It's a busy time of year with kids starting school. They have their backpacks, notebooks, and pens, but you may have forgotten one essential—a balanced lunch to fuel their day. A healthy lunch doesn't have to be boring. Here are four ideas to keep your learners satisfied and energized through the last bell.

For Meatless Monday: Veggie pinwheels

These sandwiches are not only nutritionally good for your child, but look great as well!

For the tuna lover: Fresh and crunchy tuna salad

Finely chopped green cabbage adds texture and fiber to the salad, while the addition of plain Greek yogurt adds creaminess without extra mayonnaise. Try shredded cooked chicken in place of the tuna for a fun twist.

For the child who loves a hot meal: Fall chili

This slow cooker chili is a great fall meal filled with beans, squash, and pureed pumpkin- ingredients that are sure to meet your child's fiber needs! Bonus: this is a leftover lunch—cook the chili for dinner and send your child with leftovers the next morning in a thermos to keep warm.

For the salad lover: Barley cucumber salad

This recipe is a great grain based salad made with barley, but could be made with your family's favorite whole grains such as quinoa, couscous, or whole wheat pasta.

And for the kids who just like a standard sandwich, here are some creative ideas to switch it up:

  • Switch out bread for whole wheat pita, 6 inch wrap, whole grain crackers or even lettuce or collard green leaves

  • Add in color with vegetables such as sliced cucumbers or radishes, shredded carrots, raw spinach leaves, or roasted red peppers

  • Spread mashed avocado, hummus, or pesto in place of mayonnaise or mustard

  • Try slicing leftover chicken or turkey from dinner to add to a sandwich instead of lunch meat

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