Think Outside the Sandwich!

School is back in session for many, and I’d love to encourage parents (and kids!) to “Think Outside The Sandwich” when it comes to packing school lunches. I know PB&J or Ham and Cheese is predictable and easy, but eating a variety of real food is important. And there truly are so many more options when you put you mind to it. So today I am sharing 4 ideas that I presented on the Charlotte Today show last week – several of which are recipes that will be in my upcoming cookbook (out a week from today)!

I’d love for you to share your non-sandwich lunch ideas in the comments below.


Here’s a summary of the school lunches I shared on TV:

Smoothie Pop #SchoolLunch on 100 Days of #RealFood

Pita Pizza #SchoolLunch on 100 Days of #RealFood

Homemade Lunchable #SchoolLunch on 100 Days of #RealFood

      • Yumbox container used
      • Whole grain woven crackers
      • Applegate ham
      • Organic cheese slices
      • Watermelon
      • Carrots
      • Frozen peas (defrosted by lunchtime)

Slow Cooker Potato Soup #SchoolLunch on 100 Days of #RealFood

      • Thermos and Lunchbots containers used
      • Slow cooker potato soup (recipe in my cookbook)
      • Organic cheese and Applegate bacon to go on top of soup
      • “Ants on a log” (peanut butter and raisins on celery – can use a nut butter alternative)
      • Apples (I don’t do anything to keep them from turning brown – check out #2 on this page to see why)

Oh and if you want to see more about what I did with the apple at the end of the video clip …check out my apple sandwich tutorial!

My kids don’t start school until next week, so when I got home from sharing these lunches on the show my girls didn’t waste any time digging in. Looks like they are kid-approved options! :)

Homemade #SchoolLunches on 100 Days of #RealFood

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53 thoughts on “Think Outside the Sandwich!”

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  1. Does anyone have any idea why they would discontinue the Ziploc divided leakproof container? I could t believe it when I stopped being able to get them!!

  2. Curious if the Yumbox fits in the the lands end soft sides lunchbag? scrambling to find a leakproof solution since the Ziploc divided containers are discontinued and I can not find them anywhere. (and is the Yumbox leakproof to put yogurt in upright in the lands end bag) Of course I already bought the lands end lunchbags, lol. Thanks in advance for your help!

  3. Hummus with cucumber and sprouts in a whole wheat flat bread or corn tortilla all rolled up. Whole wheat mini bagel with organic cream cheese or Greek yogurt spread. I feel like I trend in a vegetarian mode for school lunches to avoid the processed meats but oh well. It’s also sometimes tough to get the protein in when my boys won’t do hard booked eggs and they have a strict no nut policy at their school.

  4. Tzatziki with pitas, veggie wrap pinwheels, fresh ground peanut butter on celery and organic red seedless grapes. Don’t forget the water!!

  5. While your lunch is a great idea, this is not enough food for most kids. Even when they were younger. My eldest is already 6’5 and I can tell you to get to that height he ate much more than that as an elementary school child and neither I or my husband are very tall. My kids are athletes, and your lunches would be more of a snack.

    1. Obviously you can add more food than what she shows here. My kid wouldn’t even eat as much as she gives her kids so I modify accordingly.

    2. i agree as we have very tall athletic boys as well. I live these ideas, though. They are somehow extremely tall for their ages and we are just above average height. I am astounded at just how much they can eat, though! Yet still tall and lanky. We use the ideas and just increase proportion. We use bigger containers. The small ones with portions in them were enough for preschool no pre-K. With our 7 year old, We use the ziploc “space saver” set with several container sizes. I just put various ones in the lunch box and they actually fit really well and hold a lot of food. I also think that girls just generally eat less than boys and I think the author of this blog has two little girls. I’ve heard that from friends as well that girls just eat less. Seems natural, in general.

