A round-up of more than 20 sandwich spreads for some new healthy school lunch ideas!
It’s August now, which means all the back-to-school shenanigans are getting underway. Class assignments, school supply shopping (my favorite when I was little - I’m such a nerd!), new clothes and new routines.
And a return to packing school lunches.
Was that a huge collective groan I heard? 😉
I know, it’s yet another chore in a long list of chores that have to be competed each morning before getting out the door.
I’m right there with ya. I’m already up and working when the kids get up, on deadline for my job as a health and nutrition editor, so I feel the pain of having a bowl of chaos for breakfast on a daily basis.
My kids have been at camp all summer (because I am still working), so I didn’t really get a break from school lunch packing.
Which means we’re starting back to school and I’m in need of a little inspiration and some new healthy school lunch ideas for my kids.
So let’s talk sandwiches.
Some kids love them and want nothing else. Other kids would rather never come across a sandwich in their lunch box.
I hope for your sake, you don’t have one of each 😂
Whichever group your kids are in though, I hope these healthy school lunch ideas can help to change up your usual sandwich routine or show your kids that sandwiches come in all styles and flavors.
A few notes on these sandwich spreads:
- I went with all peanut-free recipes here because so many people have to go peanut-free in preschool and schools these days. If you don’t, just substitute peanut butter for the almond butter options. Alternatively, you can use sunflower seed butter if you need it to be completely nut free.
- I’ve got four categories below: almond butter-based spreads, bean-based spreads, avocado-based spreads and a review of some of the classics.
- New foods can be scary to kids sometimes. A few of these spreads my kids didn’t like the first, second or third time I sent it for lunch, but then they came around and loved it. Keep trying - kids are notorious for rejecting new foods but repeat exposure helps. (I read about this all the time in my nutrition editing.)
- Also, I try to send some favorites when sending something new that may be rejected. That way, they have enough to eat and it also makes it less intimidating. They know they have something they like and can venture to try a bite of the new food.
- These are all small batches - enough for 1-2 sandwiches. You can double or triple the amounts if you want to have more on hand. Store extras, covered, in the fridge.
- If you leftover beans or avocado after making a small batch of one of these spreads for the kids, you can use them in a wrap, salad or sandwich yourself!
And while we’re getting creative with what goes in the sandwich, don’t forget to mix up the bread, too!
A few ideas beyond just sandwich bread:
- Mini or regular-sized bagels
- English muffins
- Tortillas or wraps
- Bakery rolls
- Slider or hamburger buns
- Hot dog rolls
We use all whole wheat breads and buns here, but use what you like. And I’ve always found breads freeze great, so you can keep several different types on hand without them spoiling before you can use them up.
I hope you find these ideas helpful! And I would love to hear your favorite sandwiches and healthy school lunch ideas in the comments below.
I also made you a free printable to have on hand. Cause if you’re like me, you’ll be back in a rut well before the holidays and need the reminder!
Almond butter sandwiches:
Almond butter with sliced strawberries (or strawberry jam)
Almond butter on one slice of bread and nutella on the other
Almond butter mixed with canned pumpkin puree
- Make sure it’s pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.
- I use equal parts because my kids love pumpkin. If yours don’t or you’re not sure, use 1 tablespoon of pumpkin for every 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
- You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon. And/or a drizzle of honey.
Almond butter with sliced bananas and raisins
- You can also drizzle with honey. Or for a special occasion, include some mini chocolate chips.
Almond butter sprinkled with shredded coconut
Almond butter mixed with shredded zucchini
- Grate the zucchini, squeeze out the extra moisture and mix 1 tablespoon packed shredded zucchini for every 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
Mashed cannelini beans with tahini and veggies
- Use ½ can beans, ¼ cup tahini and 3 tablespoons of either chopped fresh spinach or grated carrots (or a mix of both)
- Tahini is a sesame seed paste that has a nutty flavor and can usually be found near the peanut butter in the grocery store. (It’s what is used to make hummus.)
Cannelini beans and goat cheese
- Mix equal parts mashed cannellini beans and soft goat cheese.
- This makes a thick spread, so I tend to use a bagel or roll that’s more sturdy than sandwich bread, which can tear when you try to spread this.
- You can flavor this up with some salt and pepper, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice or a bit of pesto.
- You can also add in some chopped fresh spinach, carrots or bell peppers or some sliced cucumbers.
Black beans and spinach puree
- Puree black beans and fresh spinach in a food processor or with a hand or immersion blender (add a splash or two of water if you need some moisture to get it to mix but go slow - you don’t want it too liquidy.)
- Spread black bean mixture on a tortilla or wrap (or English muffin) and roll up.
- You can also add shredded or string cheese, chicken or turkey, bell pepper strips or fresh tomato slices to the wrap.
Refried beans and salsa
- Mix 1 tablespoon of salsa for every 2 tablespoons of refried beans.
- Spread on a tortilla or wrap and roll up.
- You can also add some shredded or string cheese, chicken or turkey, bell pepper strips or zucchini strips to the wrap.
- Spread your bread (preferably not sandwich bread - tortillas or wraps or English muffins or bagels or buns) with some hummus.
- You can use homemade or store bought hummus and any favorite flavor.
- You can add sliced veggies (peppers, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes), lettuce, chicken or turkey or cheese.
Avocado toast as a sandwich
- Toast both pieces of bread, spread each with a thin layer of avocado, then make into a sandwich.
- You can also add shredded cheese, tomato slices or hard-boiled egg slices to this sandwich.
Guacamole with pineapple in a wrap
Guacamole mixed with Greek yogurt or sour cream as a creamy spread in a wrap
- You can add lettuce and tomato as well as some chicken or turkey.
Note: Avocado can brown quickly once cut. So work fast, wrap them up quickly or just serve these at home.
Don’t forget to change up the bread to make these different - such as a turkey-cheese wrap using string cheese that's rolled up and sliced; or tuna or chicken salad in a hot dug bun as a “lobster roll” of sorts.
Ham/turkey/chicken and cheese
- Use mayo and/or mustard, or add pesto or hummus (plain or flavored) as a spread.
- Add lettuce, tomato or cucumber slices if your kid will go for it.
- Great with a horseradish mayonnaise, but regular mayo or mustard work too, for the kids.
- Check out my egg salad BLT sandwich for a variation and to get a base recipe for egg salad (mine uses half mayonnaise and half Greek yogurt).
- My kids love tuna salad melts for dinner and have come around to a sandwich with tuna salad and cheese.
- You do have to beware of the “smell” factor with tuna sandwiches in the lunchroom. Maybe best served at home on the weekends. 😉
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato is a classic for a reason.
- You can add some cheese or Ranch to make it more appealing to kids.
And one more time, here's the link to get that free printable for these healthy school lunch ideas!