Heathy Lunch Ideas for Kids

by | Aug 2022

Veggie Sandwich with hummus, cucumber, carrots and tomato.

Photos: Chris Emeott

Pile school lunches with healthier, kid-friendly ingredients.

Are PB&Js on white bread still a thing? Does anyone stack a sammie with bologna and cheese with a swipe of mustard or a dollop of mayo—and get a little fancy with a sprinkle of crushed potato chips or salty corn chips before closing it down with the top bread layer? Does that happen anymore? In our book, there’s always a tiny space for the classics even if they don’t register high on the healthy meter.

With schools back in session, the cold lunch lot is gearing up to load up their lunchtime menus. Where a standard lineup of sandwich, chips, fruit and cookies once reigned supreme, now some lucky kids are rolling into lunchrooms with enviable bento boxes, swoon-worthy Buddha bowls and other made-fresh-at-home fares.

While we’re all for cafeteria-bound creativity, there’s nothing like a homemade sandwich to fill a hungry tummy and recharge a kid for the remaining school day. Let’s take another look at sandwiches—with a bit of a retooling that will earn better marks at the lunch table.

For ideas, we turned to Laurel Famigletti, owner of EndorP.H.I.T, where she provides virtual group fitness classes, in-home personal training and virtual nutrition coaching. (In most of our issues, you’ll find her tips in our Noteworthy section under Move.) When thinking of new sandwich combos, she recommends following this easy-to-remember three-step process: bread, spread and filling.

Bread: “Always consider wholegrain to add fiber, vitamins and minerals. Look for 100 percent sprouted or wholegrain flours as the first ingredient with limited ingredients as a whole. Aim for three to five grams of fiber, as well as protein per slice,” Famigletti says.

Spread: “Focus on minimal ingredients and use sparingly. Look for spreads that are high in healthy fats and protein, such as avocado, nut butter and hummus,” she says.

Filling: “Use colorful vegetables or fruits for a boost of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals,” Famigletti says.

Recipes from Laurel Famigletti

Nut Butter Sandwich

  • 2 Tbsp. 100 percent nut butter (almond, sunflower or cashew)
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 2 slices wholegrain or multigrain bread

Lightly toast bread slices. Spread nut butter on both slices. Apply thin slices of banana to one side. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Put sandwich together.

Nut Butter Sandwich

High Marks: The fuel of protein, healthy fats, potassium and fiber make this sandwich satisfying and energy packed. The addition of cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar. It’s perfect for a meal or snack before or after any type of practice.

Veggie Sandwich

  • 2 Tbsp. hummus
  • ¼ cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup matchstick carrots
  • ¼ Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 slices wholegrain bread

Spread hummus on one slice of bread. Stack the sandwich with cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes.
Put slices together.

High Marks: Healthy fats, protein, fiber and antioxidants from the heavy vegetable base make this sandwich a lunchtime champ.

Cranberry Turkey Sandwich

  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise (made with avocado oil) or 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 oz. sliced turkey
  • 1 lettuce leaf
  • 2 slices crusty bread with cranberries (located in the bakery section of most grocery stores)

Lightly toast bread slices. Spread avocado oil-based mayonnaise or Dijon mustard to both slices of bread. Add turkey and lettuce to one slice of bread. Put slices together.

High Marks: The fun flair of cranberries in this sandwich makes it a great option. It is high in protein, healthy fats and fiber. The cranberries add a boost of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, copper and vitamins C, E and K1.

Caprese Sandwich

  • 1 tsp. balsamic glaze
  • 2 oz. mozzarella cheese,
  • thinly sliced
  • ¼ Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 2 slices crusty bread (best from the grocer’s bakery section)

Lightly toast bread slices. Put basil leaves on one slice of bread, and top with mozzarella cheese and tomato. Drizzle balsamic glaze over the top. Put the sandwich together.

High Marks: Tomatoes provide the antioxidant, lycopene, which is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Also, it’s a great way to get extra vitamins C and K, potassium and folate.

Editor’s Pick:

For me, a good lunchtime sandwich needs two things: flavor and crunch. While bread can be a great source of grains and ramps up the health factor, this veggie-forward take on a traditional sammie packs its fair share of fiber and antioxidants.


  • 1 green, red or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. cheese spread (I like Laughing Cow.) or flavored cream cheese
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • ¼ cup cucumber, sliced
  • 1 Roma tomato, sliced
  • 1–2 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 oz. turkey, thinly sliced

Slice off the top the pepper, removing the stem. Cut the body of the pepper in half, slicing from the top down to the base. Clean out remaining seeds and veins. Spread cheese along the interior of both sections. Stack each section with ingredients of your choice. Rejoin the two halves to create a breadless sandwich.
Tip: Tightly secure it in plastic wrap to keep ingredients in place.

Note: If you prefer a different protein, use egg salad (made with avocado oil mayo); add sliced tomato (moisture) and low sodium garbanzo beans (protein and fiber) and top with arugula (peppery twist).


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