  6. I love your suggestions! My daughter has always been a very picky eater. Now she is actually excited about picking out things to add to her lunch and is even making her lunch with me. A year ago I would have never believed she would ask for vegetables in her lunch but now she takes them everyday :)

  7. I often make a quick cheese quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla for my preschooler’s lunch. I cut it into triangles and let it cool before putting it in his lunchbox. He doesn’t mind eating it cool. If I have leftover refried beans, I spread a thin layer of those on as well. He loves it (and whole wheat pita pizzas cut into triangles)!

  8. I think these are great! I actually want to do this for me. It’s a great way to keep with portion control if on a weightless regime. Keep them coming!

  9. Thank you – the school lunch thing was the ‘thing’ that hooked me into this blog, the site, and the whole life-style. Please keep it up! Can’t wait to have the cook book sent out!

  10. Darnell, those are the same responses our parents and grandparents gave as an excuse to feed us antibiotic-laden trash, as well as sugar-filled garbage and processed and blanched foods while we grew up. Zero nutrients and vitamins……and instead an overload of sugar and artery-clogging gunk has led to the epidemic we see today. Are you even aware of the statistics concerning diabetes and obesity and how they are through the roof thanks to the last few decades? Your kids are welcome to eat pizza and burgers and fries (as well as doritos, candy, and sodas) every single day of their lives. In a year or two when they are fat, out of shape, have diabetes, and are just generally unhealthy and lazy…..the rest of us just don’t want them on our healthcare plans.

  11. I showed this to my two teenagers and they looked at me like I have lost my mind. They don’t want that stuff. ANY of it. It may work well for younger kids, but most of their friends are pizza, burgers, & fries kids. Not only that, but they would get picked on for bringing that kid of stuff. I think in a very up scale world this would work, but not in a regular public high school.

    1. Oh, I beg to differ completely. My eldest is 14 and a freshman and she takes this type of lunch to school every day. We’ve been doing these types of lunches for almost a year now and it has become the ‘norm’ I warned her when she started h.s. last week that this was it – this is how we live our lives now and she understands. This has been a 3 year process though – first no HFCS, then no dye, then no preservatives, and now trying to downsize on the soy and corn. It has become a way of life for us at home and when out. I think if you commit and you, yourself, commit to this process, it will come with the teens. But, you have to be committed or you (and your kids) will fail.

    2. If your child would get picked on for eating certain foods, she/he needs to evaluate who they are around! I am a teacher and I have never seen kids tease about food! I have seen/heard some say things like, “is that all you brought for lunch?” And that was directed towards a kid with Takis and Starburst!

  12. thanks for the ideas. I love your site, it focuses on the positive things you can eat rather than the negative of what’s out there.

    I particularly agree with your frustration about the prevalent junk out there in school, camp, parties, you name it. My oldest is only 4.5, and I already cringe at what he is offered in my absence. It’s an uphill battle as even my sharpest friends don’t see much harm in what we (universally) are feeding our kids.

    I recently got back from a beach trip with extended family and I don’t understand what the obsession is with offering my son junk. No, I’d prefer that he eats his lunch before he has an ice cream bar on the beach(10:30 am when the ice cream man rolls around). Please can he eat his breakfast first before you offer him that chips ahoy? Yes, french toast on whole wheat bread…he doesn’t even know the difference. I am then labeled as uptight and no fun. My son is a skinny bean pole and the pickiest eater, so I’d prefer to acclimate him to real food as much as possible!

    1. I completely agree. We were just at a family picnic last weekend. My 7 year old daughter complained that she was thirsty and my relatives tried to offer her some soda. I replied that she had never had soda and ran to the car to get her water bottle. I know they all think I am depriving my kids. My daughter happily gulped some water then ate the carrots, peas and raspberries I brought for her, followed by a hot dog. Afterward, I let her choose some chips and a cookie, it was a party after all. But it is all about balance, since I knew the menu ahead of time, I brought the veggies, fruit and water to help balance out the unhealthy stuff.

