“Can I have something different for lunch today, Mommy?” my 4-year-old asked.
When your picky-eating, routine-loving preschooler requests to switch up the lunchtime menu, you know you’re officially in a lunch rut.
That rut is pretty common at this point in the school year. We parents are feeling more tired than creative, and prepping and packing lunches is just another task we want to get done and out of the way.
Plus we want our kids’ lunches to be nourishing and nutritious; not just anything goes! Which is why when we find a suitable lunch option—one that meets the holy trinity of pleasing our kids’ picky palates, keeping them full through the afternoon, and providing them with essential nutrients—we tend to serve it over and over and over again, until they’re downright sick of it.
One lunchtime food we rely on in our house is deli meat, but not just any deli meat. So many of the choices out there are loaded with artificial preservatives, added nitrates, and artificial colors and flavors—none of which I’m looking to feed to my children.
The HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® brand is different in that it’s 100% natural* lunchmeat that’s wholesome, nutritious, and doesn’t have added preservatives*, synthetic nitrates, or artificial colors or flavors. And because it costs the same amount as the un-natural stuff out there, it’s an easy decision to make when I’m doing my grocery shopping!
To help mix up my son’s lunchtime routine, I started brainstorming ways I could use our HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® lunchmeat that weren’t the standard deli sandwich. Here are 8 that I came up with. Some are great for packing and taking to go, others are best prepared and served at home—but all are yummy, kid-friendly, and sure to break you out of that common lunchtime rut.
8 Creative Ways to Use Deli Meat in Kids’ Lunches
1. Lunchmeat “Pockets” with Cheese and Apple Slices
If your kids tend to be carbo-loaders like mine, sometimes it’s nice to skip the bread or grains entirely and just focus on nutritious proteins and fresh produce. You can make little “pockets” with your HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® lunchmeat (we like to use Smoked or Oven Roasted Turkey for this) and put a slice of cheddar cheese plus a thin wedge of apple in there. I also think a slice of Swiss plus a pickle would be yummy!
2. Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Veggies
You hear a lot about Breakfast for Dinner, but how about Breakfast for Lunch? Add a wholesome protein-packed punch by mixing some slices of HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Smoked Ham into your scrambled eggs.Then add even more nutrients with veggies like spinach, onion, and red pepper.
3. Pasta Salad with Deli Meat
This is a great make-ahead lunch option. Just cook your child’s favorite pasta, mix in some veggies and deli meat (here again I think Smoked Ham works really well, but really any HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® lunchmeat would work), and top with some salad dressing and shredded cheese. Pop it in the refrigerator to cool and voila! Lunch will be ready when you are.
4. Vegetable Soup with Deli Meat
Some days we love to rely on a simple can of soup for lunch. Adding lunchmeat to canned vegetable soup (smoked ham added to pea soup is a favorite in our house!) gives the meal a little extra staying power. Some crackers or crusty bread on the side for dipping is always a hit with the kiddos too!
5. Personal Hawaiian Pizzas
So yummy—and great for getting the kids to help out in the kitchen! Just top bagels or English muffins with pizza sauce, chopped deli ham, pineapple tidbits, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Pop them in the oven just until the cheese is melted and you’re ready to go!
6. Cold Cut Salad
Granted, not every kid loves to eat a salad for lunch, but you can make it more flavorful and appealing by topping your greens with slices of HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® lunchmeat. Then add lots of colorful veggies, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, and cheese. Getting your kids to help assemble the salads also helps get them excited about such a nutritious midday meal.
7. Mac and Cheese with Deli Meat
What kid doesn’t love a warm bowl of mac and cheese for lunch? Whether you’re relying on a ready-made brand or making it yourself, toss some chopped up HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® deli ham in there!
8. Cracker Sammies
If your kid really does love sandwiches but you still want to mix it up, try cracker sammies instead! You can really use any kind of deli meat plus any kind of cheese—we even like to use cream cheese sometimes. (This idea is especially great for toddlers too.)
The next time your family is stuck in a lunchtime rut, try thinking outside the box with your lunchmeat. The HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® brand is all about ensuring everyone has access to nutritious meat. The combination of great taste, no artificial preservatives*, and an affordable cost makes it easy. Make The Natural Choice®!
What’s your go-to quick and easy lunch? Comment below for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!
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*Minimally processed. No artificial ingredients.
*No nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in celery and cherry powder.