What’s In the Lunch Box – Part 2!


So what are some good ideas for healthy, tasty, affordable, easy-to-make lunches to stash in your children’s lunch bags or boxes? If that isn’t narrowing enough, often there is no refrigeration available, so the food has to be OK at room temperature for several hours. And of course there is the final factor: The kids have to actually want to eat it.

I’ve struggled with this over the last two years that my oldest son has been taking his lunch to school, and expect it to only compound this year as my little one heads off for pre-school. Too often, my lunch bag lunches end up being a rotating cycle of turkey-and-cheese-and-then- ham-and-cheese sandwiches, plus a piece of fruit and maybe some cut-up carrots. No wonder the boys are really sick of this by the end of the week!

This year, I’ve vowed to do better, on both the health and the “taste” fronts. I’ve talked to a lot of mothers who are more creative about this kind of thing than I am, and researched a bit online and in some cookbooks. Here are some ideas I’m actually looking forward to trying:

 Frozen, shelled edamame (soy beans), stored in a plastic bag or container. They will thaw out by lunchtime and provide a cruncy, delicious source of protein.
 Pita bread and tortilla wraps as an alternative to bread. Fill them with purchased spreads like hummus or guacamole, and add chopped or sliced tomatoes. Finish off the pita bread with golden raisins, and the tortilla wrap with sliced olives.
 Almond butter, soy butter, cashew butter… anything but peanut butter, just for the sake of something new! These are just as delicious with a favorite jam or jelly.
 Couscous or quinoa salads, packed in a small plastic container. Season up anyway that you like with chopped fresh fruits, dried fruits like cranberries or raisins, and chopped fresh herbs like basil. Add in drained chick peas for a protein boost.
 Hard boiled eggs. If you want to go the route of egg salad but worry about using mayonnaise without a way to keep the sandwich cool, substitute mustard and use relish with juices.
 You can’t go wrong with fruit, but at least once in a while, try something beyond the standard roll of apple, pear or grapes. Things like kiwi, as well as chunks of pineapple, mango or papaya may be a hit with your kids and at least will provide a little variety.
 If your kids like raisins, they will most likely go for other dried fruits. Try dried apricots, cranberries and slices of dried apples.
 If it is a turkey and cheese sandwich day, change another element of the sandwich. Try arugula instead of lettuce, or mustard in place of mayonnaise. Add sliced tomatoes and/or pickles, and a piece of bacon instead of cheese.
 If the kids insist on cheese (and at some point, mine always do), think about the taste factor; cheese is a great food to expand the range of eating. String cheese may be cheap and easy, but it’s also extremely bland, as are packaged slices of American cheese that are on many sandwiches. Instead, go for Monterey Jack, good cheddar, Parmesan or other better cheeses. A smaller serving will suffice, and the difference in quality is amazing!
 Finally, if you do have time to put together a small sandwich recipe, here is one using tuna that my kids love:

1 can (9.75 oz) tuna fish, well-drained
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
½ cup chick peas, drained and mashed
½ cup currants (or golden raisins)
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. Serve in pita pockets


One Response to “What’s In the Lunch Box – Part 2!”

  1. Betsy Says:

    The recipe sounds great! I send avocado in an air tight container with some ranch dip. I also soak apples in a little sprite instead of lemon juice when I send slices so they won’t oxidize and my kids won’t turn their noses up at the sour taste when paired with their peanut butter.

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