Jazz up your child’s lunch by thinking outside of the lunch box staples and choosing foods from different parts of the world instead. The building blocks of these dishes — rice, beans, noodles, and chicken — can be prepared ahead (and served for dinner the night before) then transformed into wraps, rolls, flatbreads, soups, or salads for lunch.

In the guide, Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools, veteran chef and cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan teamed up with Ann M. Evans to create recipes based on six popular dishes (soup, salad, pasta, rice bowls, wraps, and pizza), combined with flavors from six world regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and India). The downloadable guide, says Brennan, “offers ideas for adding fresh, local, healthy foods with a global focus to school lunch.” Here’s a sampling from the six regions.

Flavorful Mediterranean favorites

Ingredients for the healthy cuisine associated with countries in this region, such as Italy, Greece, and Spain, include olives, olive oil, garlic, basil, tomatoes, cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, and feta), and pasta.

7 tasty lunch ideas using Mediterranean staples:

A taste of Asia

Asia is about as culturally and culinarily diverse as it gets, but there are common ingredients found in many Asian cuisines, including: tofu, ginger (fresh or pickled), rice, soy sauce, tamari sauce, seaweed (nori), and rice paper wrappers.

4 Asian-inspired lunch ideas:

Latin American fare

Signature tastes from this part of the world include kid-friendly foods, such as avocados, beans, jicama (a crunchy, mild-tasting fruit), quinoa (a protein-packed, grain-like seed), mangos, and tortillas.

3 dishes with Latin American flair:

  • Quinoa salad with beans and mangoes.
  • Jicama salad — Just peel, slice, or dice, and mix with lime juice. Add a sprinkle of chili pepper for kids who like a kick.
  • >Taco salad wrap made with a flour tortilla and a side of avocado-mango salad.

Middle Eastern eats

Most kids love dips. Creamy dips are a popular starter in the Middle East and in European countries like Greece and Turkey. Common ingredients in Middle Eastern foods include olive oil, garlic, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), peppers, and bulgur (cracked wheat).

3 lunch ideas with Middle Eastern influence:

  • Hummus, a garlic and garbanzo bean dip (try roasted red pepper hummus for a change).
  • Tabbouleh, a hearty side salad made with bulgur and lots of veggies.
  • Falafel are chickpea patties that can be dipped in hummus or served inside a pita pocket with lettuce, tomato, tabbouleh, and hummus.

Out of Africa

Flavors from Africa (north and south) can be combined with ingredients from the southern United States to create healthy, satisfying fare. Common ingredients include black-eyed peas, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and couscous.

6 African-meets-Southern lunch ideas:

Indian cuisine ideas

Indian dishes tend to be fragrant, with spices such as cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, curry, and turmeric. Other common Indian ingredients include yogurt, chickpeas, paneer (cheese), chutney, and rice.

3 flavorful Indian lunch ideas:

  • Cilantro chutney & cucumber sandwiches —  It’s one of six ideas for something different for the kids’ lunches.
  • Cucumber mint raita, a yogurt-based, cool, and refreshing side dish.
  • Vegetable biryani, which is like the Indian version of fried rice. Options like these will expand children’s palettes and help them appreciate other cultures. Plus, with the mix of fruits and vegetables, they encourage healthy eating.
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