What to make for lunch? There is nothing that isn’t a good choice as long as it is healthy and has enough nutrients to keep you going for the rest of the day. You can also have a chance to see how clever you are in using last night’s leftovers.  You would be surprised how many foods taste better the next day. 

sandwichMost of us envision lunch as a sandwich with something else on the side.  Even if this is as far as you take it, there are a lot of options. Skip the white bread which is widely known to have no nutritional value and think about whole wheat bread, rolls or pita pockets. You can use multi-grain flour tortillas to make wraps.  Or how about muffins or a bagel? A sandwich on a bagel!

sand2Egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and ham salad all make wonderful sandwich middles.  Go easy on the mayonnaise. Don’t forget to add celery or green peppers. Maybe even a pickle.  You can make all of the ingredients the night before. In the morning, put your salad between two pieces of bread, add a sliced tomato, some lettuce and sprouts and you’re done.  You can also take the same ingredients and put them into small containers (don’t forget a fork.) You can put tomatoes, peppers or other veggies into another containers or plastic bag.  You can add an apple, orange, banana or a serving of applesauce.  You can add some low-fat dressing if you like to dunk your vegetables.  The peppers, carrot sticks, celery sticks or sticks of jicama make lunch more fun, and they are good for sharing. You can also try substituting avocado for butter or mayonnaise.

platefoodYou can do an entire lunch with dunking and dipping items.  Chicken strips can be dipped into honey mustard or plum sauce. Fish sticks can be dipped into low-fat mayonnaise and dill or tartar sauce. Add some fresh fruit you have cut up and have some yogurt for dunking. Toss in some healthy crackers to add to the crunch factor.  None of this will take you too much time and it will look as if you’re putting on a party. Don’t forget the napkins!

There is always the trusty peanut butter sandwich. Try the Elvis Special by adding a sliced banana.  You can also make them on banana bread or cut them into different shapes with cookie cutters. Use fruit instead of jelly. Maybe try grilling your PB&J or roll them up like sushi.  For picky eaters, you can put them on crackers and make them bite-sized.  Peanut butter and jelly doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t even have to be peanut butter; try almond or cashew butter.  There is a reason it is a classic!

If you’d rather eat salad, try different kinds of salads like pasta.  You can use angel hair pasta or fun shapes and then add the protein with meat, chicken or low-fat cheese. Add lots of vegetables for the fiber.  You can also use whole wheat or whole grain pasta.   Make your own dressing with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil if that’s what you have on hand.  Keep this cold with a cold pack in the lunch box.

You don’t have to stop at a pasta salad.  There’s also a Chinese chicken salad, a Cobb salad or a fruit salad.  If you’re going to make a fruit salad don’t forget to add a side container of yogurt for dipping. Maybe have chicken fingers or cheese on the side for the protein.

Soup is always a good idea. Homemade is the best; but if you don’t have the time, then canned will do. Especially when it’s cold outside, a hot soup will warm every tummy. Keep it hot in a thermos. Pack half a sandwich to go with it and you have the perfect meal.

If you’ve ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant, you probably know what a Bento box is.  Your meal is served in many containers within an open box.  This is now a popular way to serve and eat lunch in a lot of schools.  The small portions can be made up of anything.  Hard boiled eggs, tiny sandwiches and vegetables all make good components.

trayfoodYou can make the ingredients look like shapes, flowers, animals or buildings.  It will entertain as well as nourish your kids. This is also something that your child might want to partake in.  Come up with the ingredients together and then make the box together.  Don’t forget that you can use leftovers and then add fresh fruit and vegetables.  You can do this for children eating at home as well.  You can purchase bento box containers from around $8 to $55.  The more expensive ones come with microwaveable containers.  They come in all sorts of fabulous and cheery colors. 

kabobOnce you’ve used up your imagination with sandwiches, wraps, roll-ups and dunking and dipping items, there’s always the kebab.  Please note that you won’t want to use a pointy stick for these.  Try a thin straw instead or a popsicle stick. You can make them with fresh fruit as a dessert or with proteins and vegetables for the main course.  Some suggestions would be turkey or ham with pineapple, then you can add cherry tomatoes and/or sliced cucumbers.  You can also add cheese squares.  Your kebabs will be pretty and delicious!

Then there is a smoothie “to go.”  It’s not only good for breakfast or a snack; it is also good for lunch.  If you’ve packed a sandwich, this is a great way for your kids to get some of their daily fruit requirement.

With most lunches, you won’t have to worry about serving them hot or cold.  Room temperature will be just fine. But if you are going to make temperature-sensitive food, think about purchasing hot and cold packs and, of course, a thermos. 

Do you have any fun and healthy lunch ideas or recipes you’d like to share with us? Please leave a comment and inspire others.

Written by Holly White for WILLY’S KITCHEN


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