Need new lunch ideas? We’ve got them all: hot and cold ideas, dishes you can make ahead and some you can make in a flash. These are 10 kid-tested ideas for lunches that hit the spot — and stick with your little (or big) ones all day long.
Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad
What kid could resist Ree Drummond’s simple pasta salad, with big chunks of cheddar cheese and juicy tomatoes swimming in a sweet, tangy mayo dressing?
Strawberry-Peanut Butter Wraps
If you have a PB&J fan in your house, try swapping out the usual bread and replacing it with a tortilla slathered in peanut butter and sprinkled with fresh fruit. Roll it up like a burrito and you’re done.
This is what happens when you take all the good stuff out of a sandwich and serve it alone. Ham, turkey, salami? Yes, please. What about cheese, mustard or cream cheese? Absolutely! Any combination of your favorite flavors works perfectly.
Crunchy Cereal Chicken Fingers
Ree’s 5-star, five-ingredient chicken strips are the perfect dinner, and if you make an extra half-batch, you’ll have fixins for (at least one) lunch later in the week.
Subs on a Stick
Think of these as deconstructed sandwiches that are a lot more fun than the originals. Thread your cubed bread, cheese, tomatoes, pickles and rolls of lunchmeat onto a skewer and serve.
Mini Taco Cups
File this one under “What to do with leftover tacos.” After taco night at our house, we always have a cup or so of leftover filling, which you can make go even further by adding a can of rinsed beans, and this is the perfect vehicle for using it.
Once you cook the quinoa, it’s all about tossing this superfood with fresh ingredients like herbs, cool cucumbers and creamy avocado for a simple, satisfying meal.
The Pioneer Woman’s Meatballs
Tip: Keeping a batch of Ree’s all-purpose meatballs in your freezer will change your life, starting with packing lunches. Defrost a handful over breakfast, then put them on skewers with tomatoes and cheese or serve them straight up with a side of ketchup.
Apple-Spice Quick Bread
Bake a loaf of this beloved quick bread (packed with good-for-you ingredients you can feel good about serving) on the weekend, then serve it as a sandwich your kids will never recognize: a thick layer of cream cheese in between two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth apple bread. Bonus: It freezes beautifully and also makes an easy breakfast.
Pretty-Full-of-Protein Tomato Soup
This hearty soup takes minutes to make and has a secret source of filling protein: white beans. Blended right in, the beans add texture and heft to a lunch that’s sometimes lacking in both departments.
Charity Curley Mathews is a mother of four small kids who eat lunch every day. She’s a contributor to InStyle, eHow, Huffington Post and founder of Foodlets.com, a site about teaching kids to love good food, with simple recipes plus tried-and-true tips for pulling it off. Most of the time.