Cracker and Cheese Buffet
One alternative to boring sandwiches is crackers and cheese. Buy low-sodium, multigrain or whole-wheat crackers and slice up some reduced-fat cheddar cheese. To add more food groups to your child’s lunch, cut deli meat into cracker-sized pieces, and apples into slivers. Turkey, cheese, and apple are a tasty combination, and kids will enjoy assembling it on a cracker.
On a Roll
When you think of making a sandwich, you probably reach for sliced bread. But changing things up by putting the fixings on a roll might entice your child. Bulkie rolls can be too filling and loaded with carbs, so consider buying small dinner rolls and making mini sandwiches with anything from turkey and cheese to a veggie or black bean burger.
A Kebab of Favorite Foods
Kids are known for liking or hating food based on how it looks. Kebabs are another way to beat sandwich boredom because they just look fun to eat. Buy short wooden skewers and string on bite-sized chunks of different foods your child likes. Use leftover grilled chicken or baked ham from dinner and pair it with low-fat cheese and cherry tomatoes. You can even add grapes, berries, or other fruit. There are no rules for what counts as lunch if it’s healthy and your child likes it!
Breakfast for Lunch
Here’s another rule-breaker. Some kids just like breakfast better than lunch, so why not pack a yogurt with low-sugar cereal and berries or banana slices to mix in? Another idea is a multi-grain waffle (that you toast or microwave before school) with a serving of peanut butter for your child to smear on at lunch. Just be sure to watch the sugar content and not to let your child eat the same foods all day, every day. You want her to get a good mix of foods so that she takes in different nutrients.
Wraps have become a popular sandwich vehicle, but they can get boring, too. Make them fun again by making pinwheel finger sandwiches together. Lay a tortilla wrap out flat and have your child spoon or layer on any ingredients, such as tuna salad or hummus with thin slivers of cucumber, or deli ham and American cheese. Make the layer of ingredients very thin and spread it out evenly on the wrap. Take one edge of the wrap and roll it up tightly, and then cut it into 1-inch slices to reveal the tasty spiral inside.
Condiments are highly underrated. Some kids won’t touch a burger without ketchup, so they might be more likely to enjoy their entire sandwich if it has some flair, like a bit of spiced-up mayo or sweet honey mustard. Does your child love barbeque sauce or hot sauce? Add a dash to a tablespoon of low-fat mayo or plain yogurt to add new life to a sandwich. And guacamole or cranberry sauce paired with deli turkey will soon be a favorite. Just keep an eye on the nutritional information, and make healthy choices. Some condiments have high sugar, fat, or salt content.
Salad Bar to Go
Maybe your child doesn’t love eating salad at home, but he does if you’re at a restaurant where he gets to pick the fixin’s at a salad bar. Use that same concept for school lunches. Ask him about his favorite kind of lettuce and what he likes to add to make a salad tasty. Maybe it’s grilled chicken, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, and croutons (which you can make by slicing up stale bread and baking it in the oven). Put those items in little containers that he can mix in with his salad greens on his own. Taking part in food preparation can make meals more enticing for kids. Just be sure to use a low-fat salad dressing.
Pasta salad doesn’t have to be a snooze. Here’s another opportunity to find out your child’s favorite ingredients and add them to an old standby: pasta. Cook spirals, shells, or other fun-shaped pasta. After it has cooled, toss in peas and turkey pepperoni, or leftover taco beef and sweet corn, or pieces of broccoli and cheese … the possibilities are endless. Just add low-fat salad dressing and you’re done!
Eating fruits and veggies in a variety of colors gives kids a healthy mix of nutrients. Challenge your child to eat a rainbow of at least a few different colors of food at lunch. Have her help you pack something red, yellow, and blue one day, and something orange, green, and purple the next day. Try to get creative and pick things other than apples and bananas. Has she tried red bell pepper or yellow star fruit yet?
Peanut Butter and …
Hopefully your child isn’t allergic to peanut butter and his school still allows it (some have banned it because of widespread peanut allergies). Peanut butter sandwiches are a beloved lunch item. But even the classics can become old hat. What can you pair it with besides the classics – jelly, jam, honey, marshmallow fluff, or bananas – to bring it back to life? Try apple slices and raisins, a few crunchy pretzels, or even a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.