Let’s face it: Slapping the same smears onto bread (day after day, week after week) can leave kids and parents a little bored. Given that, here are 10 ideas for sandwich-free lunches that take cues from home and abroad. Test drive them all with your little eaters (or yourself!) to find new, interesting lunchbox ideas and variations that keep everyone’s appetites healthy. To pick which one you should start with, play our video recipe roulette. Simply hit pause whenever you like and let the universe choose for you.
1. Food Served on a Stick
Consider chicken satays, beef skewers, or sausage kebabs served on kids’ lunchbox-sized sticks. Because everything is more enjoyable when done with a stick. (Use flat, blunt-edged bamboo sticks for small children, not the stabby toothpick-like variety.)
- Recipe: Yellow Chicken with Broccoli and Peanut Sauce at Hogwash(Obviously, leave the peanut sauce off if packing a nut-free lunch or if your kid is in a peanut-free classroom.) Also, Grilled Smoked Sausage Skewers. Also pack it with rice, sliced cucumbers, sliced mango, yogurt-covered pretzels
They’re child favourites for a reason, and they don’t have to be boiling hot to be tasty, despite our adult prejudices.
- Recipe: How To Make the Best Cheesy Quesadillas, The Avodill. You can pack it with avocado slices or guacamole, jicama sticks, pineapple chunks, pumpkin seeds, or tortilla chips
3. Spring Rolls
Fun to eat rolled-up meals can be made with rice paper wrappers or big lettuce leaves. Fill them with tofu, pork, or shrimp; make rainbow rolls; or allow your kids to come up with their own creative ideas.
- Recipe: Rainbow Vegetable Spring Rolls. Pack it up with cubed meat or cheese, sliced red bell peppers, blueberries, chocolate squares.
4. Deli Meat Roll-Ups
Fun to eat rolled-up meals can be made with rice paper wrappers or big lettuce leaves. Fill them with tofu, pork, or shrimp; make rainbow rolls; or allow your kids to come up with their own creative ideas. And you can pack it with whole-wheat pretzels, celery (optional sunflower butter filling), cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices, coconut macaroon.
5. Vegetable Sushi or Onigiri
Sushi for the family may be as simple as preparing sandwiches with leftover rice and cooked fish from a previous dinner — especially if the kids want to assist.
- Recipe: Salmon and Black Sesame Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls). As a summer project Make Vegetable Maki Sushi with Kids. Pack it with sushi condiments, edamame, raspberries, and a snickerdoodle cookie.
6. Cold Noodle Salads
Consider simple udon or soba with black sesame seeds.
- Recipe: Soba Noodles with Wilted Bok Choy, Miso-Roasted Asparagus Soba Noodle Salad, Greek Chicken Pasta with Olives and Feta. Add some cubed chicken or tinned fish, snap peas, clementines, chocolate raisins to the box.
7. Hummus and Pita Plate
A nice smear of hummus is loved by nine out of ten children. Why not make it the main attraction?
- Recipe: How To Make Hummus from Scratch? Add to the box some salami, olives, carrots, baby tomatoes, and grapes. (Note that dipping is easier and less messy if you pack the hummus in a separate container.)
8. Quinoa Salad
Toss plain quinoa with your kids’ favourite meats, cheeses, and veggies, then drizzle with a mild vinaigrette.
- Recipe: Check How To Cook Fluffy, Tasty Quinoa. Put some tomato/mozzarella/basil lollipops, popcorn, pear slices, baby brownie to the box.
9. Breakfast for Lunch
When you have time for a great breakfast on the weekend, make additional food and preserve the leftovers for lunches (thinkL hard-boiled eggs, leftover pancakes, and leftover sausages).
- Recipe: boiled eggs, pancakes, sausages, sliced strawberries, frozen yogurt tubes also make great small ice packs.
10. Leftover Picnic Lunch
Why not bring it in a lunch box if you’re going to eat it for lunch on the weekend? On a Monday, nothing beats a cold chicken leg.
- Recipe: Grilled Chicken Legs with Dijon with potato salad or coleslaw, watermelon, broccoli with yogurt ranch dip, s’mores.
Finally, if you have recipes or suggestions for creative and healthy lunchbox ideas for kids, share your creativity with Yajny’s friends in the comments!