Are you stuck in a sandwich rut? Do your kids open their lunchbox to find a PB&J, without fail? Then it’s time to add some fun back into your children’s school lunches.
Avoid making a basic sandwich five days a week by packing these 10 creative lunches that your kids will love:
- Whole-wheat pasta salad
Whole-wheat pasta salad is a filling and unexpected school lunch that’s easy to make. Choose a fun-shaped pasta, like bowties or wheels, and add a variety of colorful, nutritious mix-ins, like grape tomatoes, bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli or carrots. Add a protein, like tuna, hard-boiled egg or grilled chicken, then toss the pasta with a light dressing, such as olive oil and lemon juice or Greek yogurt, and chill overnight. In the morning, scoop some pasta salad into your kids’ lunch bags, add some fruit on the side and send them on their way.
- Lunch kebabs
Everyone knows that food is more fun when it’s on a stick! There are so many different lunch kebabs you can create that your kids will love. Make caprese kebabs by alternating cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and avocado on a small skewer, or try cheddar cheese cubes, sliced deli turkey and grapes.
Don’t get stuck in a sandwich rut – there are many creative lunches you can pack your kids!
Skip the school-bought nachos that can be covered in heavy cheese sauce. Instead, pack your kids a lighter take on nachos. Take a cue from Keeley McGuire’s blog and arrange ground beef and shredded cheese in two small muffin cups or bowls in the lunchbox. Surround with corn chips – or tortillas – and accompany with sliced fruits and veggies.
- Rice bowl
Experimenting with different grains is a great way to keep lunch interesting and avoid reverting to the same old sandwiches. Fill a lunchbox with rice or an ancient grain like quinoa and top with cooked vegetables like snap peas, baby corn, red pepper slices and mushrooms. Top with grilled chicken, fried egg or salmon and you have a delicious lunch that will give your kids the fuel they need for the rest of the school day.
- Mini pizzas
Opening their lunch box to find an array of mini pizzas is sure to put a smile on your kids' faces. You can make mini pizzas with small pieces of French bread, as the blog Oh My! Creative suggested, or you can use whole-wheat English muffins. Just top the bread with tomato sauce and your children's favorite pizza toppings, then heat in the toaster oven before packing away.
- Smoothie bowl
Smoothie bowls are all the rage right now - kids will love them for their bright colors and you'll love them for their high nutritional content. Whip up a simple smoothie in the blender, like blueberry-strawberry-apple or mango-banana, then pour the smoothie into a small lunch container. Add granola, oats, chia seeds, peanut butter, berries or other toppings on top to complete the bowl.
Quinoa or another grain with veggie toppings is a delicious and nutritious school lunch.
- Mac & cheese muffins
Have mac and cheese leftover from dinner? Then make these fun muffins from the lifestyle blog I Should Be Mopping the Floor. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of prepared macaroni and cheese, 2 large eggs, beaten, 1 cup diced ham and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. Spray 8 cups in a muffin tin with cooking spray, then spoon 1/2 cup of mac and cheese mixture into each cup, pressing down on each cup with your fingers to flatten. Sprinkle with additional breadcrumbs, then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove muffins and place on wire rack to cool. Refrigerate after 30 minutes of cooling.
- Chicken dippers
Chicken nuggets are another kid-favorite, but they're not the healthiest meal. Put a more nutritious twist on chicken nuggets, though, by slicing grilled chicken breast into strips. Accompany with a few dipping sauces, like barbecue and low-fat ranch dressing, and celery and carrot sticks for snacking.
Foods on a stick are fun ... but so are foods all rolled up. Skip the bread and instead roll up sandwich fillings and secure with a toothpick. Try rolling up sliced ham, cheddar cheese, mustard and thinly sliced pickles, or turkey, mashed avocado and sprouts.
- Banana boats
It's like a banana split - but much healthier! Simply slice a banana lengthwise, then spread each half with peanut butter and sliced strawberries or another type of fruit. Pair the banana boats with a whole-grain waffle and a hard-boiled egg, and it's like breakfast for lunch!