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Simplify your meal planning routine with these themed lunch ideas that work well for themed dinner nights too! When you plan with a theme in mind, you’ll have a much easier time preparing healthy family meals every day of the week.
theme night dinner ideas
If you’ve been trying to meal plan, you need to try themed dinner nights! It’s a plug-and-play method of meal planning that makes it so much faster to get dinner on the table quickly. It’s a game-changer!
The best part is, those dinners can be used as themed lunch ideas for the next day too!
Like it? Save these ideas for later!
Why Meal Planning Themes Can Be a Life Saver
- No thinking required: Instead of coming up with a new recipe for every lunch and dinner throughout the week, stick with the theme! It’s that easy. No fancy meal plan required.
- Simplify grocery shopping: When you know exactly what you’re making every week, your grocery list will shrink (and your bill)!
- Keep things fresh: You can either make the same recipes each week as part of your weekly meal plan or change things up within the same category. Do whatever works for you!
21 Kid-Friendly Themed Lunch & Dinner Ideas
Whether you use these meal themes to plan themed lunches or outline your week’s dinners, they’ll take so much stress off your shoulders! However you spin it, meal planning themes make everything so much easier!
1. Make-Your-Own Pizza Night
This is one of my family’s favorite meal themes for the week because the whole family loves pizza. Plus, the leftovers are perfect to take for lunch!
- Fiestada pizza
- Homemade pizza roll-ups
- Mini pizzas in air fryer
- Leftover pita pizza (try this healthy chicken pizza)
- Greek hummus pizza
- English muffin pizza (sauce + cheese + mini pepperoni or pesto + chicken + peppers + cheese
2. Mexican Night
If your family loves Mexican food, expand on the Taco Tuesday theme with a variety of dishes from South of the Border.
- Black Bean and Cheese Quesadilla
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Mexican Meatball Soup
- Grilled Chicken Street Tacos Recipe
- Authentic Mexican Chicken Fajitas
- Healthy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe
- Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
3. Pasta Salad
This is an easy meal that can be adapted to suit many different flavors and ingredients. To offer it as a meal, pair it with some protein like roasted chicken or whatever meat was leftover from the night before!
- Greek lentil pasta salad
- Pizza pasta salad (pepperoni, olives, Italian dressing, peppers)
- Pesto chickpea pasta salad
- Rainbow pasta salad
- Healthy tuna macaroni salad
- 4-ingredient pasta salad
4. Baked Potato Bar
There are so many ways to top baked potatoes, making this such a perfect themed dinner idea!
- Baked Potato + sour cream + green onions + bacon bits
- Baked potato + chili + cheese + onion
- Baked potato + pulled pork + BBQ sauce + pickles or coleslaw
- Baked potato + steak + asparagus or green beans + steak sauce
5. Make-Your-Own Pitas
This fun spin on sandwiches gives you room to use the leftover ingredients from your favorite dishes earlier in the week. They can be packed for lunch or served for dinner!
- Chicken + tzatziki + lettuce + tomatoes
- Crumbled falafel + hummus + shredded carrot + avocado
- Mini Greek Pita Pizzas
6. Stirfry Night
Stirfries and potlucks are a great way to use up the veggies getting soft in the crisper drawer! Take any leftover meats and veggies and cook them with rice or noodles for a fast main course. My family loves this Shrimp Noodle Stirfry!
7. Bento Box or Snack Tray
This theme is best for lunches, but it’s also a convenient option for a themed dinner! Think of it like having a charcuterie board for a meal!
- Hard boiled egg, cheese, crackers, blueberries, carrot sticks, tzatziki
- Diced grilled chicken, pita wedges, cucumbers, hummus, raspberries
- Salami, mozzarella balls, olives, cucumber, and tomato salad
Looking for more cold lunch ideas for your kiddos? Try these Healthy Cold Lunchbox Ideas for kids!
