Sandwiches are an easy “go to” when trying to figure out what you’re going to pack your child for lunch or when you’re in the middle of a laundry, try to clean while they nap, and hope to remember to brush your teeth sort of day.
BUT, they are also one of the main lunch item that has either one bite taken out of or left in the lunch bag as a present for you when they come home from school.
Even though PB&J’s are a fan favorite, they almost always end up soggy before lunchtime rolls around. If your child has any issues with texture, this can be a do or die type of situation.
Sometimes all that’s needed is a fresh perspective and a little creativity! Check out these fresh school lunch ideas that are packed with protein so you can rest easy knowing your little ones are having a healthy lunch that will keep them fueled for the day!
1. Pinwheel Rolls
Pinwheels are a great healthy and tasty option that is fairly quick to make. Simply grab a tortilla, lay it out, and add all the fillings that your kids love.
Once the tortilla is full, fold it in half and continue to roll it up the rest of the way. When you’re finished, the tortilla should look like a small log.
Take a sharp knife and cut the filled tortilla into ½ to 1-inch thick pieces.
Try Some of These Fun Flavor Combos
- Bacon, lettuce, and tomato – Everyone loves BLT sandwiches. Try adding ranch dressing or guacamole for a twist.
- Turkey, ham, and cheese – Deli meats like turkey, ham, salami or roast beef with cheese make great fillings.
- Try layering tomato sauce with Canadian bacon, mozzarella cheese and pineapple chunks for a spin on pizza.
- Vegetarian style: Try hummus paired with romaine lettuce or spinach, shredded carrots and any of your child’s favorite veggies! I personally love sliced red bell peppers and cucumber.
2. Ants on a Log
This is a fun nickname for the classic peanut butter filled celery with raisins on top.
If you’re at home, this can be a fun way to get the kids involved at mealtime!
Simply set out the peanut butter, raisins or dried cranberries, chocolate chips, coconut bits, banana or apple slices, or any fun topping and have them make their own.
For school lunch, you can pack all the fun ingredients in little Tupperware containers to build your own lunchable.
All of the ingredients keep well, so there’s no worry about quality the next day. Fun fact, 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter packs 8 grams of protein.
3. How about Hot Lunch?
Take advantage of that thermos in your kids’ lunch box. A thermos can keep a cup of soup nice and hot until lunchtime.
If you have the time (and let’s be honest, energy!), homemade soups are a great option for leftovers for the whole family. Don’t forget to pack some whole-wheat crackers and a spoon.
Some other options include chili or pasta with their favorite sauce, unless they like to keep it simple- butter and cheese, please!
Veggie Tip: try steaming and pureeing some cooked carrots, red bell peppers, or cauliflower to hide in the sauce for added nutrition.
4. Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
If your child has been on a yogurt kick, try putting together a parfait! Greek yogurt has almost double the amount of protein compared to regular yogurt and similar amounts of calcium.
Have your child be involved in picking their favorite fruits or toppings to add to help them get excited about mealtime!
Again, there is SO much room for creativity. You can add dried fruit, coconut, sliced nuts or granola for toppings and of course fresh fruit!
If you’re lucky and live near a farmers market, take your kids for a fun family outing and have them pick their favorite seasonal fruits.
5. Bistro Box Time
Include protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables for a fun, finger food style lunch!
Use different colored or themed cupcake cups to separate the different items and to add a nice surprise.
Pick 1-2 Options From Each Category Below
- Protein: lunch meat, sliced grilled chicken, boiled egg, hummus, nut butters, tuna or chicken salad
- Healthy Fats: Guacamole (the lime keeps it from browning), nuts and seeds, olives, cheese (also protein), hummus (also protein)
- Fruits and Vegetables: Apple slices, melon, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, halved strawberries, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, baked veggie crisps
- Whole Grains: whole wheat crackers, pretzels, cold pasta salad, pita chips
6. Whole Grain Crackers with Tuna or Chicken Salad
Turn the classic tuna sandwich into a fun and easy meal. Add whole wheat cracker to add some valuable fiber. Add a boiled egg for a little extra protein boost.
To make the chicken salad, a few convenience methods include canned chicken in water or packaged rotisserie chicken (thank you Costco!).
Get the Kids Involved!
When in doubt, try it out! Making healthy lunches that aren’t too time consuming doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration, some fresh ideas, and getting your child involved.
Especially when it comes to trying something new! Children are more likely to try something new when given a little control over the options.
Give some of the tips above a try to add a little variety to the monotony that can be lunch!