Let’s Talk: What’s for Lunch?

We’re all feeling a little under the weather at the Fleck house, so I thought I would give myself a blogging break and open up the comments for discussion today. – Kara

Last week, I mentioned my family’s goals for the new year, including our goal of breaking out of our food rut and trying new ingredients and recipes.

Lunchtime Blues

In the comments to that post, a few readers admitted that they seem to have fallen into a food rut as well, singling out lunchtime specifically as a meal that can be difficult to bring new inspirations and fresh tastes to the table.

Peanut butter and jelly, anyone?

Simple Kids has covered lunchtime before:

However, I know we can always use new ideas and one of the most helpful things for me, as a parent, is to hear from other parents what meals are successful for them with their kids.  This topic is one that we get a lot of email about, so I know that it would be helpful for many parents facing a lunchtime rut.

Let’s Talk

I’d love to hear what other parents are serving up mid-day.

What do you serve your kids for lunch?  What are some lunchtime favorites at your house?

The comments are open for discussion. What is for lunch?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. Jakob and Aiden like to snack. So their lunches usually consist of a lot of little things. Mini sandwiches, cheese sticks, fruit, homemade pudding, etc. They like to pick here and there. It is kind of like a picnic everyday!
    I like to use cookie cutters to make their little sandwiches – makes them smile.

    • Tania, you have just described how Lucy, my two year old, eats pretty much all day. She’s a “grazer” (perhaps like many toddlers/preschoolers?) and I have the most success with her if I offer that “picnic food” as you describe it often during the day.

      Love that you make homemade pudding! I should do that more often :-)
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- What’s for Lunch

  2. It’s strange ( I think) but my boys (5 yrs-old & 2 1/2 yrs old) want the s-a-m-e things just about every day. My older son wants a peanut butter w/ raw honey sandwich, & my younger son wants a cheese sandwich w/a little mayo + mustard. I suggest all kinds of variations or different ideas…but for lunch they like the routine, I guess!

    • Jamie, that is how my Max is – he is a creature of habit and would prefer to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is almost like it bothers him if he’s expecting, say oatmeal for breakfast, and then we have something else.

      Now, my oldest? If we have too many repeats during the week or too similar of meals, the moaning and groaning starts “this again?” :-) Actually, she’s a pretty good eater, and usually very polite, but she enjoys a variety and definitely doesn’t want the same thing every day.

      Kids can be so different in their preferences, can’t they?
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- What’s for Lunch

  3. MamaShift says:

    Having a French husband and kids, lunches ’round here are from scratch and cooked every day. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind a sandwich-eating family but many of the traditional lunches are pretty easy — assortment of cheeses, salad, crudites, etc. I make a lot of soup at lunchtime. When we’re in France we have some ham now and then — but I am not down with the preservatives and salt contained therein. Crustless quiche is quick and easy — as are eggs, in general.

    • Yes, my kids love lunchmeat, but it isn’t something I’m comfortable with them having either. A ham or turkey sandwich every once in a while, but not on a regular basis.

      Crustless quiche? That is a good idea! I think my egg lovin’ crew would really go for that and I know I could get some extra veggies and good things in that way, too. Thanks :-)
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- What’s for Lunch

      • Yes, I don’t know where I got a recipe for it (I was thinking it was around here). It’s just breadcrumbs and melted butter for the crust.
        You’re lucky in the US to have preservative-free stuff (as we do on a limited basis here in Lithuania — not sure why France isn’t catching up in that area) — though it’s expensive. I’m pretty sure Boar’s Head hams and turkeys are nitrate-free.

