Quick Lunch Recipes for Busy Families

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Between school classes, football games, piano practise and dance recitals, it's tough to fit in time for a real lunch--not to mention packing one. Use these quick lunch recipes for those days when you're in a pinch, and get out of your lunchtime rut.

The kids are clamouring for something to eat, but it's the middle of a busy day, it's the nanny's day off, and everyone's sick of PB&J. Where are you going to find quick lunch recipes that your kids will eat? "Lunch doesn't have to be a huge production number," says Trish Gomez, licensed nutritionist, mother of four, and author of Sick of Spaghetti. "You can turn a snack recipe into a quick lunch recipe for eating on the go."

Lunch can be as simple as adding baby carrots to crackers and cheese or opening a can of peach or pear halves and filling them with cottage cheese or yogurt. Even if you only have a few minutes to get out the door every morning, there are plenty of quick lunch recipes that will keep you sane and your family happy.

Skip the Sandwiches

Bread isn't the only way to get lunch into your mouth. "There are many different, nutritious and bread-free transportation vehicles that are made for lunch," says Katie Kimball, author of The Healthy Lunchbox. "Lighten up lunch with these fun alternatives to the same old ham-and-cheese.
 

  • Start Stacking
    Revamp a boring classic with these BLT skewers. Stack cherry tomatoes, lettuce, bacon and small cubes of toast on skewers for a lunch your kids will have a blast eating. Pair with pesto or ranch and dip away!
     
  • Roll Things up
    Spread flavoured cream cheese on a purchased crepe or tortilla and top with your kid's favorite veggies. Slice into coins--use toothpicks to keep them closed, if necessary--for kid-friendly sushi.
     
  • Wrap Things Well
    Going gluten free? No problem. Use lettuce leaves or lightly steamed cabbage leaves and fill with lunch meat and cheese for a bread-free version of your little one's favorite sandwich.
     
  • Use Fruit
    A swipe of lemon juice keeps an apple sandwich from going brown. Squish peanut butter, granola and chocolate chips between two apple rings for a treat so sweet, your kid will think she's eating dessert instead.
     

Doctor up Leftovers

"Fix lunch when you're putting away dinner leftovers," Kimball suggests. "It's just as easy to put away dinner leftovers into single-serve containers as it is to fill larger bowls." Putting your leftovers into single-serve containers makes it easy to throw them into a lunchbox or reheat them for a quick lunch recipe at home. But you don't have to settle for simple reheats--jazz them up with these simple ideas.
 

  • Leftover Meat
    Crumble leftover hamburger patties or shredded chicken onto a tortilla with refried beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato for a fast (but not fast food) five-minute burrito.
     
  • Extra Sides
    Mix and match leftover grilled or roasted veggies and combine with toasted croutons and a light vinaigrette for a simply delightful panzanella.
     
  • Repurpose Breakfast
    Don't just limit yourself to dinner leftovers. Kimball suggests making extra pancakes in the morning for the next day's lunch. Spread with almond butter and top with banana slices and raisins for a sweet and satisfying lunchtime surprise.
     

Screw Lunch Shut

Tired of baggies and plastic containers? Try packing your lunches in mason jars. Mason jars are clear, which makes it easy to pick and choose your meal for the day and cuts down on mystery meals piling up in the fridge. These portable meals can be fixed in advance for a quick grab and go.
 

  • Go Greek
    For a classic Greek salad in a new shape, follow Robin's recipe. Pour the dressing in the bottom of a medium or large mason jar. Add veggies and cheese. Finally, top with chopped greens and screw on the lid. The veggie and cheese layer keeps the greens fresh and delicious until lunch. Then, just shake the jar, unscrew the lid and enjoy.
     
  • Try Caprese Salad
    With only four ingredients stacking up this salad takes only minutes to assemble. Packing it in a jar keeps the basil fresh and the tomatoes from getting crushed.
     

The truth is, preparing quick lunch recipes doesn't mean you have to sacrifice nutrition or taste. "You don't need to go crazy," emphasizes Kimball. Keep it simple. But looking beyond the traditional sandwich opens up a whole new world of fresh eating.

 

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