A durable, non-toxic lunch or snack container is great to have when your kiddos are hungry on-the-go. Stainless steel containers are safe and long-lasting containers perfect for school or travel.
You know the importance of quality foods and real ingredients, especially when it comes to what your baby or toddler eats. What you feed your children is so important for their overall health, wellbeing, and behavior. You know that it’s important to make healthy choices and model good eating habits as much as possible.
What happens when you’re on-the-go with your toddler? Or when you start sending them off to daycare, preschool, or elementary school? Of course, the quality of the food still matters, though the 80/20 rules comes into play more.
I always encourage my readers to send in their children’s food instead of relying on school snacks and lunches.
But have you considered the container you are packing your child’s lunch in? So many of the popular children’s bento boxes and food containers are made from plastic.
Even though plastic can be really convenient (and cute—have we mentioned how cute some of the plastic lunch boxes can be?), plastic can leach. For this reason, it’s smart to avoid plastic—especially it comes to food-related products.
For when you’re on the go with your little one, or you’re packing a lunch or snack for school, consider a much safer option: stainless steel. Stainless steel lunch boxes are the best option when it comes to lunch and snack containers for your littles!
Why is Stainless Steel The Best Choice for a Lunch Box or Snack Container?
If you have started shopping for your child’s lunch box, you will notice that there are so many cute and colorful options out there. However, many of these lunch containers are made from plastic.
Stainless steel, however, is perfectly safe and is the way to go for some really good reasons. I know—it’s easy to write off stainless steel products as camping gear. But there are so many great reasons to choose stainless!
1) Stainless steel is eco-friendly. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and won’t leach chemicals into the environment. In fact, it’s one of the most recycled materials on the planet.
2) It’s also very durable. Stainless containers are the most long-lasting and durable. It doesn’t break and can withstand a lot of wear and tear from your kiddos. They definitely will withstand the test of time (unlike their plastic counterparts).
3) Steel is easy to clean. Most stainless steel products are dishwasher safe and won’t ever rust or stain. I just throw our stainless steel bento boxes into the dishwasher. LOVE. THAT.
4) Stainless steel lunch boxes are lightweight. Contrary to what you might think, many stainless steel lunch containers are very lightweight. So, switching from plastic to stainless steel won’t weigh your kiddo’s backpack down.
5) Ditch the plastic. When choosing a container for your child’s lunch, it’s best to look beyond plastic, which is full of chemicals. And, inevitably, plastic degrades. When it breaks down, those chemicals can leach and migrate into your food.
In fact, almost every type of plastic will transfer trace amounts of plastic into your food and then enter your body. This is especially true if we are heating food in plastic, or if the food being stored is salty, acidic, or fatty. Over time, those trace amounts of toxic compounds can lead to serious health issues and diseases such as cancer, infertility, diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity.
I know the lure of BPA-free lunchboxes. Even though you’ll find BPA-free lunch boxes, BPA is one of the most toxic chemical compounds present in plastics (especially due to its ability to disrupt hormone function). However, disturbingly, many products that claim to be BPA-free either still test positive for trace amounts of the compound, or they use a slightly altered version of the compound (BPS) which may be just as toxic.
It’s also important to note that while the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and packaging for infant formula in 2012, the chemical is not banned from being used in other types of food containers and packaging. It’s up to us to choose options that lower our exposure to BPAs or other toxic chemical compounds found in plastics, preferably by avoiding them!
The 3 Kinds of Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes
Now that you know why stainless is the best option for your child’s lunch box, let’s look at the options out there. There are a few different styles!
- Bento Box: I love to use bento-style containers for my kids because they have compartments to separate foods. This works so well for little ones and they are super easy to pack. There’s only one lid to open and all of their options are laid out in front of them at once. This is particularly good for kids going to school or daycare. It promotes independence during mealtime by giving your child a choice—and a greater likelihood of food variety.
- Insulated: These thermos-style insulated containers are great if you regularly send your child (or yourself!) to school with leftovers or a lunch that is best enjoyed warm. These do a great job of keeping food warm until it’s ready to be eaten.
- Snack Size: Smaller snack containers that are perfect for throwing in your own bag when you’re on the go with the kids, or want to pack supplementary snacks along with their lunch.
