Much as you may want to, you can't swing by school at noon every day to make sure your kid isn't trading tuna-on-rye for Twizzlers. It's far more practical (and far less embarrassing) to pack lunches that kids will want to eat.
Related: Our Complete Back-to-School Guide
We've assembled a dozen healthy sandwiches that will make lunchtime almost as enticing as recess. Dates are the magic ingredient in our peanut butter sandwiches-they're also a good source of fiber and a natural energy-booster. Tomato chutney spices up a simple roast beef on flatbread (reduce the sugar and it'll be low-cal too), while horseradish adds zip to smoked salmon, a great alternative to plain old tuna (try using low-fat sour cream in that recipe). And our selection of delicious spring and summer rolls opens up a whole new world of "sandwich" ideas.
Our guess is that these inspired recipes will find their way into grown-up lunch boxes as well. Eating healthfully ourselves is the first step toward teaching our children about the importance of good nutrition. As chef Ann Cooper writes in her IACP Award-winning book Lunch Lessons, "We can't line our cabinets with packaged cereals and sodas and expect our kids to eat like they were raised on a commune in rural Vermont." So practice what you preach: Start with a good breakfast, even if it's on the run, and involve the whole family in preparing and packing nutritious foods they will look forward to.
Classics with a Twist
• Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Blue Cheese
• Turkey and Black Bean Salsa Tortilla Rolls
• Roast Beef, Basil, and Spicy Tomato Chutney Lavash Sandwiches
• Smoked Salmon, Horseradish Sour Cream, and Cucumber Lavash Sandwiches
See also: Our Ultimate Grilling and Barbecue Guide
Tip: The Whole Story on Whole Wheat
You've found the right filling; now how do you choose the best bread to hold it in? Start by examining labels, recommend William and Martha Sears in The Family Nutrition Book. "Best breads are 100 percent whole grain. Whole wheat flour is the first ingredient on the label. Enriched flour does not appear in the ingredients list. If it doesn't say "whole wheat," it's not.... If a label says wheat flour,' assume it's not whole wheat.... If it doesn't say 'whole' on the label, it's wrong for your body." (Some of our recipes call for non-whole wheat breads-feel free to substitute to up the nutritional value.)
• Hummus and Vegetable Lahvash Sandwiches
• Peanut Butter, Banana and Date Sandwiches
• Eggplant and Arugula Sandwiches with Chick-Pea Spread
• Sweet Potato and Avocado Sandwich with Poppy Seed Spread
Tip: Who Sat on My Sandwich?
Invest in a decent insulated lunch tote that will protect contents from heavy books, laptops, and bullies. Tuck your sandwich in a hard container to save it from rolling water bottles or apples. Use separate containers for dipping sauces and spreads. And keep everything fresh by using freezer packs.
Better than Sliced Bread
• Tuna Dip with Lemon and Capers
• Vegetable Summer Rolls
• Avocado and Crab-Meat Sushi
• Shrimp Rolls with Spicy Vietnamese Dressing
Tip: No Peanuts? No Problem
Even if your child loves PB&J and nuts are allowed at his school, there are times when you need a break from peanuts. Try spreads such as sunflower (a rich source of vitamin E) and almond butter (with less saturated fat and salt than peanut butter, and substantially more calcium).
Tip: Winging It
You'll notice that many of these recipes include ingredients that don't fit the classic kid-friendly bill. That's because we know lots of kids who do like things like olives and stinky cheese. But if blue cheese is a "blech" in your household, try Feta, for example. Make these recipes your own by dialing the spices down-or up-and getting creative with substitutions. Experimentation isn't just for chemistry class.
More from Epicurious:
- Taste Test: Salsa
Homemade Popsicles: Recipes and Tips
- The Top 10 Must-Have Gadgets
- The World's Most Influential Chefs
Photo: CN Digital Archive