photo: Healthy Pizza Roll-Ups (Parenting Lounge)

With more and more schools across Canada instituting nut-free zones, gone are the days of simply sending the little ones off with a PB&J for lunch. And besides, let’s face it, sandwiches can get pretty boring when you’re eating them day after day.

But don’t fret—here are seven sandwich-free lunch ideas to help you think outside the breadbox this school year.

1. Scoopable Salad with Crackers

Kids will get a kick out of using their favourite crackers to scoop out a delicious mix of tuna, salmon, or even egg salad for lunch. Add some veggie sticks and a piece of their favourite fruit to round out the meal.

We’re suckers for this simple (but flavour-packed) salmon salad recipe from Weelicious.

2. Pasta Salad

The beauty of pasta salad is that you can completely customize it to whatever proteins and veggies your little one enjoys. This caprese pasta salad from Cookie and Kate is so simple and with the addition of some leftover chicken will help keep your little ones full until dinner time.

This recipe for a one-pot pasta salad from Simple Balance is packed with healthy greens and requires minimal clean-up. Win-win!

3. Homemade “Lunchables”

This was one of my favourite lunches growing up. My mom would put together a container of Ritz crackers, some slices of marble cheese (or a string cheese) and a few squares of my favourite lunch meat (either mac ‘n’ cheese loaf or maple ham) and call it lunch.

This is a great way to know exactly what ingredients are in your child’s lunch, rather than giving them highly processed, pre-packaged foods.

4. Quiche

Quiche can be eaten warm or cold and is excellent for any meal of the day. Serve alongside a green salad for a complete and healthy meal. This “best-ever” quiche recipe from The Karpiuks uses some creative ingredients to give it a kid-friendly twist and can easily be customized depending on what you have in your fridge.

You can even make quiche in muffin tins to make them easier for little hands to manage.

5. Salad

Not only is it a great way to help get more greens into your kids, salads are easily portable and customizable, making them a great choice for a sandwich-free school lunch.

We’re especially fond of this spinach and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing from The Kitchn and think this spinach and avocado salad from For the Love of Cooking would be a real hit with the little eaters. But really, you could mix together any greens, veggies or fruits and protein you have on hand to make a healthful and balanced lunch for your child.

Learn how to make a simple vinaigrette salad dressing to go along with it thanks to Kitchen Treaty.

6. Roll-Ups

Tortillas make an excellent vessel for holding any number of healthy and delicious fillings, and are easy for little hands to grasp. You can fill them with nut-free butters and fruits or with pepperoni, cheese, and pizza sauce as in this healthy pizza roll-ups recipe from Parenting Lounge, or even make Mexican-style roll-ups with beans, guacamole, salsa and veggies like The Pajama Chef does.

7. Meatballs

Meatballs can provide your little ones with a filling hit of protein midday that can help keep them feeling full until dinner time and can be made with any kind of meat you lik—chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. The kid-friendly meatballs recipe from Recipe Yum even sneaks in some hidden veggies and the turkey meatballs with beans and kale from Cook Smarts adds extra protein and vitamins. Serve over pasta or rice for a filling lunch.

When all else fails, dinner leftovers will work for lunches. There’s no reason kids can’t eat leftover meats and veggies the next day—chicken, pork chops, steaks, cabbage rolls, chili, stews, soups—they all make excellent nutritious and delicious midday meals for both big and little eaters alike.

Caitlin McCormack is a writer, editor and full-time mama to one cool little dude. When she’s not spending time at the park or working on recipes in the kitchen, you can find her lifting weights, growing her own veggies, or enjoying some precious time with her shift-working husband. Read her blog at Big City Mama or follow her on Twitter@Caitlin_Writes.

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