Our Favorite Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes for Kids Lunches
Here is a look at the very best stainless steel lunch containers on the market. My recommendations are specifically great for toddlers and young children—whether you’re spending an afternoon at the park, dropping your child off at daycare/school, or just want an organized meal at home. We also use these for backyard picnics.
LunchBots was founded in 2008, and they offer a wide variety of stainless steel lunch boxes, food containers, and thermoses. They designed their containers to help parents simplify lunches.
And I can attest to this: this is the brand we exclusively use and I love these, especially for packing kids lunches.
Their containers are dishwasher safe, made with the high quality 18/8 stainless steel, and are deemed ‘virtually unbreakable’. The stainless steel is all that touches the stored food (even on varieties with colored lids). The only drawback to the LunchBot bento boxes is that they are not watertight. You should only pack dry foods in these containers and use a separate container for any dips, condiments, or other liquid foods.
They offer a few different sized bento boxes, which gives you some good choices. The price point ranges depending on the size and system you choose.
The size and shape of these also makes it super easy to throw in an ice pack into your child’s lunch bag and keep their food cool until lunchtime.
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This is a tiny-sized bento box with four compartments. Two compartments hold 2 oz. of food, and the other two hold just 1 oz. each. This is the ideal choice for a snack box or a very young child.
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This bento lunch box is the perfect size for a full toddler/preschool meal or a side container for an older child’s lunch. The dimensions are 6” x 5” x 1.75”.
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The large box is ideal for packing a full meal in one easy-to-use container, divided into six sections. This box is 60% larger than the classic (medium) box, making it perfect for older children and adults alike. While this box is a little more expensive, it is an investment and will last a lifetime!
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In addition to stainless bento boxes, Lunchbots also makes insulated thermoses. This product has a bowl-like shape compared to other thermoses on the market. The lid works great and is easy to open and close, even for little hands.
It has a diameter of 4.5 inches which makes it ideal for chunky soups and stews. It holds 2 cups of food and is made out of 18/8 stainless steel.
PlanetBox was found with the goal of creating a safe and non-toxic food storage system that made lunch packing easier. They even created the latching system with the smallest hands in mind.
PlanetBox lunch boxes are all dishwasher safe and made from the highest quality stainless steel. They are extremely durable and are designed to last for years to come. PlanetBox offers three different lunch boxes that range in price from $40-$60.
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This box has two compartments and can hold 3.5-cups of food. It is designed for small meals and snacks on-the-go.
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This box has five compartments and offers a 5-cup capacity that is perfect for a child or adult-sized lunch.
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This box is designed to hold a traditional three-course meal and has a 7-cup capacity. This choice is great for adults looking for a stainless lunch or dinner box.
The original brand for vacuum-sealed food storage containers, Thermos offers a variety of shapes and sizes to fit your needs. All are made with a durable stainless steel interior and exterior, and they keep food warm for ~5-8 hours depending on the model. Prices range from $16-$30.
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This is a light, compact and portable design that keeps food warm for 5 hours. A great lunch option for kids.
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This is a slightly larger option that keeps food warm for up to 7 hours
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This option comes with a foldable stainless spoon and has an insulated stainless steel outer-lid that serves as a bowl.
The Best Stainless Steel Snack Containers for Toddlers and Kids
There are a few brands that sell amazing snack containers great for on-the-go snacks or lunch side dishes. I would use these for a trip to the mall with my toddlers and also for sending smaller snack items to school.
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This is a pack of 3 leak-proof 1.5oz snack containers. They are the perfect addition to a bento box style lunch container because they can be used to store dips and condiments. In fact, their size fits perfectly inside the medium and large LunchBots bento boxes. They are dishwasher safe and are made of stainless steel for the container and silicone for its lid.
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This product contains 3 storage containers that are perfect for lunchboxes or to throw in your bag for on-the-go snacking. They are leak proof containers with a lifetime guarantee. The container is made of stainless steel and the lid is made from a plastic-free food-grade silicone. These are also dishwasher and oven safe.
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This is a spill-proof snacking container for babies and toddlers (for dry snacks). The container is made from stainless steel, and the ‘snack-flaps’ are made from soft, food-grade silicone.
