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If you have picky eaters at home, the first step to getting your kids to eat healthy lunches is to make it fun. Pick colourful containers to pack their food in and get your kids as involved as possible in making their lunch. Most importantly though, don't get discouraged! Your child might say no to beans or a certain type of fruit, but then love the taste of a new whole grain pasta or a veggie-packed salad topped with a familiar dressing. Read on for wholesome, fun brown-bag lunch ideas for even the pickiest of eaters.
Brown-bag lunch ideas for sandwich lovers
1. Make a classic whole wheat sandwich filled with roast turkey, sweet mustard, sliced tomatoes and cheddar. Pair it with mixed berries sweetened with a drizzle of honey.
2. Stuff some mini pitas with feta cheese, chopped tomatoes and avocado. Then pair them with coleslaw dressed with creamy buttermilk dressing instead of mayonnaise.
3. Make an egg salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and pair it with a chickpea and cherry tomato salad.
4. For a fun option, pack tortilla wraps and various toppings in different containers – shredded carrots, grilled chicken slices, corn, brown rice – and have your kid do the work come lunchtime. Then add an oatmeal and raisin cookie to the bag.
5. Switch up the classic grilled cheese sandwich: Add some wilted spinach, mushrooms and turkey for a healthier version. Then serve it with a veggie-packed salad and a piece of fruit.â€¨
Brown-bag lunch ideas for kids who love pasta
6. Try pasta salad mixed with small pieces of cooked cauliflower and topped with shredded cheese. Pair the salad with a snack of sliced bananas and a couple dollops of peanut butter.
7. Combine pasta, peas, diced tomatoes, blanched broccoli and diced ham. Then top it with shredded cheese. Add cherry tomatoes and diced cheddar cubes for a snack.
Brown-bag lunch ideas for kids who love chicken
8. Create chicken salad with mandarin oranges and chopped broccoli, and pair it with a couscous salad.â€¨
9. Try baking chicken fingers instead of the fried kind for a healthier lunch option, and coat them with oats instead of bread crumbs. Pair the chicken fingers with a yogurt-based dipping sauce and carrot sticks.
Brown-bag lunch ideas for kids who love tuna
10. Add leftover veggies and/or rice to your traditional tuna salad, and pair it with a fruit-packed Greek yogurt.
11. Kids love tuna melt sandwiches cut into fun shapes. Using a large cookie cutter, cut the sandwich into the desired shape and serve it with a snack of carrot sticks and hummus.
Brown-bag lunch ideas for kids who are foodies
12. Try making a crustless quiche. Without the crust, quiche is much quicker to make and is the perfect canvas to use up leftover veggies, meat and cheeses from last night's dinner. Pair it with grapes.
13. Make roasted sweet potato salad with diced grilled chicken breast. Pair it with a fruit salad drizzled with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.â€¨
Brown bag lunch ideas for kids who are vegetarians
14. Add some lentils to a simple tomato and cucumber salad to introduce more grains into your child's diet. Pair it with nutritious crackers.
15. For those days when you have a little more time, try making sushi rolls. A fun kid's version can include carrots and cucumber (or shredded cooked turkey or ham for meat-eaters). Pair the sushi with applesauce for a sweeter dessert.â€¨â€¨
Jennifer Bartoli is a food specialist for Canadian Living as well as the author of the food blog chocolateshavings.ca.â€¨