School Lunch Rescue—3 Quick & Easy Meals Your Kids Will Love

By Catherine McCord

Running out of brilliant and original ideas on the lunch front as the school year runs down? Model, mom (to Kenya, age 4, and Chloe, age 2), and founder Catherine McCord shares three of her favorites with us.

Making school lunch can be a daunting experience for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. If you start off by thinking about balance when you’re putting lunch together it becomes incredibly easy all of a sudden; in every school lunch I pack I start with the this basic principle. Lunch should include: a fruit, a vegetable, a carbohydrate, and a protein—a little bit of everything to keep kids’ bodies moving and their minds sharp. That may sound complex, but it can be as basic as a turkey sandwich with an apple, along with a few carrot or celery sticks. 

To make things even easier on yourself, you can prepare lunch the night before. This is my tried-and-true recipe for stress-free mornings before school. I take out the kids’ bento-style lunch boxes and fill them with cut-up vegetables and fruits, a fun sandwich or leftovers, and generally some type of sweet treat like a cookie, muffin, or handful of dried fruit or trail mix. This way, as soon as the kids open their boxes, they can see all their choices instead of fishing around in the bottom of a paper sack for whatever they find first (generally dessert)!

Remember, what’s important is to make lunch fun, tasty, and easy on you! 

Carrot and Hummus "Sushi" Sandwiches  
makes 24 sushi pieces   

4 slices whole wheat sandwich bread (cut off crusts, optional)
8 teaspoons hummus
1 large carrot, grated

1. Using a rolling pin, roll out the sandwich bread to get it as thin as you can.

2. Spread 2 teaspoons of hummus on each slice of bread. Place 1 tablespoon of grated carrot on one end of the bread.

3. Starting at the end with the carrot, roll up the bread tightly like a cinnamon roll. Press the seam to seal. The hummus will act as a glue to hold the sandwich together.

4. Slice the rolls into 6 "sushi" pieces and serve.

Pork Bahn Mi Sammies
Bahn Mi is a meat-filled sandwich made popular in the west by Vietnamese settlers in the United States. The bread traditionally used in a Vietnamese Bahn Mi is a baguette, a culinary result of Vietnam's years under French rule. The sandwich can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, but when I made this one, stuffed with seasoned ground pork, grated pickles, carrots, cucumber,s and a thick spread of mayonnaise, it was like a heaven-sent discovery for my kids. I'm talking an all-around dream sammie! They couldn't get enough of them.

8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 french baguette, cut into 4 sections, and sliced lengthwise
2 persian cucumbers, seeds removed and grated
1 large carrot, grated
2 pickles, sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cup fresh mint

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and cook the ground pork, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Using your fingers, scoop out a small amount of the soft dough on the inside of each bread slice and discard.

3. Spread 2 teaspoons mayonnaise inside each baguette.

4. Fill with the ground pork, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, pickles, and mint and sandwich together.

Chicken Pesto Wraps

1 cup cooked and cubed chicken
4 tablespoons pesto
4 whole wheat tortilla wraps
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin sticks
1 medium carrot, sliced into thin sticks

1. In a small bowl, toss chicken with pesto just to coat.

2. Place 1 tortilla on a flat surface in front of you. Place 1/4 of the spinach onto the center of a tortilla and top with 1/4 of the peppers and carrots.

3. Place 1/4 of the chicken on top of the vegetables.

4. Wrap up into a burrito and repeat with remaining tortillas and ingredients.