This is the perfect non-toxic alternative to the plastic version. It is great for on-the-go. It’s dishwasher safe, and it fits in most car seats and stroller cup holders.
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Silicone storage bags are an excellent alternative to single-use plastic baggies and other plastic snack containers. They are reusable and dishwasher safe (though I always recommend hand-washing silicone).
These particular silicone snack backs are leakproof and waterproof, and come with 4 bags of different sizes.
Ready To Pack Those Lunches?
Well mama, now you know that those carefully prepared, healthy lunches are being packed in a container that won’t expose your child to harmful chemicals. Get packin’!
To me, sending my son to school with a packed lunch and a note from mom always makes my heart happy. Even before he started going to school, I would always pack his lunch in our stainless steel bento boxes. You just can’t beat the convenience of these lunch boxes! And I just love that they are completely plastic-free.
Related: The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soaps
FAQs about Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes
Still have questions about stainless steel containers? Read on!
What foods should be avoided in stainless steel lunch boxes?
You want to avoid putting acidic foods in stainless steel lunch and snack containers. Generally, things like tomato sauce or citrus foods should be avoided because they can damage the stainless steel itself. If your stainless steel includes other metals like chromium or nickel these metals can then leech into the foods. Simply put: avoid storing acidic foods in your child’s stainless steel lunch container!
What is safest: glass, silicone, or stainless steel?
First, these are all good options in terms of material safety. Glass, stainless steel (304 grade), and food-grade silicone will not leech chemicals into your food. I always suggest opting for silicone or stainless for children since they are unbreakable. While glass is certainly safe, it can also break, shatter, and cause injury.
Is it safe to refrigerate food in stainless steel and silicone?
Stainless steel is non-porous, so it does not absorb bacteria or leach chemicals. It’s perfectly safe to store your stainless steel containers in the refrigerator. As mentioned, avoid storing acidic foods in the stainless.
Food-grade silicone is also safe to store in the refrigerator. It’s BPA, BPS-free, and doesn’t contain any petroleum byproducts. It also won’t degrade or breakdown over time (like plastic will). However, it’s best to avoid using silicone in high temperatures, for this reason.
Can you microwave a stainless steel lunch box?
No! Never put metal in a microwave, including stainless steel. It can spark and cause a fire. A better option would be to heat food on a microwave-safe plate or warming your food on the stovetop.
What grade of stainless steel is food grade?
Food grade stainless steel means that it is safe for food preparation, food storage, and serving food on the material. Type 304 is the most common food-safe stainless steel. You might also see labels for stainless, 18/8 and 18/10. The first number, 18, refers to the chromium content (18%). The second number, 8 or 10, refers to the nickel content (8% or 10%). These metals help to prevent the stainless from rusting and corroding.
How can I tell if my stainless steel is type 304?
You cannot tell what type of stainless steel you have just by looking at it. The only way to truly know what type of stainless steel your lunch box or container is made of is to look at the material test report. Every manufacture should supply one if you ask for it. Otherwise, you must rely on the marketing claims of the product, which is why it’s important to choose a quality, trusted brand.
Can you put stainless steel in the freezer?
Yes, it is totally fine to store your stainless steel container in the freezer.
What’s the best way to clean my stainless steel lunch box?
To clean your stainless steel lunch box or snack container, just use warm soapy water. Never use anything abrasive on the stainless steel. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, but oftentimes, the containers are dishwasher safe.
Do you have a favorite stainless lunchbox or food container that wasn’t on the list? Feel free to add your suggestions below!
Founder and CEO | The Gentle Nursery. Yasmine is the CEO of Biomeology, a company that makes supplements for mothers and babies. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, a doula in training, and a Functional Nutrition Coach.
Yasmine’s driving mission is to help reduce the rates of disorder, disease, and trauma in mothers and children and to inspire others to lead a healthier, happier, and non-toxic life. After learning about the toxic chemicals found in mainstream baby products, Yasmine created The Gentle Nursery to help other parents make healthy choices for their babies. With a 10-year background in research, analytics, and leadership for a Fortune 100 company, Yasmine applies the same principles and attention to detail to every article she writes and researches. Yasmine’s advisory team includes an amazing team of moms, medical professionals, chemists, and other experts that help ensure accuracy and perspective. Yasmine is the author of The Baby Registry Handbook.