Are your lunch ideas getting a bit stale? Do you struggle to think of fresh, new ideas that your kids will actually enjoy? If this is the case, then this is the article for you! In this list, we’re drawing inspiration internationally. We’re looking at some fun school lunch ideas from around the world. These cultural ideas will add a fresh new take on your kid’s next school lunch, and will open up a world of flavors for them to enjoy!
Why International Lunches?
International lunches open up (literally) a world of culinary possibilities for you to explore. Not only does this provide your child with tons of variety and new flavors when it comes to their packed lunch, it provides you with ample inspiration and tons of new types of lunches to try out. You can make lunches that you and your kids will love!
International flavors are a great cure for picky eaters! By introducing your child to new flavors from a young age, you’re helping them to become comfortable with all sorts of flavors and textures, and then you can continue to introduce them to tons of fun options that they can’t get from a typical school lunch.
But there’s only so much we can say about this fun area of cuisine without checking out some examples. Next up, we’re looking at our favorite international school lunches. We chose these lunches not only for their great tastes, but also because they’re quick and easy to make. And when it comes to a packed lunch, ease-of-preparation is always a top concern.
Let’s start with one of the more popular international meals – sushi! Sushi is a fun and delicious meal alternative and a healthy food. Although it tends to be a bit controversial among young kids, those that like it, tend to like it a lot. So, whether you make your own sushi or simply order take-out, it keeps well and makes for great leftovers to pack into school lunches. Sushi is full of vegetables and high-protein fish options, making it a great, well-rounded school lunch. Have some kimchi (a fermented cabbage dish) or miso soup on the side depending on what your child enjoys.
How about something from Italy? Meatballs are a fun, nutritious school meal, and so easy to make. Try cutting up some carrots and throwing them into the mix for some added mixed veggies! Once you have the meatballs made, you can serve them on their own, on a sandwich, in some pasta, or mix it up day by day! Make some caprese salad with fresh veggies or an Italian vegetable soup on the side for a healthy meal.
And there’s one other Italian lunch that kids tend to love. Cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni, and crust, something along those lines.
A Cuban sandwich is one of our favourite sandwich options, and its name displays its heritage proudly! There are a few variants on a Cuban sandwich, but you don’t have to stay completely true to the original to make a delicious lunch. Just take a loaf of bread, slice lengthwise, and then add ham, mustard, pickles, swiss cheese, and butter. It might not be 100% authentic, but it’s quick, easy, and delicious. Pack a fruit cup as a snack or some fresh oranges for a well-rounded healthy meal.
Chicken “Gyro” Wrap
A chicken gyro wrap is another healthy lunch option. As with our above option, you don’t have to stay 100% Greek authentic to have a tasty, quick lunch. Simply season some chicken (olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano work great), and either boil it or grill it. Cube it up, and wrap it in some flatbread with some tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and tzatziki.
Sure, it’s not made the completely traditional way, but you just want a quick and easy lunch! This is also packed with protein and fresh veggies, and your child will love it. Prepare a cucumber salad on the side for a full serving of veggies.
Burritos are another great choice, and make for a relatively healthy lunch. The great thing about burritos is how flexible they are. For meat, you can go with chicken, steak, ground beef, pulled pork, or various other options! Then, you can dress it however you want. Try brown rice, pinto beans, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes! Burritos are easy to make, super filling, and very delicious.
Ramen is another great option for kids. Instant ramen might not be the healthiest lunch, but it isn’t too bad. Kids can heat it up using the microwave at school. You can even pack some veggies for them to add to the ramen once it’s cooked.
Of course, instant ramen is a poor substitute for the real thing, but we’re going to assume you don’t have the hours/days to spare which are necessary to make ramen broth!
Hummus is an awesome ingredient to add a Middle Eastern flair to any sandwich or wrap. Made with chickpeas, hummus is delicious and quite healthy as well. Try adding it to any sandwich or wrap, or even just pack a side of veggies & hummus. A tasty hummus wrap includes ham, hummus, cucumber, and tzatziki, all wrapped in a flatbread.
Keeping on the subject of chick peas and Middle Eastern food, we have the falafel. Falafel is ground, spiced chickpeas, packed into a ball and then deep-fried. They’re a little difficult to make yourself, so we recommend some store-bought falafel balls. Throw them into a flatbread wrap with tzatziki, cucumber, onion, and tomato. You’ve got a quick, nutritious lunch option.
Quinoa is an ingredient that was popularized in South America, and has taken the world by storm in recent years. A quinoa salad is a great source of protein, and you can load it up with veggies as well. We recommend a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing for your salad. Then, throw in some sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes! It’s so easy to make, and it’s a delicious, refreshing lunch.
As you can see, international choices are a great way to liven up any child’s lunch. International flavors are a great way to add variety to your packed lunches, and to introduce new flavors which can broaden your child’s horizons. The options we included on our list are quick, nutritious, and easy to make. You couldn’t ask for much more for a school lunch!
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.