Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ideas for school lunches

"What is in that hamper," asked Albert as he came running out of his house.
"I don't know," said Frances. "Nothing much. Hard-boiled eggs and whole fresh tomatoes. Carrot and celery sticks. There are some cream cheese-and-chives sandwiches, I think, and cream cheese-and-jelly sandwiches too, and salami-and-egg and pepper-and-egg sandwiches. Cole slaw and potato chips, of course. Ice-cold root beer packed on ice, and watermelon and strawberries and cream for dessert."-excerpt from Best Friends for Frances by Russell & Lillian Hoban
When I was a kid, I always loved Frances' narration as she described her was always packed to the gills with interesting things to eat. As a health-conscious parent and a foodie, one of the biggest challenges during the school year is: what do we feed the kids? When they are away at school and away from refrigeration or a way to heat foods, the nutritious options seem to disappear. On top of that, we have the challenge of encouraging them to eat what is good versus what is "fun"... they don't put action figures or super stars on the healthy about Hannah Montana's delicious bananas? Or Jonas Brothers carrot packs?
My friend, Karen offered me the challenge of finding some better ideas for lunch, and here are some to try... food that is fun and nutritious...get the kids to help so that they feel some connection to the food that they are choosing.

  • Mix together different cereals, pretzels, dried fruits, gold fish, even chocolate chips or m&ms, nuts, etc. to make a customized "trail mix" for a snack...make it once a week and store in small re-usable snack containers.

  • My daughters love "peanut butter roll-ups"...take a flour tortilla, spread PB, and roll. You can also add some finely chopped apples, cinnamon or sliced bananas. Try making them like a taco...with a little shredded Monterrey jack, or a "Mexican pizza"...using layers of tortillas with the stuff sandwiched between them. Get creative and see what combinations they like...sweet, salty, crunchy.
  • Tea sandwiches: make spreads by pulsing low-fat cheese (cheddar, cream, or Monterrey jack) in a food processor. Add some veggies such as red peppers, carrots, even spinach! Spread on a good quality sandwich bread, and cut into triangles (if you want to get fancy remove the crusts). Try using low-fat cream cheese & sliced strawberries on bread.
  • If you have an adventurous eater, you can make an open faced sandwich with a bagel, cream cheese, tomato slices, smoked salmon, some herbs or mixed greens.
  • If your child will eat salad, try adding some cold pasta, cheese, peas, any chopped vegetables or fruit, chopped boiled egg...Salads can be a great way to get five-a-day.
  • One of our favorites is to freeze yogurt cups, and they thaw perfectly in time for snack or lunchtime. Add some low-fat granola and fruit.
  • Hummus and pita chips is another favorite...and it is so simple to make or easy to find at the market.
  • Blanched vegetables and dip...sometimes a tender vegetable is more tasty.
  • Egg salad, though tricky to keep cool, is another oldie-but-goodie.
  • Popcorn is a great treat...full of fiber and fun to munch.
This year, we are trying not to buy pre-packaged snacks because of the extra waste created. Rather, we are buying things in bulk and placing them in re-usable containers which is more eco-friendly. There are so many re-usable containers available and even freeze packs for keeping lunches cool. What are some of your ideas? We would love to hear them!


Jason said...

We use a lot of whole wheat pita pockets. Somehow those are just more fun than plain ol' bread. You can put anything in them.

One favorite is "pita pizza pockets". Stuff the pita with salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, and sauce (we buy the kind that comes in a squeeze bottle, which I recognize is cheating a little). Our kids have access to a microwave at their school, but it's pretty good even when cold. :)

Christa said...

Peanut butter rolls ups! Oh yes please! :-)