Confident home cooking
Three Fun School Lunches
Economical, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Sandwiches, Turkey

Three Fun School Lunches

by Nick

There’s a very important caveat to note before I get started with this post:

I do not have children.

I have a cat and a dog and they are more than enough for me to handle at this point in my life.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t COOK stuff for kids right?

I’ve been watching the last season of Food Revolution (sound) on Hulu during my lunch breaks and it’s pretty devastating to see what is called “lunch” at some schools in the U.S.  How we expect kids to learn and grow while feeding them bad food is a mystery to me.

What you put in is what you get out.

But, I understand that it must be hard to feed children.  I wasn’t a picky eater when I was a kid, but my sister definitely was and I remember watching my mom struggle to get a vegetable into her mouth.

At the same time, I think kids eat first with their eyes.  If something looks fun, they are a lot more likely to try it out.  So I came up with three fun ways to spice up the normal packed lunch that might make your kid more likely to, say, try a carrot.

on a stick

This is all about presentation.  It’s all the same stuff in a normal sandwich, but if your kid will only eat peanut butter and jelly this might be a way to get them to try out some other things.

It’s a scientific fact that food is more fun when it’s on a stick.  That applies to sandwiches also!  This takes about the same amount of time to make as a sandwich and just looks fun to eat.  You could include a few little containers of ketchup and mustard for dipping sauces.  Also, almost anything would work on these sticks.

Note: Betsy made the very astute observation that kids might not be allowed to have pointy sticks at school.  If that’s the case, I think you could break off the pointy ends and be okay.

stoplight

This one is a leap of faith really.  My hope is that it looks so fun, that kids will want to eat it.  It has lots vegetables in it though, which I hear is like arsenic for most children.

All you need for the sandwich is a tiny cookie cutter and some green, orange or yellow, and red veggies.  Then just strategically place them on the sandwich and you’re all set.

You can put other stuff on the sandwich also (cheese, turkey, etc.), but just make sure the veggies and the bread with holes in it line up.

uncovered

Easy!

I got this idea from a site called Planning with Kids and I thought it was just really fun.

I would’ve loved to open my lunchbox as a kid and see this sandwich.

right way

The right way.

OK.  Let’s talk about dessert.

Sushi

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of my favorite treats to this day.  I still frequently have one for dessert.

I like to think of them as dessert instead of as a meal though which is why this sushi recipe works so well.  You can include four or five little bites along with something really healthy and hopefully convey to the little ones that they are supposed to eat them last.

These might look tricky, but they are pretty easy to make actually.  There are three keys to making these work:

1) Cut off the ends on the bread.  It just makes it roll easier.  I’m sure your kids will like this.

As I always asked my Mom growing up, “Mom, why do they even make bread with ends on it?”

2) Roll the bread thin (Upper right photo below).  It’ll be easier to roll if it isn’t all puffy.

3) Go light on the PB & J.  Otherwise it’ll just be messy.  A very thin layer of both is more than enough.

making sushi

Be sure to roll up the rolls pretty tightly so they stay formed and, if you have one, cut the rolls with a serrated knife so they cut cleanly.

These are just super-fun.

from the top

From above!

I ate all of these for lunch as I made them and I liked all of them!

Of course, that’s not the test though.  The test is children.  I figured it would be kind of creepy for me to go handing out my lunches at the local elementary school so none of these have been officially tested.

If you have kids, leave a comment and let me know if you think your kids would actually EAT any of these!  If you try one out, even better.

School lunch photo by Chidorian.

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26 comments on “Three Fun School Lunches

  1. I'm lucky in that my kid eats pretty much anything so these would all go over well for him. I might have to use that stop light sandwich next week though because that is AWESOME! I'd probably cut off the sides though so it has more of a stop light shape. I'm teaching a bento class this Friday and it would be a good cutie item to show.

  2. Those are some great ideas–love the pb&j “sushi” and will have to try that out with my son!

    I’m the rare mom that actually enjoys packing school lunches. I love having the chance to do that little bit extra to make it fun, satisfying and nutritious. Last year I became obsessed with a blog :http://fedupwithlunch.com/; an elementary school teacher ate hot lunch at her school for a full calendar year and blogged about it every day. OMG, those posts (with photos) changed my life. Now, as a rule we don’t do hot lunch except as a special treat (i.e. pizza day)–I get that for some people it’s a necessity, but I’m fortunate enough to have the time and so I make it a priority.