  13. I love these! I’m a grownup and recently started working at a place where people bring their lunches instead of going out and grabbing a sandwich or salad. These ideas are GENIUS and I’m officially obsessed with the Planetbox.

  14. Great Video, good job educating parents that healthy doesn’t have to be boring! I’m so happy I came across your blog about a year ago, since then my son has been enjoying more variety in his lunch because you did all the thinking for us :) Can’t wait to support your efforts by buying a copy of your cook book when it’s available.

  15. Can’t wait for the cookbook! Today was our first day of school and my daughter is excited about her lunch. We’ve been trying recipes all summer and she’s really getting on board with it. I think the real win for me was when she told me that everyone wanted to trade for her lunch and she told them NO!

    Thank you so much for your blog. You have no idea how much you’ve changed the thinking and eating in our family.

  16. This year I am vowing to mix up my daughters lunch more. Last year it was a lot of sandwiches but this year I must get creative!!! She loves tacos so I am thinking of the meat in her thermos with some organic tortillas chips. I really want to use her thermos more as this lends itself to a whole new list of foods! Looking forward to what others use!

  17. Great job on the show, and all of your knowledge on healthy lunches is going to be so invaluable to me this school year. Thank you Lisa and good luck with the cookbook!

  18. I don’t have children in school anymore, but I do bring my own lunches to work. I freeze my soups in sandwich-sized freezer bags. By lunch time, they’re mostly defrosted and I can pop them into the microwave in a coffee cup.

  19. Ha, all my non sandwich ideas come from your site! lol It is so hard for me to think outside the bread for some reason. We typically do a wrap/roll up, just muffins or deconstructed sandwiches( just the cheese and meat alone). We do crackers a lot too and and spread our usual sandwich filling on that. Or when we do PB and banana sandwiches I just spread the PB between the banana quarters.

  20. Having thermos’s to put leftovers in saves my lunch packing. Also, I cut extra veggies at night to put into their lunches. My kids like to also have what they call “snacky lunches”. I usually include a boiled egg, cheese or yogurt, fruits/veggies and triscuits – or maybe pretzels and hummus or something. It is different and they love it.

  21. I just bought a 4-pack of Easy Lunchboxes so these ideas are great. My son is 11. In the past I have been known to send cheese cubes, almonds, grapes, pepper strips (he likes orange the best), pretzels, and yogurt (in the container) – he loves his “snacky” lunch! Our go to not-quite-a-sandwich is a bean burrito (just fat free refried beans and shredded cheese on a tortills – warmed in the microwave for a few seconds and rolled up). He says they are fine at room temp when he eats lunch.

  22. No kids here, but I work at home so planning a nice lunch so I can have a real break is essential. Good ideas for all of us. Thanks

  23. We like doing turkey roll ups with hummus, cheese, and turkey (or veggies instead). We also like to send leftover pasta in her thermos for a “hot lunch” option.

    Thanks for all the ideas to help keep things fresh!

  24. I love the lunch options you post! I have older boys, including a teenager, and they’re going to need a lot more fuel to get them through their day. Any ideas for bigger lunches for bigger kids, and maybe my husband and I too when we’re brown bagging it?

    1. Jennifer Villeneuve

      Here, here! I second this question. My almost 16 year old boy needs a snack for mid morning break, a lunch AND a snack for after school when he has music or sports practice and sometimes he needs a dinner too when he has an away game. Fun Times!

  25. This is great, Lisa! I love all of your creative ideas and spent many days last week preparing and freezing lunches based on a previous post by you. I am anxiously waiting for a copy of your cookbook!

  26. Just watched this video with my daughters. They are so excited for home lunch now! :) Thanks for some great ideas! Congrats on the launch of your new cookbook. We are excited for our copy!

  27. Lisa- These ideas are great. I will be homeschooling, but I do fall into the sandwich rut. I want to be more creative and pack neat lunches for my kids so we can have an enjoyable lunch time here at home or on our homeschool co-op days. I can’t wait to get your book too!