        • there’s a good crustless quiche recipe in the cookbook “simply in season”…it’s called “crustless zucchini tomato quiche” and also has a fall variation with broccoli, kale or spinach. i make it all the time…even though my hubby isn’t a huge fan (he insists that dinner (any meal really) should have meat in it. i have added bacon or sausage on occasion but that’s just another step that i usually don’t have the time for!). you can stick all kinds of veggies in it! and the kiddie (at least mine) love it. i haven’t made it in a while…just might have to have it for dinner tomorrow night…

  4. I can totally relate! Lunches stress me out – often because I haven’t planned them, and they just pounce on you when the kids are starving. Recently I shared a recipe for Hearty 9 bean soup, which I make once a week and keep in the fridge – it’s a lifesaver and delicious. Over the next few months I will be sharing more go-to lunch recipes, so I hope you will visit and share!
    tpdval´s latest post: Go-to Lunches- Hearty Nine Bean Soup

  5. My 5-year-old would only ever eat peanut butter and jelly if I let him! He and I have an agreement that it’s okay 3 days a week, but when he’s used up his 3 days he has to try different things the rest of the week. We do a lot of wraps here too with leftover chicken and cheese, or make cheese quesadillas with salsa to dip. And now that I’m really thinking about it we dip a LOT. We often have veggies or tortilla wedges to dip in salsa or fruit to dip in yogurt.

    I also make a big pot of soup or chili on either Sunday or Monday most weeks and usually get another 3-4 meals out of it at lunches.
    Erin´s latest post: A Day with Us

  6. I get bored making lunches in general, although I find a little crunch often helps. My kids 4.5 and almost three love pb&j or pb& honey. However I try to mix it up for my own sanity. Soup, grilled cheese, tuna on homemade bread, wraps, boiled eggs, etc.

  7. We’ve had good success with stuffed avocados. There are lots of variations to make–crab salad, chicken salad, carrot and sunflower seed salad… If only I had some avocados on hand today! Another favorite is leftover rice heated up with chicken pieces. My son loves it!
    Julia´s latest post: Winter Activity Week- Ice Locket Craft

  8. My kids are both grazers. I know I should cut back on the snacking so they eat a better lunch, but it works okay for us so I go with it.

    Last night I stocked up on 1/2 price lunch meat from the Meijer Deli counter as it closed, so today we’re eating reduced fat ham salami, left over pizza bites, banana, and yogos. The reason they are eating, though, is because we’re doing it “picnic” style in front of the tv. We’re good about dinner at the table, so I dont’ feel bad about letting them eat lunch in front of the tv from time to time.

    Looking forward ot the ideas.
    Angela´s latest post: Financial Goals- 2010 Update

  9. My kids aren’t big fans of sandwiches, although we still have them now and then. They do like grilled cheese sandwiches, though. Some other lunchtime favorites are cous cous, Mac & cheese, pita bread with refried beans and grated cheese heated until the cheese is melted, & soups. For snacks we do yogurt, fresh fruit, celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing, applesauce, picks, picked okra & boiled eggs.

  10. My son LOVES hotdogs and beans. I’m not usually a fan of giving kids hotdogs (too often), but paired with Bush’s vegetarian baked beans, I feel better about it. It’s great fiber and protein. The other out-of-the-box lunch we sometimes make is toast pizza. We spread pasta sauce on a slice of bread and then top it with cheese/ham/pepperoni/artichokes or whatever pizza type toppings we have on hand and then pop them under the broiler.
    Cara´s latest post: Pregnancy- No Excuse For Ditching Your New Year’s Resolution To Get Fit

  11. Today I made fish with a dill tartar sauce and then I cut up some potatoes, brushed both sides with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then put about a teaspoon of salsa and a tiny piece of mozzarella on top and baked in a 425 oven for about 10 minutes. Perfect lunch, the kids were asking for seconds!! I too like to do a hot lunch most days of the week but there are some days when it’s pb and honey, my kids think it’s the best!
    Jenn´s latest post: Dinner’s Done- Now What

  12. believe it or not, my 3 year old would eat bread with ‘just butter’ for breakfast AND lunch … EVERY DAY… given the choice.
    I’ve been trying to mix it up and encourage grazing all day, since she’s gotten bad for taking an hour or more to eat a simple meal. So I have pancakes in the freezer for breakfast and then don’t have another formal meal until supper. I have a very small veggie platter on the table with some homemade dip (just some sour cream and ranch dressing) that i replenish if it gets emptied… She knows where the apples are and is welcome to them… yoghurt tubes… cheese and crackers at some point on some days… popcorn sometimes… homemade coffeecake… etc.
    lorchick @ ON{thelaundry}LINE´s latest post: CAUGHT UP

