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10 fun lunch ideas that don't involve sandwiches

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Sandwiches are so old school — make these lunches instead

Remember the disappointment of opening your lunchbox to find the same turkey and wilted iceberg lettuce sandwich for the third (or 30th) day in a row? This school year you can save your kids from the same fate. These school lunch ideas don't involve sandwiches, so your kids will get the variety they crave. And who knows? Maybe you'll enjoy them too.

Most of these can be prepared the night before.

More: 6 Mom-approved ideas for packing better lunches

1. English muffin pizzas

Pre-toast a halved multigrain English muffin (to prevent sogginess), top each half with a little pizza sauce, some shredded low-fat, part-skim mozzarella and two slices of turkey pepperoni, and broil until the cheese is melted.

2.Tortilla roll-ups

Spread a large, whole-grain tortilla with a thin layer of low-fat veggie cream cheese, and layer on a few slices of turkey deli meat, a few leaves of romaine and some thin slices of tomato. Roll it tightly like a jelly roll, and slice it into 1-inch pieces.

3. Chuck-and-toss chicken salad

In a quart-size plastic container, layer your kid's fave veggies, and top with about a cup of mixed greens and chicken. Cover with a lid, and include a small container with 2 tablespoons of your child's favorite dressing. Instruct your kiddo to open the container, pour in the dressing, replace the lid and shake, shake, shake to combine. You can also include a handful of croutons, plain popcorn or sunflower seeds to add a little crunch.

More: It's OK if you don't make amazing lunches for your kid

4. Veggie quesadillas

On a baking sheet, layer a 6-inch whole-wheat tortilla with 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar, top with 1/4 cup of prepared Southwest blend frozen vegetables, and top with another tortilla. Bake at 350 degrees F until the cheese melts. Don't forget to send them to school with hot sauce or salsa, sour cream and/or guacamole.

5. Buffalo chicken lettuce wraps

Mix 1/3 cup of cooked, shredded chicken with 1-1/2 tablespoons of Buffalo sauce. Send your kids to school with two leaves of hearts of romaine, the Buffalo chicken, a tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese and 2 teaspoons of ranch or blue cheese dressing, with instructions to nest the lettuce and top it with chicken, cheese and dressing. Don't forget to pack some celery and/or carrot sticks.

6. Better-for-you chicken nuggets with light honey mustard dipping sauce

Mix 1/4 cup of light sour cream with 1-1/2 teaspoons each of honey and Dijon mustard (pack with a bag of ice). Send your kids off to school with seven prepared Applegate Naturals fully cooked frozen chicken nuggets (or other brand that makes antibiotic-, filler- and chemical preservative-free nuggets) and a mix of fresh vegetables.

More: Toxic lunch containers: Here's exactly what you need to avoid

7. No-cook tomato sauce with leftover pasta

In a 2-cup container with a lid, combine two small finely chopped plum tomatoes, a dash of garlic powder, 2 tablespoons of diced green bell pepper, a dash (or pinch) of dried basil, a tablespoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and a little black or crushed red pepper. Send your child to school with that and a cup of cooked rotini in a plastic baggie. The flavors of the sauce will blend by lunchtime, and they can add the pasta to the sauce container when they're ready. A little Parmesan cheese on the side is a nice touch!

8. Better-than Lunchables

Pack nine round pita crackers or chips, nine thin slices of cheddar cheese and nine slices of turkey summer sausage with a heaping tablespoon of stone-ground mustard. Make sure you send veggies as a side.

9. Chopped baker

Chop a hot baked potato into chunks, and put it in a thermos. Add hot grilled vegetables and sliced, grilled smoked chicken sausage. Add a pat or two of butter or olive oil with a pinch of sauce.

10. Kid-friendly vegan spring rolls

Press tofu slices into a mixture of cornmeal, Parmesan and cornstarch, and fry until crisp, turning halfway through. Cut into matchsticks. Place a small amount of soaked rice noodles in a line down the middle of a soaked rice paper, line up the tofu matchsticks and matchsticks of other vegetables (like carrots and seeded cucumbers) on top, and roll. Pack with soy sauce, peanut sauce or Greek yogurt ranch dressing.

Sandwiches are so old school — make these lunches instead
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows

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