Fresh school lunch ideas beyond a boring sandwich

School lunchA sandwich, piece of fruit, cookie and bag of goldfish. Sounds like your typical school lunch, right? Here’s the news though: Kids are b-o-r-e-d. Bored with what we’re giving them for lunch.

In the second half of the school year, it’s time to up your lunch game. You need to keep your kids interested and, more importantly, fueled up to get through the long school day.

Warm up with soup

Cold items are the natural choice to send to school, but warm soup can switch the lunch game up a bit and do the trick. As March vacillates between the bluster of winter and the first touch of spring, soup could be the perfect solution to change a boring lunch into something soothing and memorable. You’ll want a small, insulated container to keep things warm until lunchtime. Add a roll and you have a warm, filling meal sure to get your kiddo through the day.

Enjoy breakfast midday

Breakfast for lunch can also be a fun option, with a hard-boiled egg or two. Make the eggs a few days ahead and store them in the fridge. Toss in a healthy-ish muffin like a Morning Glory — loaded with carrots, apples, nuts and seeds — then add a piece of fruit and you have a complete meal.

Bake premade, fresh bread

My kids have always liked sandwiches on good crusty bread instead of the spongy pre-sliced stuff you buy in the grocery store. I’ve always struggled, however, with keeping the good stuff fresh for more than a day or two. So I visited the freezer section and rolls you can bake one at a time as needed. I’ll bake one or two in the morning (they take about 10 minutes), then stuff with whatever sandwich fillings suit the mood that day. This elevates the usual sandwich into something delicious.

Spice up some noodles

If none of these suits your kids’ tastes, why not try pasta salad? Who doesn’t like noodles for lunch? You can easily skip the mayo-based dressing and use a bit of vinaigrette to make things tasty. Add bits of cheese like mozzarella and cheddar cubes, veggies (carrots and tiny bits of broccoli work well), and even some pepperoni if your child has a taste for the slightly spicy.

Here's a simple recipe. Make a batch on Sunday, and you’ll have plenty to last until Wednesday. Feel free to use whatever veggies your child enjoys!

Pepperoni Pasta Salad

1 pound rotini pasta (preferably tri-color, but use whatever your child will eat)
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ small stick pepperoni, casing removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
6 leaves fresh basil, cut into thin slices
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 small container grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
salt & pepper

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl.
  • Add mozzarella, red bell pepper, pepperoni, fresh basil, carrots and tomatoes to pasta.
  • In a medium bowl, add the vinegar and Dijon mustard. Whisk to combine. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour over pasta mixture and stir to combine.

This will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to four days.

By Christine Van Bloem