Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wanna trade?

School's back in session, and many Moms across the country are getting up extra early to pack lunches, me included. Yes, my son's school has a cafeteria. I've seen the food. I'm not impressed. I know the years when I will lose all control over what he eats are fast approaching, so I'm hanging in there while I can. I am trying to be creative with lunches, make them fun to eat and healthy at the same time. You know, stuff that will make other kids say, "Wanna trade?"

When I was young, one of my favorite books was Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban. In this book, Frances liked one thing: bread and jam. She ate this at every meal. Her friend, Albert, however, had the most amazing things in his lunch at school every day. Finally, at the end of the story, Frances catches on and her lunches become amazing, too.

When it comes to packing lunches, most parents are not intentionally being boring, they're just being pragmatic. If your child likes peanut butter and jelly and it's easy to make, your child gets peanut butter and jelly every day. If this sounds boring to you, it probably is to your kids as well. Here are some ideas to help you get creative with your kid's lunches and ditch the brown bag blahs. Variety is the spice of life, so expose your kids early and allow them to try new things. They may take a while to warm up to your culinary experiments, but they will thank you for taking the time to pack a little love in with their food.
  • Since sandwich bread every day can get boring, experiment with ciabatta rolls, focaccia, wraps, whole wheat english muffins, mini baguettes, pita pockets, etc.
  • Use cookie cutters and cut out the sandwich after you've made it to make fun shapes, or use a circle cutter and make a face with raisin eyes and carrot lips.
  • Make different variations of BLTs, like adding sliced avocado or making a turkey BLT. Try spreading cream cheese instead of mayo for nice change.
  • Send a healthy stuffed potato. Bake large potatoes in a hot oven for 1 hr. Halve, scoop out the flesh, mix with canned tuna or chicken, broccoli and grated cheese. Pile back in the skins and crisp in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and, voila, a perfectly packable lunch.
  • Make a fruit wrap: thinly slice apples, grapes and strawberries. Spread pineapple or strawberry cream cheese on a honey whole wheat wrap and roll. Inlcude carrot sticks on the side to squeeze in those veggies.
  • Pack a cold pasta salad with chunks of ham and peas.
  • Try a Mexican Mango Madness lunch: pack a bean and cheese burrito, sliced mangos and a green salad with dressing on the side. Add a chocolate cinnamon pudding for dessert.
  • A new twist on PB&J (and good for those allergic): Almond butter and honey and whole grain bread, carrot and celery sticks and applesauce.
  • Pack chicken noodle soup in a thermos, include a whole wheat roll and rice pudding for dessert.

Oh yeah, including a little note is also a great way to pack some love in the lunch box. I love these Lunch Grams - cute papers to write your notes on. Find them here.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

yummy, some really great ideas. Its so funny how fast things change, one year its the Miley Sirus lunch box to brown baggin it, no lunch boxes aloud!!!!! The contents however are still up for grabs and they eat what we send, if we put in the effort. I make mine responsible too. She gets to pick 4 times a month from the school lunch menu and the rest is from home. She makes her lunch, but we decide together what it will be and try to prepare in advance the weekend before. Like making cookies, trail mix, boiling eggs or making sure we have the sandwich makins that she wants. Not easy and takes a lot of planning. Love your suggestions!