What are some new, creative lunch ideas?
Real Mom Problem
“What can I pack my son for lunch? All I can think of is peanut butter and jelly! Help!”
- 1. Try a new twist on a familiar sandwich like almond butter instead of peanut butter
- 2. Consider breakfast or dinner foods instead of traditional "lunch" foods
- 3. Get a thermos and pack hot leftovers
- 4. Start with what you know your child likes and get creative with presentation
Real Mom Solutions
Make lunch fun and yummy with these delicious, nutritious suggestions from moms like you.
Switch up Sandwiches
For peanut butter and jelly, we will substitute the jelly for honey to change things up. I pack a fruit or a veggie every day, something crunchy like popcorn or crackers, one goodie, and either a string cheese or frozen Go-Gurt.
There are nut butters besides peanut butter like almond butter, cashew, etc. Try Nutella or Jiff's new hazelnut spread. You can make thin silver dollar pancakes and make sandwiches out of them!
My five-year-old is super picky and won't eat anything but PB&J sandwiches for lunch. So, to add a little fun, I whip out my cookie cutters and pancake molds and cut her sandwiches into different shapes: flowers, hearts, stars, or Mickey Mouse. I'll even add a little detail sometimes by embellishing with things like grapes, bananas and Cheerios. She LOVES to see Mickey Mouse staring up at her with a big smile when she opens her lunch box!
Sometimes I make my son banana roll ups: I cut a wrap in half, slather on peanut butter on each half, and then put half of a banana on each half and roll them up.
Make Your Own "Lunchables"
For my son, I often send what I call a picnic lunch: sliced cheese, watermelon, a chicken leg, or sliced chicken breast, crackers, and celery. It's like a "Lunchable," but homemade and a little bit healthier.
I make my own "Lunchables." I get the stuff in bulk so I can make it myself. For the pizza one, I use a cookie cutter and cut shapes out of tortillas and put sauce in a little container, etc. The same can be done with the nacho one.
Fill a Thermos with a Meal
My son takes vegan chili in a thermos in his lunch bag with corn tortillas. He also had some slices of fresh avocado and apple slices and a water bottle.
Get a thermos and fill it with leftovers.
Freeze a small yogurt to keep things cold and try fruits in little Tupperware containers. Miniature cheeses and cheese sticks do well. Little Tupperware containers are also good for ranch, hummus, peanut butter (if allowed), etc. to dip veggies, crackers, pretzels -- whatever!
We do a lot of sandwiches and hot foods (soups, mac n' cheese, leftovers like spaghetti and meatballs) go in thermoses. We microwave stuff at home and put it in the thermos hot. It is still hot at lunchtime. I just try to do a "hot" lunch (thermos and other foods that don't need to keep cold) or a "cold" lunch (frozen something and fruits or stuff that needs to stay cold).
Think Outside the Sandwich
Leftover cold pizza is a favorite.
I like to do pasta salad for the kids. They love it when I add pepperoni and shredded cheese to it. I tell them it's pizza pasta salad!
My youngest, seven, doesn't like school lunches; he packs lunch every day. I try to be creative since he doesn't like lunch meat or peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Thankfully he doesn't mind eating cold leftovers. I've packed him leftover pizza, chicken, fish fillet sandwiches, cereal (he buys milk at school to put in it), cut up cheese and meat like leftover ham or ring bologna as the "main course." I add fruit and crackers or pretzels and a drink.
My youngest dismantles her sandwiches anyway, so we have started packing things Bento-style (little bites) or in sticks to dip (i.e. cut up a slice of bread in strips, add strips of green peppers, a cheese stick, carrots, and dip). We've also tried a sandwich on a stick, which my husband found online. You use cherry or grape tomatoes, chunks of cheese, cubes of bread, etc. on a wooden skewer. It's something cute and different.
Hummus and veggies with a pita. It is easy to make hummus and I use peanut butter instead of tahini. It's cheap, fast and good for you.
For sandwiches try mini bagels, muffins, pitas. Pack granola bars, cereal bars, yogurt, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, cut up orange slices, cheese cubes, baby carrots, cucumber, melon pieces. Try crackers, like Ritz, graham crackers, Goldfish -- whatever! -- or rice cakes. I normally do some type of main food, then a fruit and veggie, always a yogurt, and something crunchy, and then a treat. I pack the night before, then keep it in the fridge, and don't use a cold pack, although, many do. I've never had any issues, but it is a good idea.
You could try doing pasta salads and veggie sticks and dip.
I tend to pack up all the fruit and veggies into snack-size bags at the beginning of the week and let them pick what they want that day as long as they have one sandwich, one fruit, one veggie, one dairy, and one drink. They can pick what they feel like having that day and they're more likely to finish what they have if they pick it themselves.
My suggestion would be shish kebabs. Try squared chicken or turkey, then a veggie he likes, different veggies -- rotate it up. Then do a second one with fruit and maybe a veggie like jicama mixed in. Add a small cup of ranch dressing or barbecue sauce (something he likes) on the side.
I make kebabs. I put whatever he likes on a stick, so, strawberries and cheese cut into squares or ham in thick squares with cheese. Sometimes just using small cookie cutters helps to make things appealing. Do a Google search with the words "Bento box, lunch, kids" and you will find a million things! I never send sandwiches.
Try romaine wraps (using the romaine lettuce as a "wrap" for sandwich fillings instead of traditional tortillas, pitas, or bread). I will pack a few veggies and fruits and a couple different kinds of dip. I wish I could find a cold pasta salad that my kids would like. That would be another great option!