With the school year already started or getting close to starting, it’s time t think about lunch boxes. Many areas are no longer encouraging parents to pack their kids lunches these days. If you are lucky enough to be in an area where packed lunch boxes are still accepted and encouraged, you might be scratching your head as to what to put in them. I mean, a good PBJ is in fact good, but even the nicest of kids can get burnt out on them. And of course, there is the constant battle between food your kids want to eat, and food that is nutritious! With three kids I’m constantly working on the art of the lunchbox.
The first challenge is to think outside of the sandwich. Mostly, the bread. Try making your kid’s favorite sandwiches with a pita, or with a tortilla. Often times I will take some good hearty wheat bread, roll it flat with my rolling pin, spread on some pb&j then roll it up. Slice the roll up and you have what we call sandwich sushi. You can also use apples for a sandwich substitute. Take two relatively thick slices of apples and remove the cores. Spread peanut butter (and maybe some honey) on one slice then stack like a sandwich. Cream cheese is also tasty between some apples.
If you like to make pancakes on Saturday or Sunday morning, make a few extra and freeze them. They make for great sandwiches too. Fill with cream cheese and some fresh fruit (or jam) and sandwich together. Consider making smoothies for your kids. Send them in a thermos. You can pack in vegetables and fiber hidden behind the sweet flavors of bananas and yogurts. Instead of chips, you can send homemade whole wheat muffins, or pretzels- or even homemade granola, or trail mix. My kids always get a serving of fruit and vegetables with their lunches.
Dips can make fruits and veggies more appealing. Honey mixed with plain yogurt for fruit, and ranch style for vegetables. Lunchables, those little boxed lunches you can buy at the store, can be continent but aren’t the healthiest, or most economical. Try to make your own: Slice your own cheese, grab some crackers, and slice up some meat. If you roast a chicken for dinner the leftovers make great meat choices here. Frozen peas and carrots are great for the lunchbox. Put them in frozen, and they will be perfectly thawed by lunch time.
Most importantly get your kids involved as much as they can. Get them to help make or pack their lunches so they can be excited about what’s in it!