    1. I love the link you added- I will check it out- thanks!

      I make the time to make lunch every day for my girl as well. I am super busy, but it only take about 10 minutes per night. She only eats school lunch on pizza day if she wants to, but she thinks the lunches look nasty and has basically refused to eat at school. I understand it can be hard to cook for a lot of kids on a school budget but some of the food is a little gross looking.

      At least this way I know what she is eating every day and she likes it. :)

  3. Going to have to try the sandwich on the stick and the pb&j sushi. My kids (9,7, 4) would love those. The stoplight sandwich is cute, but they are skeptical about veggies! ;) I would also add…there is something about a tortilla or wrap that makes sandwich fillings far more appealing. I can put anything on a tortilla and they will eat it.

  4. Nick- thank you for the ideas! I can't wait to show these to my kid it may help create new ones for us as well. After 5 years of packing lunch every day we stick to the regulars and forget to branch out, hopefully this will get us going again.

    You wife is right- I think the sticks may be a no go, but mini sammiches are cute all on their own.

  5. NICE! You have done quite an amazing job creating an alternative menu for kids!! My daughter just advised me she wants more variety in her lunch. I'll mess with her a little and make her a little bento box filled with your "sushi" recipe! :) Thank you so much for this.

  6. We've done sandwich on a stick and the pb&j sushi before! I love the stoplight idea, maybe when my girls are older and able to hold a whole sandwich without it all falling apart (tiny little hands!!)

    (Fruit salad on a stick goes great with the sandwich on a stick!!)
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  7. Great ideas, I love the stoplight sandwich. We currently do PB&J roll ups with whole wheat tortillas instead of bread. I think my boys really like the idea of fun food. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I have no kids either, but I can tell you, when I used to babysit my cousins I made a "Nick Shaped Sandwich" [the fact that my cousin's name happens to be Nick is totally a coincidence] which is a sandwich cut out with a gingerbread man cookie cutter. It is amazing how you tell a kid this and suddenly they are all about eating the sandwich, whatever it is.

    As a vegetarian, I brought lunches from home k-12 and when my Mom or Dad included a little note to me, it really made my day. Don't even get me started about the total lack of vegetarian options for school kids lunches….
    My recent post Perfect Summer Snack Times Two

  9. Got thumbs up from both girls (6 & 10) for sandwiches on skewers! Love all these ideas! Off to make your poblano relleno recipe for the 1000 time- yum!

  10. I think my three would get in trouble with the sticks at school. I'm planning on making the "sushi" rolls in the morning for tomorrow's lunch! I love these ideas.

  11. I don't know my school policy on stick-based sandwiches, but I love it. I'm going to make it tommorow. Thanks for taking the time to focus on kid's lunches. I have been trying to come up with ways to encourage my kids eat healthier, and this is a good way to start.
    My recent post Out of the Kitchen

  12. I really love the snacks for breakfast and teatime, I really love bread snack it is rich and looks tastier for any kind of tea. This snacks are really yummy looks really lovely. I also liked the recipe of the snacks. I shall prepare over the week end and leave a feed back.

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  13. I love this post! I don't have kids, but my husband will love sushi pb&j rolled in a whole grain low carb tortilla, maybe with sliced banana in there, too. mmm I think we will share it. :) What a great snack idea, it is sometimes hard for me to remember to make food fun. The sandwiches on sticks are really colorful and appealing, also.
    Even as a small child, I knew that what was served in my catholic school cafeteria was not food. It was certainly not food as I knew it, since my mother cooked real soups, salads, and lovely meals for her family every day, with the kids help, so we can all cook for ourselves today. Thanks, Mom!
    But I was still expected to eat the "hot lunch" from school, and most of the time I did.
    I would always starve on days they served "sombreros", though, which was a piece of bologna topped with a scoop of box mashed potatos topped with a piece of processed "cheddar" cheese. I guess they did kind of look like mexican hats though, looking back. tasted that way, too…
    Thanks for the memories, Nick!

    1. This is officially the grossest thing I've ever heard, and that's saying alot. I went to a Seventh-Day Adventist (i.e. vegetarian) boarding school for high school, and while they bought lots of Loma Linda fake meat of the canned or frozen variety-not very tasty in their own right-one of the things the cafeteria made on their own was a "shamburger," which was made of the following: cream of mushroom soup, cornflakes, and cottage cheese. Also topped with a scab of American cheese. It was horrid. It was nasty. And I think I would probably take it over a Somberero.
      My recent post Out of the Kitchen

  14. I ended up making the PB&J sushi for my girls (15 and 11) and the both absolutely loved it. They said it was slightly soggy, but it is "THE BEST lunch ever"

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