THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON THE KITCHN.
The lunchtime sandwich may be as American as the flag itself, but let’s face it: Slapping the same smears onto bread — day after day, week after week — can leave kids and parents a little bored.
Here are 10 ideas for sandwich-free lunches that take cues from home and abroad. Test drive them all with your little eaters (or yourself!) to find new, interesting lunch box variations that keep everyone’s appetites healthy. To pick which one you should start with, play our video recipe roulette. Simply hit pause whenever you like and let the universe choose for you.
10 Sandwich-Free Kids’ Lunch Ideas
Or, you know, sandwich-free lunch ideas for anyone. Because I don’t know anyone who, deep down, doesn’t want food on a stick at some point.
P.S. All 10 ideas are nut-free, to correspond to many schools’ preferences that school lunches omit potentially allergenic foods. You’re welcome.
1. Food on Sticks
Think chicken satays, beef skewers, or sausage kebabs, packed on lunchbox-sized sticks for kids. Because everything is more fun on a stick. (For young kids, use flat, blunt-edged bamboo sticks, not the stabby toothpick-like kind.)
- Get a recipe: Yellow Chicken with Broccoli and Peanut Sauce at Hogwash, my blog. (Obviously, leave the peanut sauce off if packing a nut-free lunch or if your kid is in a peanut-free classroom.) Also, Grilled Smoked Sausage Skewers.
- Pack with: Rice, sliced cucumbers, sliced mango, yogurt-covered pretzels
They’re kid favorites for a reason — and contrary to our adult biases, they don’t need to be piping hot to be delicious.
- Get a recipe: How To Make the Best Cheesy Quesadillas, The Avodilla
- Pack with: Avocado slices or guacamole, jicama sticks, pineapple chunks, pumpkin seeds, or tortilla chips
3. Spring Rolls
Rice paper wrappers or large lettuce leaves make great rolled-up meals that are fun to eat. Fill them with tofu, pork, or shrimp; try our rainbow rolls; or let your kids branch out using their own ideas.
- Get a recipe: Rainbow Vegetable Spring Rolls
- Pack with: Cubed meat or cheese, sliced red bell peppers, blueberries, chocolate square.
4. Deli Meat Roll-Ups
Think outside the bun! Rolling sliced deli turkey, ham, or roast beef around cheese sticks, cream cheese, and even greens can change the way your kiddos think about lunch meat.
- Pack with: Whole-wheat pretzels, celery (optional sunflower butter filing), cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices, coconut macaroon.