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PB&J, turkey and cheese or tuna fish sandwiches make for a fast and easy school lunch but if your kids are gluten-free, you’re trying to cut down on the amount of bread they eat, they don’t like sandwiches or you’re simply looking for more school lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches, there are so many healthy, delicious, and easy options.
Here are 8.
1. Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. An excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium, they have both protein and fiber to satisfy your kids’ hunger for hours. There are also so many varieties, you’re bound to find at least one your kids will love.
To make packing school lunch easy, I make a large batch of lentil soup for the week. I then re-heat and pour the soup into a thermos for lunch. You can also serve beans alone or incorporate them into quinoa, brown rice or pasta dishes or make a batch of homemade bean burgers.
2. Lettuce wraps
With a lettuce wrap, you’ll get an extra dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber and a nice texture without the bread. You can also use the same ingredients you would when you make sandwiches: sliced turkey, egg salad, leftover roasted chicken or chili meat.
3. Roll ups
If your kids are like mine, they’ll love a roll-up for school lunch and they won’t miss the bread. Roll-up sliced turkey, ham, or roast beef, cheese and lettuce and you’ll have an easy and delicious lunch.
An excellent source of protein, 9 essential amino acids and choline which supports memory, eggs are one of the best school lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches.
Eggs cook quickly and are so easy to incorporate into practically any dish. Try scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, make egg salad, egg “muffins,” a quiche or frittata.
One of my kids’ favorite ways to eat eggs is a lightened up version of egg fried rice: incorporate scrambled eggs with brown rice, edamame and a splash of soy sauce.
5. Spring rolls
Spring rolls are simple to pull together for lunch and a great swap for sandwiches. Grab a package of spring roll wrappers, add a protein, your kids’ favorite vegetables and seasonings and lunch is ready.
I know what you’re thinking: my kid will never eat a salad. Yet packing a salad for lunch is a great way to get in several servings of vegetables in one meal.
Making a salad can also be a fun activity with your kids because they can pick the ingredients, help you chop and toss the salad and add the dressing. When kids have a hand in making their meals, they’re more likely to eat them.
If your kids aren’t salad eaters, start small with a side salad alongside one of their favorite foods. Experiment with different add-ins like:
- Peppers, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc.
- Leftover meat or fish
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nuts and/or seeds
- Fruit (fresh or dried)
My children and I eat a predominately plant-based diet so to ensure we get enough protein, we often eat tempeh. It’s not every day or even every week, but it’s one of the best school lunch options that aren’t sandwiches.
Tempeh can be used in most recipes that call for meat but you can also simply marinate and bake it.
In the cooler months, soup can be a healthy and delicious school lunch. If you’re inclined to make your own homemade soup, you can incorporate several servings of vegetables—whole or pureed.
If you buy soup in a can, box or one that’s prepared in the store, read labels because most soups you’ll find are high in sodium.