5 Lunches That Kids and Parents Can Agree On

The secret to success? Customization.

April 20, 2020
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Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

When you’re home with your kids, breaking for lunch can be a welcome pause in a busy day. But who has time to make two different midday meals? Yes, of course they want chicken tenders and mac and cheese again. And, I’m fully aware that they’ll have a meltdown if you try to give them some of your leafy green salad. But that doesn’t mean you have to prepare one lunch for the little ones and another for yourself. The easy solution? Dishes where everyone can customize their own.

This strategy has been a total game-changer for me while working from home with my fourth-grader out of school. As a bonus: I’m always surprised by her willingness to try new things when she’s in control of what ends up on her plate.

Want to give it a try? Here are some of the dishes we make for lunch when we’re home together.

Pasta Salad (Pictured Above)

Whole-wheat pasta is one of those pantry staples that we always have in abundance. When cooked in advance, it’s easy to tailor to everyone’s individual taste — so it has become one of our go-to lunches. I toss the pasta in a little olive oil, jarred pesto or salad dressing. Then when we're ready to eat, I put it out with whatever else I have on hand: veggies, cut-up chicken, cubed cheese. My daughter loves creating her own colorful bowl.

Food Network Kitchen’s quinoa bowl with chicken and avocado cream sauce as seen on Food Network.,Food Network Kitchen’s quinoa bowl with chicken and avocado cream sauce as seen on Food Network.,Food Network Kitchen’s quinoa bowl with chicken and avocado cream sauce as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

There’s no limit to what you can combine to create a satisfying grain bowl. My daughter loves farro, so we usually use that as our base. After that, the sky’s the limit! Beans, kid-friendly veggies, nuts and eggs are all great choices.

Photo by: Laura Agra

Laura Agra

Breakfast is always a win in our house, so we eat turkey-and-veggie omelets for lunch all the time. Since one omelet is large enough to share, we split it in half — I sprinkle her choice of fillings on one side and mine on the other. Then, when I fold the omelet, we each have exactly what we want on our half. Easy!

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

This is by far my daughter’s favorite lunch at home. And can you blame her? What’s not to love about warm toasty tortillas stuffed with cheese, spices and your favorite ingredients? We often branch out from more traditional Tex-Mex flavors — pizza quesadillas, with mozzarella, tomatoes, pepperoni, teeny-tiny-diced bell pepper and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, is one of our favorite combos.



Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

There are so many ways to make grilled cheese — each one as delicious as the next. And, in my humble opinion, there’s no better way to help your little one branch out into the wide world of veggies than by tucking a few into an ooey, gooey, melty sandwich!

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