You think you’ve got school lunch packing down to a science, but then one day your child tells you they hate sandwiches (!) or they’re bored with their usual lunch rotation. Never fear – I’ve rounded up eight sandwich-free lunches that your kids will love. They’re wholesome, healthy, and simple, and can often be made in advance.

[Note: Some of the recipes below are not complete meals, so you need to add sides. In every lunch, aim for 1-2 servings of grains, 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of vegetables, 1 serving of dairy, and 1 serving of protein].

1. Customizable Pizza Kabobs by Mom to Mom Nutritionpizza kabobs

Katie Serbinski, registered dietitian and founder of Mom to Mom Nutrition, LLC, found a way to turn pizza into a healthy lunch: pizza kabobs. Thread a skewer with cheese tortellini and your child’s favorite pizza toppings, and pack a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Her kids love pizza kabobs because they can help pick the ingredients, and she loves it because “you can get most of the food groups on one skewer.”

2. Turkey, Apple & Cheese Wraps by WeeliciousApple-Cheese-Wraps-8

Everything they like in a sandwich, without the bread. Little hands can easily pick up these two-bite treats, where apple slices and cheddar cheese cozy up inside a slice of deli turkey or ham. Involve your kids by bringing them to the farmers market to sample and choose a variety of apples.

3. Whole Grain Pancake Sticks (pancake recipe by Simple Bites)bananaoatpancakes3

Who can resist breakfast for lunch? Whip up some whole grain pancakes, slice them into sticks and serve alongside fun toppers like nut butter and fruit preserves or a maple yogurt dip (combine plain yogurt with maple syrup and a little vanilla extract). Make them even healthier by picking seasonal fruit-related themes like banana bread pancakes in the fall and pumpkin pancakes at Halloween. Whole grains will help keep them full (and their bowel movements regular), preventing the sugar crash that would follow traditional pancakes and maple syrup.

4. Tortellini Soup with Spinach and Tomatoes by PBS ParentsTortellini-Soup-w-Spin-and-Toms-2

When the weather gets cold, send your kids off with a hot thermos of 20-minute tortellini soup. As they slurp on cheese tortellini, they’ll also be getting nutritious spinach and tomatoes. To round out this family-friendly meal, pack a side of soup crackers, fruit, and some crunchy vegetables.

5. Hard-Cooked Eggs and Sides by Holley Grainger, MS, RDGrainger lunchboxes 3

Pack a simple snack-style lunch with eggs as the main source of protein. “My daughters both love hard-cooked eggs (although one skips the yolks – her loss!)” says Holley Grainger, registered dietitian and mom to two young daughters (Ellie, 4, and Frances, 18 months). She completes their meals with a variety of sides, like hummus, cucumbers, grapes, and air-popped popcorn for Ellie, and clementine wedges and strawberries, a vegetable squeeze pouch, and whole grain cereal for Frances.

6. Tuna Salad With Scoopers by Meal Makeover Moms
scoopituptuna_242x206

Send your child to school with this healthy tuna salad from the Meal Makeover Moms, plus a side of scoopers, like cucumber wheels, sliced bell peppers, mini whole-wheat pitas and/or baked tortilla chips. You’ve covered the grains, protein, and vegetables in one scoop…I mean, swoop.

7. Zucchini Pie by PBS ParentsAmazing-Zucchini-Pie-1-of-1

A zucchini pie that reminds kids of pizza? Yes, it exists. Aviva Goldfarb, family dinner expert and founder of the meal planner, The Six O’Clock Scramble, developed a simple, savory pie, which includes a filling combination of zucchini, eggs, mozzarella cheese, and prepared pie crust.

8. Veggie Lasagna Rolls by Weeliciouslasagna-rolls

Surprise your kids with a vegetable lasagna roll, instead of a traditional slice. “Kids feel special when they get anything that is their ‘own,’,” says Catherine McCord of Weelicious. In addition to the typical blend of cheeses, the lasagna rolls (which also freeze well) have spinach or chopped broccoli inside for an extra healthy bite.

Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN, is a freelance writer, blogger, and nutrition counselor with a holistic approach to healthy living. She has an A.B. from Harvard University and an M.S. in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University.

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  • KatieSerbinski MS,RD

    The skewers I used are plastic drink skewers! They can be found at any party store or Michael’s!

  • Sarah Leanne

    I don’t know many kids who would like most of these things… especially not cold. Are these really all that “kid friendly”?

    • http://www.CarolineKaufman.com Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN

      Thanks for your feedback Sarah! Kids who like basic, traditional lunches most likely love sandwiches (traditional kid-friendly lunch fare), but we had to find some creative, well-rounded lunch solutions for the kids who hate ‘em. What kind of non-sandwich lunches does your child like? I’m sure other parent reading this article would love to get more ideas!

    • Persephone

      I think my kids would love most of these.

  • Donovan Buck

    I think y’all mixed in some recipes that were intended for a different audience.