Welcome to Tantalizing Thursday on Chief 187 Chatter. As this week marks back to school for my children, my thoughts, understandably, revolve around this event. Lunch is, invariably, the one meal that is difficult to keep fresh, enticing, protein-rich, complex carbohydrate-packed, and simply delicious. With children’s sometimes narrow palate, a daily fickleness that is persistent, and the need to be nutritious and delicious at the same time, lunch can be the bane of a parent of school-aged children’s existence. Hopefully the suggestions here will inspire, remind, or help you with the dilemma that is lunch.
PB&J – If your school/class allows it for your child, the classic sandwich is really a great choice. The peanut butter is high in protein but sweet so the child will typically love it and not trade or throw it out. If but on a high fiber, whole grain bread the meal will keep the child satiated and focused for the rest of the day. Substitute other nut butters, add in things like banana or raisins, and choose different whole grain breads. As long as your child’s school/class does not have a “no nut zone” rule, this is an ideal lunch.
Yogurt with add-ins – Some kids simply do not like traditional sandwiches. Try a Greek-style yogurt which is higher in protein, some sunflower seeds, granola, or Kashi cereal to add in once the child is at lunch. Make it easy and quick, but enticing for them to finish the whole thing. Fresh berries added to the yogurt lunch make it all the more nutritious. Whole grain crackers are a good accompaniment as well.
Deli roll-ups – The prepackaged Lunchables brand deli meats, cheeses, & crackers are all the rage with my children. I rarely buy them, though, because they are very expensive, not very filling, and made with inferior ingredients in my opinion. I send in deli meats (lean turkey breast, maybe some ham, Swiss cheese) rolled up and, depending on the child, cut into smaller pieces, whole grain crackers, a piece of fruit, a calcium fortified 100% vitamin C juice box, and a treat. All of the important parts are there, but I can give a much healthier mix of ingredients, and still provide a candy or pudding treat!
Soup – Remember thermoses? They still exist. Heat up the child’s favorite soup, pour into thermos, pack with the lunch and the child will have warm (not scalding) soup for lunch. Add whole grain Goldfish crackers, fruit, and maybe a Slim Jim!
Bagel – Whole grain bagels are available as are reduced fat cream cheeses. Whatever your child enjoys on their bagel can usually be sent to school. Mini bagels for little hands are best.
Pita sandwiches – Pita is the round flat bread that can be sliced open revealing a “pocket” to stuff food. There are tons of different hummus varieties to choose, so that’s an option. Traditional sandwich stuffers are also viable options as well. Try to encourage stuffing veggie add-ins as well.
Ants on a log – Classics like celery stuffed with peanut butter (again, if your school/class allows) and raisins, or cream cheese and raisins, is a great idea for some children. Or, pack an array of “approved” veggies by your child and send a dip – Ranch dressing, peanut butter, hummus. The same with fruit if you send in apple and pear slices and offer a yogurt , peanut butter, or caramel dipping sauce.
Sushi - Pick up your child's favorite roll that won't spoil (Cali roll or veggie roll) made with brown rice. I have one child, my middle son, who likes two things - cheeseburgers and sushi! I would be thrilled to send him with a sushi roll to school occasionally. Children have far more sophisticated palates than we did at their ages!
These are just some friendly suggestions. I’d love to read your go-to lunch options for your children or your favorites from when you were a school-aged child eating lunch. Thinking outside of the “sandwich” has helped my children and me have fewer battles when it comes to packing lunch. As long as there are healthy items present, a treat for them, and sustainable fuel to last the rest of the day, we all tend to be happy.
Please join me tomorrow as we end this first week of school with the Friday Music Blog!