This weekend, thousands of parents all over the country will be heading to the grocery store with one question in mind: “What do I pack in my childrens’ lunch boxes that is both healthy and delicious?” I have a few ideas for you to help fill those brand-new boxes with tasty and simple meal ideas that will please even the pickiest eaters. As with all meals, it’s important to know what your children like and will eat before you spend money on foods that will just be tossed or traded in the lunchroom. In addition, you may want to check with your school to find out if they have any guidelines for what is acceptable to bring (some schools will not allow sugary foods or foods containing peanuts, for example.)
There are a lot of variations on the classic white-bread sandwich which make it both more interesting and healthier. As the parent of a vegetarian, I find that I have to get especially creative on the sandwich front – NOBODY wants to eat peanut butter and jelly day after day. Some favorites in our house are Nutella, honey and banana sandwiches, peanut butter and apple slices on wheat bread, and tuna salad wraps. Of course, if your children eat meat, you probably already know their sandwich preferences. Personally, my favorite is a good old-fashioned ham and cheese with a tiny bit of Miracle Whip. Alternatives to sandwiches include pita pockets, wraps and dips. Most schools do not provide microwaves or refrigerators, so be sure whatever you pack will stay fresh until lunch and will not require heating. Cold packs are cheap and readily available in the lunchbox section and will keep sandwiches and salads crisp and cold until time to eat!
Chips are a staple for most kids’ lunches, but have you ever considered something a little less processed? Hummus and pita bread are a nice substitute, as are veggies with some kind of a dip (carrots or broccoli and ranch, for example.) I tend to do packaged chips most of the time, just because of the ease, but I am going to make an effort to include more fresh fruits and vegetables this year so the chips may take a backseat. Instead of a traditional lunchbox, I found a really cute bento box at Target; this means we will not be using disposable baggies this year, which will drastically reduce our carbon footprint. Additionally, the box came with a filtered water bottle, so Cassidy will be drinking cold clean water instead of sugary juices and punches.
Dessert is certainly not neccesary on a daily basis, but I don’t see the harm in including a package of fruit snacks or a piece of fruit leather for a sweet treat. Cassidy loves those tubes of yogurt, especially if they’re frozen before hand and have a chance to thaw. (This also helps to keep cold foods cold during the wait for lunch time!) Putting low-sugar treats in most of the time will allow for you to sneak the occasional fun-sized candy bar or snack cake in for a tremendous surprise when you feel it’s warranted.
I’d love to hear about what your kids like to eat – if you have special recipes or tips for lunchtime, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog! Happy back-to-school!!