A to Z Guide to Out of the Box School Lunches and Snacks

School's been in session for awhile now, and for lots of us, we are plumb out of ideas when it comes to making school lunch.

There are only so many turkey sandwiches a person can eat, right? Not to mention the after-school snack (aka bane of the existence of many parents). Kids are hungry after a long day of learning and need to eat, but it's hard to find something that's healthy and satisfying, but not so filling they will spoil their dinner.

Parents of America, we're here to help. Check out this A-to-Z list of delicious lunch and snack ideas that are healthy, too.

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"Ants on a log": One of our childhood greatest hits, these are celery sticks filled with peanut butter and dotted with raisins.

Banana dog: Spread a hot dog bun with peanut butter, top it with a banana, and drizzle it with jam to mimic ketchup.

Chips (whole grain is best) and salsa: Make your own with corn, black beans, tomatoes, and whatever flavorings your family likes (garlic, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, for example).

Deviled eggs: Made with Greek yogurt or low-fat mayo.

Edamame: It speaks for itself.

Fruit "flowers": Place an orange slice in the middle of the plate for the center of the "flower." Arrange apple slices, pear slices, or strawberries around the edge for "petals" and use a celery stick as the stem.

Grated carrot: A drizzle of honey and peanut butter on whole-grain bread.

Hummus: Use as a sandwich spread or as a dip for vegetables, whole-grain crackers, or chips.

Iceberg lettuce: No, it's not that nutritious, but use it as a wrap for a lunch meat sandwich or little morsels of spicy chicken.

Jam and cream cheese sandwich.

Kebabs: Thread slices of banana, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries ... whatever your child likes, really ... onto wooden skewers. Serve with yogurt mixed with honey for dipping.

Linguine noodle salad: This Asian-style cold salad pairs vegetables, chicken (you could sub in tofu), and fun-to-eat long noodles.

Mini pizzas: Take a pita bread, whole-grain English muffin, or flatbread and spread it with low-sodium marinara sauce, low-fat mozzarella, and whatever vegetables your child likes. Pop it into a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese melts.

Nutella and banana pockets: Spread a whole-wheat pita with a small amount of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread. Tuck a banana slice inside.

Oatmeal snack cakes: These look yummy and would make a good on-the-go snack or breakfast.

Popcorn: Sprinkle it with Parmesan or even ground-up kale chips for a savory flavor.

Quiches: Little mushroom and sausage mini quiches cook a lot faster than the large version, have no fat-laden crust, and are good made ahead and reheated before serving.

Rice cakes topped with nut butter and sliced fruit.

Salad: Try threading salad ingredients on a stick kabob-style, or try this rainbow chopped salad.

Tuna salad: Cut with cookie cutters into the shape of a fish.

Umami from Mommy: Think savory foods instead of sweet or bland. Shave a little Parmesan over their pasta, offer a soy dipping sauce for their veggies, or use sun-dried tomatoes in a wrap. Umami is the "fifth taste" along with sweet, sour, salty, and butter and refers to a kind of savory taste, or translated, "deliciousness."

Veggie cream cheese on a bagel with cucumbers and lettuce.

Wraps: I have seen kids turn up their noses at a particular type of sandwich between two slices of bread, but wrap the same fillings up in a tortilla or flatbread and they'll devour it. Something about the unusual shape seems to appeal -- and it makes it easier to eat on the go, too.

X-tra fun: Cut a sandwich into puzzle shapes and let your son or daughter try to put it back together.

Yogurt parfaits: Layer granola, low-fat yogurt, and fruit in a clear container.

Zucchini bread: Try this chocolate chip zucchini bread, and your kids will think you're giving them a treat, while you know they're getting a nice serving of veggies.

What's your favorite out-of-the-box lunch or snack idea?


Image via Orin Zebest/Flickr

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