When it comes to getting my kid to eat healthy lunches, I’m not above stealing.
Stealing ideas, that is.
For example, let’s take those awful packaged lunch kits they sell at the grocer. I may despise the unhealthy, overprocessed, overpriced foods that go in them, but I’m willing to admit the companies that make them are onto something with the packaging.
Kids love the way those lunch kits offer up lots of kid-sized foods. And they love the assemble-it-yourself ethic. Which is why I use both approaches when packing my son’s lunches in bento-style boxes – lots of little foods and plenty of DIY.
For another source of theft-worthy ideas, I like to keep an eye on hipster food trends. Admittedly, most of these won’t fly with my kid (Garlic scapes? Seriously?), but every now and again, a kid-friendly one comes along.
Some parents have had lots of luck with kale chips, for example (I am not among them, but then again, my son still considers green the color of the devil). But hummus and edamame? All over them.
One restaurant scene trend that is perfect for kids (and adults!) is sliders. For a while, these one- or two-bite burgers were showing up on menus everywhere. The slider trend has cooled a bit by now, but that makes it perfect for us to steal for the lunch box scene.
Sliders are perfectly suited for lunches. Kids love them because they’re cute and way more manageable than a full-sized sandwich. Parents will like that they’re easy to make – and easy to make healthy – as well as easy to pack.
So here are my top eight ideas for lunch box sliders. Plan to pack two or three for a complete meal.
1. Waffles and chicken sliders: Head to the grocer’s freezer section and grab a package of whole-grain mini-waffles. Make a sandwich using a bit of cheese and some leftover chicken (any type, including breaded). You can pack them as-is or toast them briefly in a skillet. You don’t even have to thaw the waffles. They’ll be just right by lunch.
2. Bagels and cream cheese sliders: Grab some mini whole-grain bagels and slather a bit of cream cheese on them. Don’t feel guilty about the cream cheese. It has less fat than peanut butter (and there’s always low-fat cream cheese). Top with a dollop of strawberry jam for a sandwich that will taste like dessert. Or, go savory and add ham instead of jam.
3. Chicken salad dinner roll sliders: Toss chopped leftover cooked chicken with vinaigrette (just enough to moisten) or mayo and maybe some chopped celery or cucumber, then slap it between the halves of a sliced dinner roll.
4. Hummus baguette sliders: Cut a few thin rounds off a baguette, then use them to make sandwiches filled with hummus and a slice of plum tomato (Tip: Coat both pieces of baguette with hummus so the tomato doesn’t moisten the bread). Kid won’t eat tomato? Add some sliced or chopped salami instead.
5. PB&J pancake sliders: Making pancakes for breakfast? Make a few silver dollar version while you’re at it, then use them to make peanut butter (or a school-approved alternative) and jelly sandwiches.
6. Apple cheddar stack sliders: This one adds a DIY element to the slider approach. Cut thin slices from the sides of a large apple. These are your pieces of “bread.” To prevent them from browning, mix a teaspoon or two of salt with a cup of water in a box, dunk the apple slices in the salt water, then remove and pat dry. Now, they’ll stay fresh until lunch. Pack the apple slices as-is with slices of cheddar cheese on the side. Kids assemble them into sandwiches at lunch.
7. Cucumber chutney sliders: This one is for adventurous eaters. Cut thin slices from an English cucumber. Then top one slice with a dab of cream cheese, then a dollop of mango chutney (it’s very sweet, not spicy). Finish with another slice of cucumber.
8. Meatloaf quarter sliders: Got leftover meatloaf? Place a cold slab of it between slices of regular ol’ sandwich bread. Now, cut the sandwich into quarters. Done. And delicious. You also could pack a small container of ketchup on the side for dunking.
Want more great lunch ideas? Try these!
Strategic Leftovers? 8 Ways to Stay Sane While Packing Lunch
10 Lunch Box Treats You Can Feel Good (OK, Better) About
Lunch Packing Made Easy, One Grain of Rice at a Time
Nobody Eats Lunch at Lunchtime! 11 Fast and Easy Snack Ideas