Friday, September 11, 2009

Lunch-time Quandary

With school being back in session we parents are faced with the daunting question of what to pack in our child's lunch. I hate the idea of packing the same thing everyday and I must say the nutritional content of a Lunchable is frightening! So the question I posed to myself was, "How do I pack a variety of items that my child will love, while still being good for them?" Once I sat back to think about my own childhood lunches more questions arose. It has to be quick to eat. I would also like it to be easy to prepare. As many "made" food stuffs as prepackaged. It must be possible.

So let's break it down by category of food.

Prepackaged items we love:
2% Cheese Sticks-great for protein and calcium
High Fiber crackers- I am a fan of Rosemary Triscuits
Individual portions of hummus- I did a happy dance when I found these. Great for carrots!
Target sells organic fruit strips they have no added sugar and are about $4 for 12
Honest Tea makes juice packs for kids that are about half the sugar of your average juice box
Sugar Free Pudding or Jello Packs are usually a safe option, just remember a spoon!
100 calorie packs of cookies or snack mixes are great!
Fun size candy bars are also great for lunches

Bananas- a naturally portable snack. High in protein and potassium
Oranges are always a hit, sliced into wedges, they are easy to eat. Use Blood oranges when they are in season! They are super sweet and also have antioxidants due to their crimson hue.
Grapes are easy to eat and to portion
Plums, peaches, and nectarines are all solid choice, you may want to wedge and de-pit first
Mangos would also be a great cut up option
Apples are another great option but I feel it's best to send them whole, no brown oxidation
Pears are great but send them whole as well to prevent oxidation

Baby Carrots are really easy to pack and eat, I don't pack Ranch as it is so high in fat
Celery Sticks with peanut butter spread on them and raisins "Ants on a log"
Bell peppers of any color, sliced up with hummus would be great

I use double fiber or Light bread from Arnold Breads
Wheat or flavored wraps are a great bread alternative as are pita pockets
Roast Turkey, Roast Chicken, or Ham-I get the shaved variety, but your call
Asiago, Havarti, Pepper Jack, Swiss, or Sharp Cheddar Cheese slices, Sargento is my preference
Flavored Mayos are popular, but you can also make your own by whisking in herbs
Deli mustard is also great, make sure to put mayo or mustard on the cheese or meat and not the bread because it will get soggy before your child can eat it. Yuck.
I like alfalfa sprouts or a piece of romaine lettuce
Avocados are great but they will turn brown unless you coat them in lemon/lime juice
Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread found near peanut butter, it's amazing! Great with sliced bananas on a sandwich!

Lunch boxes are a matter of preference. I prefer a soft insulated bag. I also like the freezer packs for everyday use. I get the smallest one possible so that the food isn't frozen when it gets there. Or you can freeze the juice packs and use those as your cooling element. The lunch box pictured is from Pearl River and retails for $9.50 it also comes in a pink panda, green rabbit, and yellow tiger. All of these flatten out to an eating mat if you are at all worried about a not so clean table at school.


image via Pearl River

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