Ideas for healthy lunches for children

Do PB&Js still exist in white bread? Anyone stack a bologna and cheese sammie with a little mustard or a dollop of mayonnaise, and get a little fancy with a sprinkle of crushed french fries or salty corn chips before closing it with the top layer of bread? Does that happen more? In our book, there’s always a little room for the classics, even if they don’t register high on the healthy meter.

With schools back in session, the cold lunch lot is getting ready to load their lunch menus. Where a standard lineup of sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookies once reigned supreme, now a few lucky kids arrive at dining rooms with enviable bento boxes, swoon-worthy Buddha bowls, and other fresh home-cooked foods.

While we’re all for creativity in the cafeteria, there’s nothing like a homemade sandwich to fill a hungry belly and recharge a child for the rest of the school day. Let’s take another look at sandwiches, with a bit of a redesign that will get better marks at the lunch table.

For ideas, we turned to Laurel Famigletti, owner of EndorP.HIT, where she provides virtual group fitness classes, in-home personal training, and virtual nutrition counseling. (In most of our issues, you’ll find her advice in our Featured on Moving section.) When thinking about new sandwich combos, she recommends following this easy-to-remember three-step process: breading, spreading, and stuffing.

Bread: “Always consider whole grains to add fiber, vitamins and minerals. Look for 100 percent sprouted or whole grain flours as the first ingredient with limited ingredients altogether. Try to get three to five grams of fiber as well as protein per serving,” says Famigletti.

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

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

Laurel Famigletti Recipes

nut butter sandwich

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

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

nut butter sandwich

Top Notes: Protein fuel, healthy fats, potassium, and fiber make this sandwich satisfying and full of energy. The addition of cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar. It is perfect for a meal or snack before or after any type of practice.

vegetable sandwich

  • 2 tbsp. hummus
  • ¼ cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup carrot sticks
  • ¼ Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread

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

Top Notes: The healthy fats, protein, fiber, and antioxidants in the strong plant-based base make this sandwich a lunchtime champ.

Cranberry Turkey Sandwich

  • 1 tablespoon. mayonnaise (made with avocado oil) or 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 oz. sliced ​​turkey
  • 1 lettuce leaf
  • 2 slices blueberry crispbread (located in the bakery section of most grocery stores)

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

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

caprese sandwich

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze
  • 2 oz. mozzarella cheese,
  • thinly sliced
  • ¼ Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 2 slices of crusty bread (best from the bakery section of the supermarket)

Lightly toast the bread slices. Put basil leaves on a slice of bread and top with mozzarella cheese and tomato. Drizzle balsamic glaze on top. Assemble the sandwich.

Top Notes: Tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Plus, it’s a great way to get extra vitamins C and K, potassium, and folic acid.

Editor’s Pick:

To me, a good lunchtime sandwich needs two things: flavor and crunch. While bread can be a great source of grains and ups the health factor, this vegetarian version of a traditional sammie packs a good amount of fiber and antioxidants.


  • 1 green, red or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp. cheese spread (I like The 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

Cut off the top of the pepper, removing the stem. Cut the body of the pepper in half, slicing from top to bottom to the base. Clean any remaining seeds and veins. Spread cheese along inside of both sections. Stack each section with the ingredients of your choice. Put the two halves back together to create a bunless sandwich.
Tip: Secure it tightly in plastic wrap to keep the ingredients in place.

Note: if you prefer a different protein, use egg salad (made with avocado oil mayonnaise); add tomato slices (moisture) and low-sodium chickpeas (protein and fiber) and top with arugula (spicy twist).

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