  13. The best sellers at for my twin almost 3 yr olds are peanut butter on ANYTHING (bread, tortillas, apples, celery, crackers), homemade snack mix (whatever I have on hand: raisins, cheddar bunnies, mini pretzels, nuts, granola), cut up fruit, and various types of pizza and quesadillas (bread, bagel, english muffine or tortilla + pretty much any type of sauce + beans and/or veggies + cheese). They also love pretty much and type of chip or veggie with dip, so we eat a lot of hummus and other bean dips. I find they eat best when they’re given small amounts of various things and then they ask for more of what they’re feeling like that day, the picnic-type eating some people referred to.

    They have seemed less interested in hot lunch items, maybe because they associate them with dinner. Many times I’m eating soup or leftovers with them at lunch and they’re totally uninterested. Funny because most of the time it’s something they really like. I think they just really like the finger food choices at lunch.
    Diane´s latest post: More Joy

  14. Jacquelyn says:

    My kids 3 1/2 and 5 never want to stop eating!! If we do sandwiches they are canned salmon, egg or chicken salad. Homemade hummus plate with whole wheat pita and feta, tomatoes and cucumbers! Whole wheat pocket bread sandwiches stuffed with greens, salmon, cheese and plain yogurt with herbs (instead of mayo) My kids will eat most veggies if they are sliced up thin and can dip in avocado or homemade ranch.
    Homemade Macaroni and cheese or chili are favorites too.
    Brown rice with pinto beans, cheese and avocado with a few chips.

  15. Quesadillas are a big hit– I put beans/rice/cheese or whatever is in the fridge such as leftover mashed sweet potatoes or squash, cut up chicken, avocado, etc. I like to make peanut sauce… just PB and water (sometimes a tiny bit of honey, too) mixed up and poured on veggies, whole wheat noodles, etc. Makes a great dip for veggies, crackers, chicken, too.

  16. our lunches are pretty lame (sandwiches or leftovers most days) but my kids think it’s fun to make grilled cheese and tomato soup. They dip the sandwich in the soup and I serve their soup in mugs so they can drink it (neither of them will eat it out of a bowl!)
    other days we have crackers, cheese, summer sausage and fresh fruit- easy and they like it!
    Kelly´s latest post: 25 Weeks!

  17. grilled cheese with “good” old fashioned velveeta. it was requested for a second day in a row, yesterday I served it with soup but since that didn’t get eaten I figured I’d just do the sandwich today. when I make it for me I like it with ketchup before cooking buy my son likes it plain.

    often its mac n cheese.

    or a plate with little snacks, crackers, cheese in shapes, pepperoni or some type of meat. kinda like a homemade lunchable but actually edible and delicious.
    Nina´s latest post: trust yourself 7

  18. My kids also like ‘snack type’ foods. I often serve them lunch in a muffin tin. They’ll get 6 different things, sometimes 5 and the 6th is their drink. Pretzels or crackers, meat, fruit, veggies, cheese. It depends on what’s in the house. They like how everything is divided. You really can put anything in there, the presentation makes it more exciting. I’ve done soup, yogurt, sandwiches cut in quarters, etc.

    They also like making their own pizza. I use Whole wheat english muffins and they put on their sauce, cheese and toppings, again, whatever I might have in the house. Stick it under the broiler for a couple minutes and it’s fast and easy.

