With schools starting and everyone in “back-to-school” mode, I wanted to share some tips on creative lunches so you don’t get bored eating the same thing every day. Whether you are packing lunch for you or your child, these suggestions can be modified to fit either lunch box.
If you are making school lunches, get your children involved. Take your kids to the grocery store with you or have them give you suggestions on what they would like that is nutritionally sound. By getting them to ‘buy-in’ they are more likely to eat what you sent versus trading it for something less than healthy.
Note: If you are sending foods that are perishable, please be sure to add an ice pack to the insulated bag to ensure it stays fresh.
You can make a sandwich more fun to eat by cutting it into shapes with cookie cutters. Cut bread with cookie cutters and fill with your favorite sandwich makings. If you are using deli meats or cheeses on the sandwich, cut them with the cookie cutter to fit. This can even make your lunch more fun.
Peanut butter and jelly is still a classic favorite but there are other spreadable ingredients I think your kids and you will love. For example:
- Cream cheese and cucumber slices
- Pimiento cheese
- Apple butter
- Cream cheese mixed with mashed banana or blueberries
Make this sandwich more fun by putting it in a whole wheat wrap which will also add nutritional value.
- In a wrap: A mini burrito made with rice and beans can be eaten hot or cold
Bagels are also good for lunch with any of the above toppings. Some people like to scoop out the inside of the bagel to throw away unnecessary calories before adding the spread or deli meats. Einstein Bros. Bagels offers a thin bagel for only 140 calories.
- Speaking of wraps, make quesadillas the night before for a fun lunch. You can use low-fat cheese and a high-fiber wrap for a delicious change of taste. I highly recommend La Tortilla Factory low-carb wraps which are low calorie and high fiber which makes them very satisfying.
Don’t want a sandwich? Try cold chicken strips with a mustard dip or cheese cubes with grapes can be a nice alternative.
What to pack with the sandwich:
- Love those mini carrots and other cut up veggies. Make it more fun with a small container of low fat dip. Even the way you cut the veggies can make it more interesting – presentation makes a difference
- String cheese or Babybel which come individually wrapped.
- Crackers (individual portion) with cheese
- Fruit – the options are many!
- Low-fat chips
- Pretzels (individual portion)
- Air popped popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese
- Scoop of cottage cheese drizzled with honey and some cinnamon
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Soup – Cold soups travel well. Check if your child has a microwave to use at lunchtime and give lessons on how to use one or see if there’s a lunch aide who can help.
** Add a calorie-free treat by inserting a little note to make navigating the lunch bag a lot more fun!
Since kids – big or little – like their chips, here is an easy recipe:
Back-to-School Chips & Dip
Serves 12 (as an appetizer)
12 corn tortillas—or pita, whole wheat tortillas, whatever non-stick spray (health food stores have ones without the propellant or use an oil pump)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet generously with non-stick spray.
Stack the tortillas and cut them into 6 even pieces, sort of like a pizza.
Place on the cookie sheet and lightly spray the tortillas. Bake for 8 minutes or so checking to make sure they don’t get too brown.
Let cool and serve with hummus or Black Bean Dip (recipe below) . Can also be served with veggies that are FREE!
Per serving: 56 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2 g Dietary Fiber; 12g Carbohydrate; Cholesterol; 40mg Sodium
Basic Black Bean Dip
Serves 12 (as appetizer)
1 black beans, canned (15 oz.) — drained
1 can green chili peppers—drained
1/4 cup salsa—use what you have
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garlic—pressed
1 squeeze lime or lemon
Dump it all into a food processor until you achieve the right consistency. Immediately place in individual containers to grab for your lunches.
Per serving: 14 Calories (kcal); Total Fat; (11% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Dietary Fiber; 2g Carbohydrate; Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium