As parents, we all know mornings can be hectic, especially once the novelty of a new school year wears off. No one wants to worry about packing lunches while simultaneously providing breakfast, making sure everyone's shoes match and getting their own work bag ready for the day.
But providing a nutritious lunch that you know your kids will eat and enjoy is one of the best ways to support them while they're at school. How do we make the time to do it and rest easy knowing we put together a meal they're actually going to eat?
Finding quick (and creative!) ways to mix up what your kids have in their lunch box can be the secret to stress-free lunch prep—the kind that leaves you and your kids smiling and ready for the day.
We gathered five recipes for kid-approved sandwich substitutes that are simple to make both on the go or ahead of time. The best thing about them is that no matter when you put them together, they'll still be fresh for lunch (perhaps even for days in a row). Your kids might even like to get in on the mixing, mashing and rolling—perfect buy-in to help guarantee they actually eat!
Crunchy Veggie Turkey Pinwheels
Packed with nutrient-rich veggies and protein, these crunchy veggie turkey pinwheels by Laura Fuentes are straight forward to plan for, prep and pack to ensure your kids are eating well at school. While this recipe suggests hummus to add flavor and hold the ingredients together, cream cheese makes a great substitute, too, especially the flavored varieties kids love.
Creamy Hummus Dip with Pita and Veggies
Packing your kid's lunch with protein is a good way to help them avoid getting hungry before the end of the school day, and hummus is a great source of plant-based protein. There are thousands of varieties available near the produce section in the grocery store for simple prep, but if you have the time, kids love this homemade creamy hummus recipe made with Greek yogurt (another excellent source of protein) and without tahini (the component in hummus that isn't always a favorite with kids). Slice some pita bread, carrots, cucumber and/or jicama to go along with the hummus, and you have a complete meal!
Rainbow Vegetable Spring Rolls
You might not be able to get away with sending a salad in your kid's lunchbox, but these rainbow vegetable spring rolls are the next best thing! Purple cabbage, microgreens, carrots and bell pepper come together with a savory dip to make this visually appealing and nutritious main course lunch item that your kids will love as much as you do.
Easy Veggie and Bean Quesadillas
While classically served hot off the stove, quesadillas are actually a great cold lunch option for kids as well. There's always the classic tortilla and cheese combo, but you have to try this easy veggie and bean quesadilla recipe. It's easy because you don't have to cook it any more than your traditional quesadilla, and you can pretty much mash up any veggie combo you have on hand with the beans and salsa to create the flavorful and nutritious filling. Your kids might even enjoy helping you prep these ahead of time so they're ready to pack without prep in the morning.
Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad
Speaking of prepping lunches ahead of time, making a large batch of pasta salad over the weekend makes for stress-free lunch prep when everyone is getting ready for school and work. This kid-friendly pasta salad by Vegetarian Mamma is filled with the simple flavors kids love, as well as and the nutrients they need to stay full, active and focused throughout the day! See an ingredient your kid doesn't love or want to add in some of their own vegetable favorites? This is a very easy dish to prepare with substitutions to make it uniquely yours--and a hit with your kids.
On the Side
In addition to each of these recipes, you'll want to include some of your kid's favorites (sliced fruits, granola, trail mix, yogurt) as a side to complete the meal. Modern Honey has a great resource to alleviate your burning questions when it comes to grocery shopping for these items. Check out her list of options and combinations here, and mix and match the various sides and snacks she lists with any one of the above favorites!
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