  19. We have recently discovered that we like crepes for lunch. I make a batch of crepes and then roll them up with cheese, leftover meat, and veggies. It’s a great way to get my picky kids to eat veggies.
    Chelsea´s latest post: Simple Womans Daybook- January 10th

  20. Is it weird that we have leftovers for lunch, like every day? Noah often packs a school lunch version of our previous dinner and is happy with that. Otherwise, ham, lettuce & cream cheese wraps are a favorite.
    Aimee @ Simple Bites´s latest post: Weekend Links

    • To funny Aimee I was going to say the same thing. We eat left overs most times for lunch. Other wise it is homemade soups and sandwiches.
      Rana´s latest post: On the move

      • As do I. I always try to make enough dinner for all of us to have a plate the next day. if i can;t then i like to keep homemade macoroni and cheese or little portions of shili in the freezer. the summer months are pretty easy because of the garden.:)

  21. My kids 3 and 2 love Tuna Cakes. They are quick, easy and healthy. Basically you take 6 pieces of bread rip them up, then mash them with 2 eggs. Add 2 cans of your favorite tuna and some veggies. We use green onions and whatever peppers we have on hand. The toss in some grated cheese, we like mozza or cheddar. Then you fry them up. We usually make ours on our griddler so we don’t have to fry them in oil.
    Ainsley´s latest post: Pantry Challenge Week 1 Wrap up!

  22. Erin Zackey says:

    So, we do quesodillas often, and muffin tin snack lunch sometimes, but I’d have to say the most fun way to get out of a rut is play restaurant! have the kids come up with a menu for entrees, side dishes, beverages, dessert even?! Then you can use it over and over. They’ll love the game and you might just get more variety in them too!

  23. My kids make lunch everyday – it is part their curriculum (isn’t it part of every homeschool curriculum) !!! They can make a couple of mistakes and that’s okay… they have to eat there mistakes though!!! Mostly they make a bread dough in the bread machine and them make themselves rolls or a flatbread or a pizza with the dough… Sometimes they get inventive and make soup and sometimes they have a fruit feast and cut up all the fruit they can find and munch through their stack… I don’t mind as long as it is wholesome and there is some sort of team effort… first to finish school is in charge… I need all the incentives I can get!!!!

  24. Peanut butter is a big fave with mine so, they get it often, if they eat two pieces of fruit along with it. (its not blackmail its negotiation!)

  25. Our guys are grazers~ so fruit and veg, sandwich of some kind (often it is a wrap or rollup, or a rice cake), middle guy gets yogurt. Lots of little stuff in variety. This is most days. Some days I have leftovers that get requested (many days I don’t…sigh) and I almost always have a big salad with some kind of protein.

    I’ve found a terrific alternative to lunch meat~ we have a local deli that precooks their own chicken breasts and will actually slice them for you. So, lunch meat without all the nasties!! You could do the same at home though with your own chicken and a sharp knife. Cook slice and then use or freeze for later. My kids love a quesadilla made with this chicken and a little cheese. :)
    Tanya´s latest post: in the New Year early morning daybook

  26. We live in a quasi blended household. My husbands parents home is above ours (inherited grandparents home in Italy.) Here lunch is a major big meal and we upstairs with them normally. Today for example we had chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. For lunch. Daughter is 14 months and she looooooves potatoes, she likes the chicken okay too lol. Dinner is similar just a slightly smaller scale, regardless if I am cooking or his mother. Today I have a chicken potpie and simple salad for dinner. We dont do a lot of grazing but I do wish I could change how we eat – I miss the simple lunch lol!
    Adrianne´s latest post: Goodbye 2010- Hello 2011

  27. My five year old, Lydia would live on a rotation of pasta, hotdogs and corn and shepherd’s pie if we let her. I usually make extra rice or potato for her to have for lunch the next day with some chicken and corn. Sometimes we’ll make little pizzas on pita bread or eggs with ham and cheese.
    Corn has been the only vegetable she would ever eat until this week. Now she’s decided that she loves green beans and grape tomatoes so it’s been a pretty exciting week for me.
    Lisa´s latest post: Spit That Out! – The Book For Overly Informed- Guilt Ridden Parents

  28. My 2 yo daughter would eat mac & cheeses every day if I let her, I make sure it’s whole wheat and usually through some veggies in it like peas or carrots, but she often picks out the veggies. She also has recently started enjoying egg salad sandwiches. Another favorite is cottage cheese with cheerios and veggies on the side.

