Healthy Sandwich Spreads for Children

Sandwiches are portable, easy to prepare, and less messy than many lunch alternatives. They don't require silverware, and they typically stay tasty at room temperature. There are many reasons why sandwiches make an excellent choice as a portable meal. The only problem is coming up with original ideas that take you beyond the usual cold cuts and sliced cheese. Whether you're just bored with the same old sandwich, or you have a child entering a picky phase, it's always nice to have a wide range of options to choose from. Read on and you'll see that, when it comes to sandwich recipes, your options are nearly endless.

Nut and Seed Butters

Peanut butter is a lunchbox standard for good reason. It's high in protein and a good source of fiber, vitamin E, iron and other nutrients. Make sure, however, that the peanut butter you choose contains nothing more than peanuts and salt. Almond butter has a similar nutritional profile and is a boon for those needing to assemble peanut-free meals. You can also try cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, or pumpkin seed butter as healthy, tasty alternatives. Pair any of these options with jelly or sliced fresh fruit such as apples, strawberries or bananas in a sandwich.

Bean Spreads

Spreads based on pureed or mashed beans are high in protein and fiber as well as several vitamins and minerals. Hummus, made from pureed garbanzo beans, is a mainstay of pita sandwiches, and it can also be spread on whole-grain bread topped with vegetables such as sliced cucumber, tomatoes, or sprouts. Make a Mexican torta by spreading refried beans on a roll topped with chopped tomato, avocado, cheese, and shredded lettuce or cabbage. A garlicky white bean puree can be used as a spread as well; top with sauteed greens, chopped artichoke hearts or sliced tomato.

Dairy Spreads

Sandwich spreads based on cream cheese, yogurt, or soft cheese provide calcium and protein that every child needs. If your child enjoys tea parties, try packing some finger sandwiches made with cream cheese--or its lower-fat cousin Neufchatel--paired with any number of toppings such as sliced cucumber, crushed pineapple, grated carrots, sliced strawberries, or thinly sliced radishes. Labneh is a Middle Eastern cheese made from strained yogurt. It's low in fat and has a pleasant tang. Mix it with chopped fresh herbs, then spread it on bread; tuck it in a pita and top with tomatoes and cucumbers. Chevre, a spreadable goat cheese, pairs well with fresh sprouts, tomatoes, cooked greens, sliced red peppers, or even fruit such as sliced figs. Ricotta can also be used as a sandwich spread in a similar manner 1. Thick Greek-style yogurt can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise.

Pesto and Other Green Spreads

Pesto made with basil can be used as a sandwich spread, and it's a good source of vitamins A and C. If you make it with nuts you'll get an extra dose of protein as well 1. Pair it with chevre and maybe some chopped or sliced tomatoes for a vegetarian sandwich with an Italian accent. You can also make pesto with arugula instead of basil--it has a comparable nutritional profile. Guacamole can be used as a sandwich spread, as well; avocado is rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, and fiber 1. Pair guacamole with grilled or barbecued chicken, sliced turkey breast, and chopped tomatoes. For a more unusual vegetable spread, puree canned artichoke hearts with a little lemon juice and olive oil. Spread on whole-grain bread and use to top grilled chicken, cold cuts, or a chiffonade of sliced spinach. Artichokes are a great source of both fiber and vitamin C.