Can you think outside the sandwich for a moment?
If so, read on; we’ll get to sandwiches at the end. Although this is Part Two of Back-to-School Lunch Series, these tips are for everyone! See Part One Here.
I’ve got a confession to make. When my kids were in elementary school, I burned them out on PB & J sandwiches. I think a peanut butter sandwich is the perfect go-to for lunch (or breakfast). You don’t have to keep it cold, it’s super healthy and it’s kind of a comfort food. But yes folks, there can be too much of a good thing! Don’t do what I did and instead mix up the menu for lunch!
Lunch in Four-Part Harmony
Think of lunch in 4 parts. First, you’ve got the entree–something that has protein and carbs of some sort, then you’ve got the fruits and/or veggies. For a visual, think about this–the fruit and veggies should take up half the “plate.”
You can also mix it up–putting the protein, veggies, fruit and carbs all together. Visualize this: spinach salad with chicken & mango salad wrapped up in a whole grain tortilla. Then you need to pack something to drink.
If this sounds difficult, not to worry. Because guess what? I’ve created a two week menu for your favorite brown-bagger–and it doesn’t have to be a kid!Think outside the #sandwich with this two-week #brownbag menu. #backtoschool #healthybrownbag Click To Tweet
Meatless Monday: Bean burrito with grated cheese, avocado and cilantro. Try black beans for a change. On the side–a container of salsa and fat-free sour cream or plain greek yogurt and some baked blue tortilla chips. (yep-salsa counts as a veggie!) For dessert: mango slices or peach fruit cup.
Tuesday: S’more Lunch: Graham cracker, peanut butter (sunflower butter for allergy-free zones) and banana sandwiches with mini chocolate chips. On the side: Yogurt
Wednesday: Chili con carne or other hearty soup in a thermos. On the side: grated light cheddar, baby carrots. For dessert: grapes
Thursday: Deli wrap: Put your fav preservative-free deli meat with a slice of American cheese or grated mozzarella into a wrap with favorite condiments. Slip in some thinly sliced red or yellow peppers and a few sliced olives. On the side: apple slices
Fishy Friday: Mix canned salmon (remove the skin) with light cream cheese, dill and garlic powder in the blender or food processor. Spread on: bread, crackers, celery, etc. On the side: cucumber slices with lime, fresh pear.
Meatless Monday: Dippin’ Lunch: Hummus with whole grain pita triangles, celery, cucumber, bell pepper and carrot sticks for dipping. Dessert: melon balls.
Tuesday: Lettuce wraps with roast beef: Using leftover or deli roast beef wrap lettuce around it and cucumber strips. On the side: fresh orange or tangerine
Wednesday: Chicken & rice salad: Using leftover chicken, and rice (you can also use leftover barley, quinoa or bulgar), add dried cranberries or raisins and chopped red pepper and julienne carrots. Add a little vinaigrette or Ranch. For dessert: Yogurt Banana pudding: thinly slice bananas and mix with vanilla Greek yogurt. Put a layer of granola in the bottom and top of container.
Thursday: Tuna salad with finely chopped cucumbers and Ranch dressing; serve with Triscuits. On the side: blueberries, yellow pear tomatoes
Friday: PB&H! (Couldn’t resist this!) Take a whole grain waffle and spread with peanut butter and honey, and make a sandwich. On the side: fresh apple and a sugar cookie
What if you or kid still loves a good sandwich? No problem…just don’t forget to add the fruits and veggies to go with!
The trick with sandwiches, is how to make them different day after day:
1. Make them into finger sandwiches, which are especially great for kids of all ages who don’t like the crust.
2. Cut them into cute shapes using a cookie cutter.
3. Use different colored bread: brown & white for example.
4. Use different kinds of bread: French bread, whole grain bread, raisin bread, Ciabatta, pita. There’s a bread that works well with every filling.
5. Add unexpected ingredients–think julienne carrots or grated jicama. I’ve even seen corn added to sandwiches! If you can get some fresh herbs, a little fresh parsley or basil adds a nice touch to sandwiches.
Above all, follow the golden rule for a lunch that your kid (or spouse) won’t toss or trade: Get him involved in the process. At the store, or when making the grocery list. Ask him what he wants for lunch. Let him help put the lunch together. And don’t put things in his lunch that he won’t eat at home–there is an even smaller chance he will eat it at school (unless of course all of his friends are eating it!)
What’s to Drink?
My experience is, kids get dehydrated at school. A few sips from the water fountain just doesn’t cut it. So always send a mini water bottle plus a juice or milk box. (I like the milk boxes from Horizon or Organic Valley.) If your kids are allowed to carry a water bottle throughout the day, send a stainless steel or glass one like one of these in her backpack. There’s one in every size!
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to make it easier to find the products I recommend for healthy eating! (Clicking on the links also helps buy doggie treats for my dog Joey! He thanks you.)
Food Safety for Packed Lunches
Eat Right at School from Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Recipe Roundup from Caitilin Perez RD
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