  29. My goal for 2011? To get my homeschooled, leftover-eating kids to eat cold sandwiches!

    First step- pb & j on Fridays!
    priest’s wife´s latest post: a simple womans daybook for January

  30. We sometimes eat leftovers from the night before, and I also fix a lot of simple lunches like bread, cheese, fruit, shredded chicken, etc. Pasta and all kinds of soup/stew are popular in our house right now.
    Cara´s latest post: welcome

  31. some big hits in my family are: fish (canned salmon usually) mixed with ranch dressing, mustard and dill relish with crackers on the side to scoop the fish with…rice (leftover from dinner, or couscous) mixed with black beans, avocado, and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla…the “big dipper” (as my four year old has dubbed it): the basic premise is that everything has to be dipped in something. so, apple slices in peanut/almond butter, toast sticks into honey/apple butter, veggies into ranch, tortillas/chips into salsa, etc. but our no-fail favorite is, of course, peanut butter and jam on homemade whole wheat. the other day, my son pronounced his lunch “amazing”…and it was a peanut butter sandwich… :o)
    katie´s latest post: thoughts on mary

  32. Sure my kids love PB & J (or PB, banana & honey) but I limit that to 1x per week. They will also eat grilled cheese sticks (sandwich cut in to thin strips) & tomato soup, pasta salad w/ shredded carrots, broc, black olives, tomato & cucumer with a little dressing. Wraps, bagel or english muffin pizzas, salad, or the occasional hot dog. Even though I guess this is good for 1,3 & 5 year olds I get incredibly bored with it. I’m always on the hunt for something new & exciting … longing for a panini maker …
    Stacy of KSW´s latest post: Let’s have a rain parade!

  33. Here’s a really quick and tasty lunch we like:

    Open-faced avocado ranch sandwiches

    Toast whole wheat bread and top with some diced avocado and tomatoes. Drizzle with ranch dressing and sprinkle with cheese. Broil until cheese melts (just a matter of seconds) and serve!

    Here’s a bunch of other healthy lunch ideas to mix and match: http://www.examiner.com/green-culture-in-mankato/26-healthy-lunchbox-choices
    Alicia´s latest post: 15 Ways to take a stand against Monsanto and avoid GMO foods

  34. This lunch is a family tradition and so easy:

    Macaroni in tomato juice w/ buttered bread
    Boil macaroni. Drain. Cover in tomato juice and return to light boil. Serve w/ buttered bread (eat spoonful of macaroni with a bite of bread for full effect).

    My daughter’s appetite is fickle, so some days she eats this and some days she doesn’t. But I always love it!

  35. So many great ideas on this post! (as I knew there would be)

    I think one thing I’m certainly going to take away from this is the idea of using different kinds of wrappers for our favorite sandwiches – spring rolls, pita bread, tortillas, lettuce wraps (well, okay maybe not peanut butter and jelly lettuce wraps)

    thanks for all of the ideas, inspiration, and recipes! Keep ’em coming :-)
    Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Inspiring Readers in a Digital Age

  36. You’ve got be kidding me. Thanks for these suggestions! I’m definitely up for new and (hopefully) healthy options. Yes they are pretty funny sounding meals lol! Thanks very much.

  37. I like to keep lunch simple. Often it’s leftovers, peanut butter sandwiches, or grilled cheese. Carrot sticks are usually the vegetable of choice. Also, because my daughter is the antithesis of a picky eater we usually have sardines and crackers at least once a week. She loves eating the “little fishies” (and the crackers are special treat) and luckily no one has informed her yet that kids aren’t supposed to like them :) I love that it’s healthy, super easy, and inexpensive.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simple Kids, Simple Kids. Simple Kids said: Let's Talk re: a topic we get a lot of email about – What's for Lunch? http://tinyurl.com/322hqzr What are you serving your kids today? […]

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  3. […] Let’s Talk: What’s For Lunch?: Simple Kids – Another old link, but that makes it even better because it has TONS of comments – all great lunch ideas for the kids. A MUST READ if you’re stuck in a lunch rut. […]

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