12 Summer Lunches for Kids That Take Advantage of Eating at Home

School's almost out for the summer, which means it's time to start serving kids lunch right at home.
By: Foodlets

Photo by: Picasa

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Tired-mom confession: I’m kind of psyched for summer because I won’t have the pressure of packing a single lunchbox for nine whole weeks. (Yep, ours is a year-round school, but still…) Summer lunches offer a bit more flexibility and require less planning, and sometimes the kids can even help.

Lunches That (Even Little) Kids Can Make Themselves:

1. Strawberry & PB Wraps: Slather peanut butter on a whole-wheat tortilla, sprinkle with diced strawberries and wrap it up like a burrito for a hand-held meal.

2. Pita Pockets: Whip up the egg salad (with a kid-friendly ingredient), chicken salad or even Ellie Krieger’s healthier version of chicken curry salad and show the kids how to stuff a couple of spoonfuls into each pocket.

3. Sub Sandwiches on a Stick: Set out the fixings — chunks of cheese, cherry tomatoes, cubes of thick bread, pickles cut into large dice, rolls of salami — and let kids slide everything onto a bamboo skewer.

4. Watermelon Gazpacho: Taking a tip from the amazing Barefoot Contessa’s original 5-star cold soup recipe, give the kids a turn at the food processor with this fruit-filled summertime soup.

Lunches That Are Best Served Immediately:

1. One-Pot Mac & Cheese: Yep, that’s one pot, including the one you’re cooking the pasta in, in this recipe (pictured above). It's got real cheese, whole-wheat pasta and a secret ingredient for a touch more flavor.

2. Cutting Board Buffet: That’s right, everything is served right on the big ol’ wooden cutting board. Chop up raw carrots, slice cucumbers, pile up pickles or olives, add slices of cheese and crackers, and serve the whole thing in the center of the kiddie table.

3. Frozen Fruit Cups: If you want a little pop of flavor with a cooling effect to boot, try Ree Drummond’s Frozen Fruit Cups. They’re served like little igloos made out of mixed fruit, but these are more colorful — and delicious.

4. Calzones: Ree Drummond’s trick for making these lunchtime treats is nothing short of brilliant. Hint: You will not be making any dough from scratch. Got tiny vegetarians to feed? Try this veggie-filled version (pictured above) instead.

5. Cute Fruit: On a leisurely day when the kids are tempted to tell you how bored they are, a little pop of fun can go pretty far. These “turtles” (pictured above) are nothing but half a Granny Smith, a handful of grapes and two tiny chocolate chips.

6. Kale Chips: This is another  side dish that works brilliantly at home. Because they don’t usually keep very well, kale chips are the perfect at-home side dish for lunch. Just coat all the leaves in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and into a hot oven they go.

7. Fresh & Fruity Water: This festive idea (pictured above) works especially well for families who are cutting back on juice and soda. Try serving plain water (or plain seltzer) with a cup of sliced fruit floating on top like sangria. It’s colorful and flavorful, with nary a cube of sugar in sight.

8. Popsicles: What better way to end lunch on a hot summer day than with a homemade ice pop brimming with fresh fruit? A few of our favorites are: Peaches & Cream Popsicles, Strawberry-Banana Frozen Yogurt Pops and Melissa d'Arabian’s Chocolate “Sundae” Popsicles (with a few surprisingly good-for-you ingredients packed in).

Charity Curley Mathews is the founder of Foodlets.com: Real Food for Babies, Toddlers & Kids and lives in North Carolina with her husband and four small kids of their own, who insist on eating lunch every single day no matter the season. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

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