8. Slow Cooker Sunday
Give yourself a break by tossing your favorite dinner in the crockpot Sunday morning! These are some of my favorite slow cooker recipes:
- Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup
- High Protein Chili
- White Chicken Chili with Salsa Verde
- Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- Lazy Lasagna Soup
- Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup
Freezer Meals for Busy Moms
If you want more new meal ideas for kids, don’t miss my ebook Busy Mom’s Freezer Meal Survival Guide! It’s the easiest way to cook healthy meals on a budget when your schedule is jam-packed.
9. Pinwheels/Roll ups
Make a batch of these pinwheels with your leftover ingredients to make dinner or lunch for the next day! There are many ways to make pinwheels, and they’re always so delicious.
- Broccoli and cheddar pinwheels
- Banana + peanut butter (or wow butter) roll ups
- Pesto chicken + cream cheese roll ups
- Hummus, tomato, cucumber, feta roll ups
- Pesto + turkey + cheese roll ups
- Roasted red pepper hummus + chicken + spinach + tomato roll ups
- Hummus + turkey + shredded carrots + avocado roll ups
10. Meatless Monday
If you’re trying to eat less meat or reduce your grocery bill, make a meatless meal one night per week! There are so many options, including these plant-based family favorites:
- 3-Bean Chili Recipe
- Vegan Chickpea Curry
- Easy Lentil Tacos
- Vegetarian Quesadillas
- Vegan Falafel Wrap
The sandwich night is such an easy meal idea! You can make a regular sandwich with sliced meat and cheese or homemade salads, like egg salad or chicken salad, for protein.
- Cranberry chicken salad
- Cream cheese on a bagel
- Cheese + sliced turkey + honey mustard + avocado
- Banana French toast sandwich with cream cheese (or peanut butter) + strawberry jam + sliced strawberries
- Egg salad
- Tuna salad
- Grilled cheese
12. BBQ Theme Nights
Although it might not always be great weather to barbecue through the year, you can still make BBQ favorites inside!
During the summer, you can grill chicken, make kebabs, cook burgers or hot dogs, and much more. During the cooler times of the year, rotate recipes for shredded chicken, beef, or chicken and use them to make delicious sandwiches served with coleslaw, potato salad, and all the fixings.
You won’t get any complaints with BBQ themed meals!
This is one of my favorite dinner theme ideas because it’s fantastic for leftovers! If you have Taco Tuesday, use leftover taco meat on Wednesday in this delicious grain bowl. You prepped your favorite toppings the night before so that you can throw dinner together on the fly!
- Taco Bowls: Taco meat + corn + tomato + lettuce + crumbled tortilla chips + guacamole + salsa
- Asian Bowls: Asian edamame quinoa salad + mandarin oranges
- Greek Bowls: Greek quinoa salad (can add chicken or chickpeas or lentils for extra protein) or Greek lentil salad + crispy pita chips
- Mexican Quinoa Bowls: Mexican Quinoa Bowls with Ground Beef
14. Pasta Night
Pasta is such an easy dish to incorporate into your busy schedule. While boiling the noodles, you can prepare a filling sauce to serve on top. You can even change it up and make dishes like lasagne or pasta bakes. This is a good idea for when you hit a meal planning rut!
- Best Beef Pasta Hamburger Helper
- 4-Ingredient Pasta Salad
- 5-Ingredient Mac And Cheese
- One Pan Feta Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes
- Lemon Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Pasta
- Low Sodium Spaghetti Sauce on your favorite pasta
Soup is a great meal theme, especially in the winter months. Make a big pot once a week and serve it up for dinners and lunches all week long. Low prep but lots of flavors!
- Chicken Pastina Soup
- Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk
- Vegetable Noodle Soup Recipe
- Wild Rice Turkey Soup
- Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup
- Chicken Meatball Soup
- Lazy Lasagna Soup
- ABC Soup
- Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup
16. Sunday Roast
Whether you want roasted chicken or a nice beef roast, you can make one large serving of meat on Sunday and use it in salads, scrambled eggs, and sandwiches the rest of the week.
