Simplify Lunch: Mix-and-Match Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Buy only six ingredients and mix and match them to create healthy school meals for the week. 
Yunhee Kim

 Mix-and-Match Strategy #1: Kid-Friendly Mediterranean

Just buy...

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Mozzarella balls 
  • Mini whole-wheat pita pockets 
  • Tomatoes (cherry or heirloom)
  • Cucumber 
  • Canned tuna (in water or oil)

Then make...

Monday: Tuna Pockets
Mix 1⁄4 cup drained tuna with 1 Tbs. yogurt, chopped cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and a few herbs. Stuff into two mini pita pockets. 

Tuesday: Pita Crackers With Cucumber Raita
Cut 2 mini pitas in half. Brush on olive oil and sea salt or garlic salt. Bake at 450°F until pitas are crunchy, about 8 minutes. Mix 1⁄2 cup yogurt, 2 Tbs. chopped cucumber, and dill; pack in a container for dipping. 

Wednesday: Stuffed Tomatoes and Grilled Cheese
Hollow out a few small tomatoes. Mix 1⁄4 cup drained tuna with 1 Tbs. yogurt and chopped cucumbers. Stuff tomatoes. Place three mozzarella balls in a pita pocket and grill until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. 

Thursday: Salad Sticks
Thread cucumbers, mozzarella balls, and tomatoes on three 6-inch skewers. Cut off the pointy end.

Friday: Buy pizza! Or repeat a lunch.

Yunhee Kim

Mix-and-Match Strategy #2: Soups & Salads

Just buy...

  • Whole-grain pasta 
  • Eggs 
  • Canned black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Salad mix with vinaigrette packet 
  • Unsalted chicken stock
  • Leftover grilled chicken 

Then make...

Monday: Egg-Drop Soup
Heat 2 cups stock and a pinch of salt on medium-high. Remove 1⁄4 cup and whisk in 11⁄2 tsp. cornstarch. Return to the pot and simmer for two minutes. In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg and 1⁄2 tsp. cornstarch. Slowly pour egg into broth, whisking at same time. Let stand until egg is cooked. 

Tuesday: Pasta Salad
Toss 3⁄4 cup cooked pasta, 1⁄4 cup beans, and veggies from the salad mix. Use 2 Tbs. vinaigrette to dress. 

Wednesday: Cobb Salad
Place 1 cup salad mix on bottom of container. Top with 1 cooled scrambled egg, 1⁄2 cup beans, and chicken slices. 

Thursday: Bean Soup
In a saucepan combine 1 cup stock, 2 oz. chicken cubes, 1⁄4 cup cooked pasta, 1⁄4 cup beans, carrots and spinach from the salad mix, and spices, such as Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. 

Friday: Pizza day!

Yunhee Kim

Mix-and-Match Strategy #3: Veggie Hacks

Just buy...

  • Butternut squash (roasted and mashed)
  • Riced cauliflower (such as Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles or Trader Joe's Riced Cauliflower)
  • Eggs 
  • 8” whole-grain tortillas
  • Canned white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese 

Then make...

Monday: Butternut Quiche With Cauliflower Crust
Sauté 1 cup cauliflower in 1 Tbs. olive oil until soft, then mix it with 1 egg and 1⁄2 cup cheese. Press into a 9-in. pie dish (coated with cooking spray) to form a crust. In a bowl, whisk 8 eggs; stir in 1 cup cheese and 1 cup squash, then pour mixture over crust. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes, or until egg is set. Eat for dinner; send leftovers to school

Tuesday: Squash Quesadillas 
Place 1⁄2 cup mashed squash and 3 Tbs. cheese between two tortillas. Cook on both sides in a nonstick pan coated with cooking spray until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday: Bean and Cheese Wraps 
In a tortilla, roll 1⁄4 cup beans, 2 Tbs. cheese, and 1⁄4 cup riced cauliflower (sauté in a little olive oil to soften).

Thursday: Orange Hummus and Crackers
Puree 1 cup squash and 3⁄4 cup beans in a food processor until smooth. Store at least half in the fridge for another time. Make crackers by cutting small circles or other shapes from a tortilla; sprinkle with cumin and paprika. Bake at 400°F until crunchy, about 8 minutes.

Friday: You know what to do!

Round out the lunch box with one or two of these ideas:

  • Shredded carrot and zucchini tossed with a little pesto
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Whole-wheat crackers sandwiched with mashed avocado and a little lemon
  • Nut-free trail mix with raisins, pumpkin seeds, and whole-grain cereal
  • Jicama sticks tossed with lime juice and chili powder
  • Grape and cucumber “salad”
  • Chopped apples tossed in lemon juice and sprinkled with cinnamon 

Get ready to give grain bowls a go—yes, for the whole family—with our mix-’n’-match recipe chart. Tailor your bowls to what you have on hand, or put out a bunch of the ingredients and let kids craft their own.

Lunches inspired by Kate McMillan, coauthor of The Lunch Box; Erin Gleeson, author of The Forest Feast for Kids; and Cherie Schetselaar and Britney Rule, coauthors of The Mix-N-Match Lunchbox.

Parents Magazine

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