Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to School Lunch Box Ideas

I've been doing research on what to pack in my son's lunch box. Why? Up to this point, my husband had taken care of school lunches. But now, since we'll have two households, I don't think I can count on him to take care of that anymore!

I wanted to find fun, yummy and fairly healthy foods for my son. Things that I'd pack myself for lunch. Since I've been to a ton of different websites and compiled a list for my own convenience, I thought I'd share the ideas with others.

Main Dishes
  1. Sandwiches - PB&J, PB&Banana with Honey, Various meats & cheeses, egg salad, chicken salad. Liven up the sandwiches by using pita bread, mini bagels, tortillas, English muffins, dinner rolls, regular sized bagels with cream cheese, or use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into neat shapes
  2. Macaroni & cheese (try to slip in some steamed broccoli or another veggie they'd like)
  3. Potstickers with dipping sauce on the side
  4. Cold tofu with a soy, sesame oil and green onion dipping sauce (serve w/edamame)
  5. Cold noodle salads (sesame noodles with chicken)
  6. Pig in a blanket (a hot dog baked in a crescent roll/biscuit coating)
  7. Hot soup in a thermos
  8. Cubed cheeses with cubed ham, crackers, olives, pickles, and artichoke hearts (think: party tray)
  9. Try chicken salad in an apple "cup" - cut the top 1/3 of the apple off and removed interior flesh, fill with chicken salad and replace the top
Side Dishes
  1. Carrot sticks and other veggies with ranch dip in a container
  2. Low-fat crisps/chips (smaller snack size bags)
  3. Rice cakes or oat cakes
  4. Baked pita chips (easy to do at home, using pita bread)
  5. Pasta salad
  6. Potato salad
  7. Rice pudding
  8. Banana or zucchini bread, also try carrot pineapple muffins
  9. Dried fruit (apricots, raisins, etc.)
  10. Fruit salad, fruit cocktail (remember to buy those with light syrup or juice)
  11. Fresh fruit (apples, bananas, citrus, pears, pineapple, melon, cherries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)...make fruit more interesting by placing it on bamboo skewers
  12. Granola / trail mix (Wild Oats' website has recipe for trail mix)
  13. Applesauce cup
  14. Olives / pickles
  15. String cheese
  16. Yogurt
  17. Reduced fat, hard cheese
  1. Water
  2. Water with a Country Time lemonade pack mixed in (low sugar and it's real sugar, not HFCS)
  3. Sparkling water flavored with fruit
  4. 1% milk (regular or chocolate)
  5. Juice box (check to make sure it's 100% juice...freeze the juice box and it'll thaw by lunch)
General Tips
  1. Use low-fat cheese on sandwiches. Though cheese provides calcium, it's the second leading source of artery-clogging saturated fat in kids' diets.
  2. Switch from ham, bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef to low-fat alternatives. You can still buy the ham and bologna...just look for a lower-fat, lower-sodium variety.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in each lunch.
  4. Use whole grain breads instead of white breads (beware of 'enriched flour' means it was ground so fine that it lost all it's nutrients and they've been added back in; however, your body doesn't absorb the added nutrients the same way it would in their natural forms).
  5. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. These are big sources of saturated fats.
  6. Pack baked snacks instead of fried snacks - even if they use Olean (it can cause cramping & diarrhea...cha cha cha).
  7. If you send juice, use 100% juice.
  8. Avoid Lunchables.
If you have any ideas to add to mine, leave me a comment...I can certainly use any good suggestions! Also, if you haven't checked it out, Google 'laptop lunches' to see the American version of the Japanese bento box.

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