
This school year, level up your kids’ lunch experience by sending them to school with homemade food still warm from your kitchen! The best thermal lunch boxes help hold onto heat for a longer period than before. This is ideal for picky kids who can’t stand cold lunches or for anyone who’d like a warm meal in the middle of the day.
Plus, sending hot meals is a great way to use up leftovers and to help your child stick to specific eating habits. If your child has allergies or food sensitivities, you’ll definitely want to check out this list of the best lunch boxes to keep food warm!
Want to make the most of your kid’s current lunch box? See our favorite tips about how to keep food warm in lunch box here.
What to Look for in a Lunch Box for Kids
Although there are thermal lunch boxes for people of all ages, not every insulated lunch bag is suitable for kids. They require lunch containers with specific traits to keep them safe and healthy:
Easy to stow in a backpack
Choose a smaller lunch bag that can easily slide into your child’s backpack.
Look for durable sides
Kids’ lunch boxes often take a beating. Choose a lunch box with either soft sides that won’t be damaged, or hard, durable plastic that won’t break after a few drops.
Some of the best thermal bento boxes include a built-in stainless steel container in the main compartment. This is only helpful if your little one can actually open these containers, which can be harder to open when they’re full of piping-hot food.
Separate compartments for hot and cold food
It’s unlikely that everything in your kid’s lunch will need to be heated, and your picky eater won’t be thrilled when their marshmallows or yogurt-covered raisins melt from the heat of their homemade chicken noodle soup. Choose a lunch box with separate compartments to keep warm food warm and cold food cold.
Leave room for utensils & drinks
Make sure your child’s lunch box can hold utensils and a water bottle. Otherwise, your child will likely lose track of their water bottle or need to hunt down a fork and spoon in the lunch line, losing valuable time to eat.
Consider ease of cleaning
This might be the most important feature to consider! Before you order any new lunchboxes, imagine what it would look like if a fruit cup or container of soup exploded. How easy would it be to clean up? We love bento style boxes that can be added directly to the dishwasher for easy clean-up!
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The Best Insulated Lunch Boxes for Kids
After extensive research, these are top picks for the best lunch box to keep food warm for kids of all ages!
This is our favorite lunch box to keep food warm for kids for several reasons. It checks all of the boxes as it has a removable 8.5 oz vacuum-insulated food jar that is easy to open, separate compartments for cold and warm food, and comes in an assortment of colors to please any child. However, it does not come with a lunch bag, which you will need to store the utensils and water bottle.
Despite these limitations and its high price of $45 each, it’s the best option available, especially for younger kids.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Omie box that includes a lunch bag and Thermos, the Maison Huis set is a great deal. It includes the bento box, an insulated lunch bag, and an 8 oz thermos to keep foods hot until lunchtime. We love that the bag has room to carry utensils and that it comes in a variety of cute colors and sizes.
The only cons are that there isn’t room for a water bottle, milk container or juice box in the lunch box with the bento box, so your child will need to carry that separately. Each set costs approximately $37 and is a great alternative to the more expensive Omie box.
Similar to the first two options, the Kinsho set has even more compartments and yet also includes an insulated bag, thermos, and ice pack. Although it is listed as easy to open, some reviewers indicated their younger kids had a hard time opening the containers on their own. The thermos and bento box will not fit together in the lunch bag, so you would need to use separate containers for snacks and sides on the days when you send the thermos.
This whole set retails for $50, which is slightly more than the Omie box but it includes several other features like the thermal bag and insulated container. The bag also has room for a water bottle, too.
This inexpensive alternative features a portable lunch box with an insulated thermos and freezable cold pack in a variety of kid-friendly designs. The bags have cute colors and themes like dinosaurs and narwhals. This is one of the few lunch bags with a shoulder strap, too. The Bentology bag does not include a side pocket for a drink, but it should have room inside for a juice box or small water bottle.
Ideal for younger kids like preschoolers, this Bentology set is a good value at $23.
This special insulated bag has two compartments: one for hot food and one for cold. It includes two Lava Rocks, which are like a hot version of a cold pack. These can be heated in the microwave before being added to the bag. This is a great alternative for people who want to prep a week’s worth of lunches in separate containers instead of having to pack a bento box daily.
Since this is a newer product, there aren’t extensive reviews available. It also has a 7-liter capacity which may be excessive for young kids (ideal for older children and teens). It’s listed at $32, which makes it more expensive than most lunch boxes but cheaper than specialty thermal containers.
Unlike the bento box options above, this is more like a regular lunch bag, except it’s made to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. The insulated carrying case comes in dozens of colors and ranges in price from $12-22 per bag. This bag has a durable handle and room for a water bottle or juice box. This bag is best for someone who already has some food storage containers and doesn’t mind sending hot food in an insulated container like the Thermos Funtainer.
Reviewers rave about this product for both kids and adults. They love the price, durability, and how well it keeps food hot or cold. It’s a great, affordable option, and your kids will enjoy picking one out in their favorite colors.
This insulated lunch bag is perfect for enjoying a warm lunch even hours after it was packed. It has plenty of room for all of your food containers and is ideal for school lunches. Made in various colors and priced around $17, this is an affordable alternative to more expensive bento boxes.
Although this bag is great at retaining heat, you will need to purchase a separate insulated food storage container to keep your child’s lunch really hot.
Which is the best lunch box to keep food warm?
Throughout our research, so many overpriced, inferior-quality boxes didn’t quite stand up to inspection. They either broke on day 1, couldn’t hold heat for any period of time, or were too challenging for kids to open. Some required you to collect a bunch of containers to fit the bento box, meaning if your child lost a lid or cup, you’d have to order replacement parts. Who wants to deal with that?
The best of the best is really the Omie box. It’s on the pricier side, but it truly works and is made to last a long time, unlike many of its competitors.
If the Omie is beyond your budget, consider buying a high-quality insulated box or bag, like the FlowFly or Amersun bags, and then investing in a handful of high-quality thermal containers. They may be expensive at first, but they should last for years (well beyond your kid’s dinosaur phase).
In this situation, you’ll be able to continue using your current food containers and likely even your kid’s current lunch bag if you upgrade to a thermal food jar. This is the easiest and least expensive alternative.
The Best Hot Food Containers for Kids
- The best overall: Thermos Funtainer
- The cutest: Zak Designs Food Storage Jar
- Best for big kids: Stanley Heritage Insulated Food Jar (14 oz with room for a spoon)
- Small but mighty: Maison Juis Easy Open 8 Oz Food Container
- Versatile & affordable: Mira Food Jars 9 Oz
- Worth the splurge: Lunchbots thermos
Based on our research, the best thermal lunch box for kids is the Omie Bento Box, as it has separate compartments for hot and cold, a removable thermos, and room for your kid’s favorite snacks and treats.
For an insulated thermal bag, FlowFly has affordable, durable options with a wide variety of colors. Current owners rave about this lunch box. Another tried-and-true alternative is an Amersun bag, which comes in a variety of different shapes and colors.
Insulated lunch boxes are made to retain the heat of hot foods and do not necessarily heat up the food themselves. They have several layers of thermal padding that prevent food from losing heat or getting warm.
For maximum effectiveness, you’ll want to pair an insulated lunch box with an insulated food container like a thermos. There are also bento boxes with built-in insulated jars that are ideal for sending in your kid’s lunch bag. Learn more about how to keep food warm in lunch box here.
The best way to keep mac and cheese and other warm meals hot all the way until lunchtime is to send them in an insulated food container like a thermos. Boil water and add it to the stainless steel container for a few minutes while you heat up the food. Dump out the water, and then add your heated leftovers. The water will help your container stay nice and hot for hours.