Try these recipes to get you started:
17. Breakfast for Lunch/Dinner
This is one of the best meal planning themes for really busy nights. If you know Wednesdays are always stressful, keep it easy and have breakfast for dinner!
- Waffles + yogurt + fruit (try these 3-ingredient protein waffles)
- Banana oatmeal pancakes + cheerios + applesauce + fruit salad
- Yogurt parfait: Greek yogurt + granola + berries
- Overnight oats (try these banana overnight oats)
- Mini egg bites + English muffin + fruit
- Fluffy scrambled eggs + whole grain bagel + fruit
18. Potluck Night
Shake things up a bit and invite guests over for a simple meal! Ask them to bring a favorite dish and rotate between houses each week. Everyone will get a lighter workload and a chance to see friends or family members.
You can even rotate potluck themes from this list to keep things fun!
You’re probably thinking of skewers like kebabs, which are a fun dinner theme, but I’m thinking about cold skewers! They’re a fantastic alternative to sandwiches and are easily customizable.
You can set out all the ingredients and let your kids make their own skewers! They’ll have so much fun, and you’ll be glad to get a meal on the table fast.
- Sandwich on a stick: Mini sandwich squares + lettuce + cherry tomatoes + cheese
- Mini pepperoni slices + cheese
- Tortellini + peppers + olives + cheese
- Turkey roll ups + cheese + veggies
- Mini pancakes + berries
- Burger on a stick: Meatballs + lettuce + tomato + cheese + pickles + diced bun
20. Build Your Own Burger
Everyone loves burger night! Lay out the toppings on the kitchen counter and let everyone choose their own! You could do classic burgers, nacho burgers, Greek burgers, and more!
- Worcestershire Sauce Burgers
- Chicken Feta Burgers
- Zucchini Turkey Burgers
- Vegan Spicy Black Bean Burger Recipe
Start with a base of your favorite greens and add whichever toppings or leftovers sound good!
- Burger Salad Bowl
- Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad
- Blueberry Walnut Salad
- Nectarine Salad
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Greek Lentil Salad
- Chicken Mango Salad
22. Taco Tuesday
This is a classic dinner theme for a reason! Tacos are so fast to make. You just need to cook some meat, add your taco seasoning, and assemble your toppings! They can be salads, crunchy tacos, soft tacos, or even nachos.
MEAL PLANNING TIPS
- Keep it super simple. You don’t have to make new recipes each week. Just stick with your favorite recipes and change it up a little bit when your family gets bored!
- Pair relevant themes together. For example, if you have to make tacos on Tuesday, make extra to make taco bowls on Wednesday. Make pizza on Fridays, then make pizza salads with leftover toppings on Saturdays. This will help you use up your leftovers and stretch your specific theme over 2 days!
- Try freezer meals. What happens on those nights when you’re too busy even to use your themed dinners? Grab a freezer meal from your freezer and skip the drive-thru! Try these healthy freezer crockpot meals!
- Don’t overthink it. Especially if you’re a busy mom, the goal is to just get a full meal on the table! It’s okay if you’re offering finger foods or making quick quesadillas.
- Invite your kids to help you. Focus on simple meals that can be adapted by adding different toppings, like tacos, skewers, pizzas, and sandwiches. The more your kids can get involved, the more adventurous they’ll become in the kitchen.
- Make a double batch. Leftovers are gold. Make a double batch of dinner tonight and send the rest in the lunch box tomorrow!
- “Cheat” when necessary. Hit the grocery store and grab a roasted chicken for tonight’s salad. It doesn’t have to be completely homemade to be healthy!
There are tons of great themed dinner ideas out there! It can take a bit of time to get in the rhythm, but these fun themed lunch ideas will get you started right away.