I love back-to-school week! It makes me sad that I’m not in school anymore, but I still give in to the urge to go out and buy new school supplies every year. Freshly sharpened pencils, notebooks, folders and since I am just a kid at heart I need some new “packed lunch” ideas! For kiddies returning to class, first-day jitters can be nothing short of overwhelming and I can remember those days quite clearly. The best way to soothe your little one’s fears is to make them a packed lunch made straight from the heart.
Think back to when you were a kid. After an entire summer of quality family time, vacations or even just having mom or dad around all day, even the coolest kid may suffer from at least a little pang of separation anxiety. Nothing cures those woes like an uplifting note in your daughter’s or son’s lunchbox to let them know how proud you are of them for facing the school day or wishing them luck with their new teacher or simply letting them know that you love them and are thinking of them while they’re in class.
And after words, come the eats. Pack for the kids something delicious, something healthy and, of course, something fun! Beat the mundane Mondays by giving your little scholar something to look forward to by mid-day by packing them delicious lunches. Even the pickiest eater will love some of my school lunch ideas:
- Instead of the ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich, try an almond or cashew butter and raspberry or strawberry jam sandwich. These nut butters are the perfect alternative for kids who are allergic to peanuts. Of course, consult your pediatrician first before serving if your kid is allergic to peanuts. Opt for sugar-free or organic fruit spreads instead of sugary grape jelly.
- Makeover the ordinary lunchmeat sandwich on white bread with Tortilla Roll-Ups. These roll-ups are a healthy, nutritious and take up just as much time to make as a regular sandwich. Simply dampen a spinach, tomato or whole wheat tortilla and warm in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Spread a thin layer of whatever condiment you desire over the tortilla leaving the edges clean. I like honey mustard, ranch dressing or guacamole on mine. Load the tortilla with your child’s favorite lunch meat (such as roast beef or sliced turkey) or with chunks of chicken. Top with nutritious greens such as romaine lettuce (contains more nutritional value than iceberg), baby spinach or even sprouts. Roll it up, fold it in and pack it up! Be sure to pack extra condiments on the side for dipping!
Some fantastic snack choices range from savory to sweet and don’t even think about looking for potato chips in this lunchbox! It’s a no-brainer that fresh, crisp veggies are the way to go for snack time however; there is a whole world out there in the produce aisle beyond carrot sticks and celery!
- Instead of the everyday baby carrots and celery packs, opt for slices of crunchy red pepper for your kid’s lunchbox crudités. Other tasty options include blanched cauliflower, broccoli or even string beans. Just be sure to pack lots of dipping options like ranch dressing, hummus or onion dip!
- Edamame –(pronounced eh-dah-MAH-may) are immature green soybeans that are a tremendous source soy protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids. This stuff is major brain food for kids and is fun to eat too! You can purchase frozen edamame pods in your grocer’s freezer (Shoprite or Trader Joe’s has them) or shelled. I prefer to get them in their pods because you get to squeeze the beans from their shell and pop them right in your mouth…it’s kind of addicting!
- Parmesan Pita Crisps are simple and easy to make and are perfect for kids who love to munch on salty chips. They are the perfect balance of protein, fat and fiber and kids love them! Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan evenly over a 4-inch whole-wheat pita. Dust with 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and broil until the cheese browns. Cut into quarters.
- Ham and Cheese Sticks are a fun idea for lunch or a snack. Just wrap super-thin slices of ham (or prosuitto) around part skim string cheese sticks and they’ll be munching away! It’s healthy and it’s a stick…what kid doesn’t love that?
Desserts are a kid’s best friend, however, too sugary of a snack can leave you with a grumpy sugar-crashed cadet come 3 p.m. These choices will satiate your kid’s sweet tooth and leave their blood sugar leveled!
- Bananas – any way you serve them, bananas are a fun and yummy snack. They are also the perfect ending for lunch since it’s loaded with potassium and helps to heal bumps and bruises from gym class or dangling on the monkey bars. For a special treat, packed frozen slices of bananas coated in peanut butter. Yum ciy!
- Chocolate-covered strawberries – pack up some chocolate syrup and whole strawberries and your kid will feel so special and loved. You can guarantee they won’t be trading this dessert with any of their lunch pals!
- “Build-Your-Own” is a big deal with kids. It gives them a sense of control and creativity and yeah--it’s super fun! Compile a few yummy ingredients like canned oranges, chocolate chips and toasted coconut along with a cup of yogurt and let your kid make his or her own yogurt blend.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they give you and your child some inspiration for being creative every day with food. Remember, the lessons your kids learn at home are just as important (and in most cases, more so) as the lessons they learn in school. Keep the wheels turning in their head by letting them help you in the kitchen when preparing meals. Fractions, measurements, metrics, math, concentration and following directions in a cookbook are all learning tools that kids bring into the classroom. While they may not remember all the vocabulary words or formulas, the best lessons your child will learn in your kitchen classroom are lessons of the heart. You can be sure that your kids will always remember the memories you made with them in the kitchen building meals together as a family. Enjoy!