Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Great Lunchbox Conundrum

Okay, moms (and maybe some dads too, but in my experience, it is us moms who bear the weight of school lunch responsibilities), here you go, some new approaches to school lunch boxes. If you saw my post last week, you know I've been trying to come up with a list of new ideas for your kid's school lunch.

I've heard a lot from mom's via email, facebook and (get this!) face to face conversations. Packing school lunches can be a challenge, whether you have a "I want lunchables!" daughter or a "I only eat a crustless peanut butter and jelly" son.

I've broken these ideas down into categories below, and I bet you, you have some really great ideas to share too. So, after you read my start of ideas, please comment with anything else that comes to mind!

School Lunch Box Ideas:

Roll-Ups
(All of these ideas start with the same basic approach, a whole wheat or other tortilla, with something spread on it, topped and rolled and cut into 4-6 pieces)

Pizza: marinara sauce, toppings (try sliced olives, spinach, pepperoni and/or roasted peppers) and shredded mozzarella cheese
Taco: cream cheese and salsa mixture, toppings (try shredded lettuce, diced peppers, corn, black beans and/or sliced olives) and shredded cheddar cheese
Mediterranean: hummus, diced cucumber, sliced olives
Ranch: ranch dip (try adding a bit of ranch dressing to cream cheese), shredded carrot, diced chicken, shredded cheddar cheese
Barbecue: barbecue sauce, diced chicken, corn, shredded cabbage or lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese
Pesto: pesto and cream cheese mixture, feta cheese, roasted peppers, sliced olives
Hawaiian: cream cheese, drizzle of barbecue sauce, diced pineapple (squeeze all of the moisture out, or the roll-up will get soggy), diced ham
American: ranch dip, diced smoked turkey, sliced pickles (again, squeeze all of the moisture out), shredded cheddar cheese
Teriyaki: teriyaki sauce, diced chicken, shredded carrot, bell pepper slices, tiny broccoli florets

Homemade "Lunchables"

Cheese and Crackers: stacks of cheese, cut into cute shapes or squares the same size as your crackers, whole wheat crackers, sliced meat or pepperoni, cut up fruit
Make-Your-Own Pizzas: mini-pitas (we get ours from Trader Joe's, they are no bigger than 2-3 inches in diameter), mini-container of marinara, shredded cheese, pepperoni slices, sliced olives
Make-Your-Own Tacos: tortilla chip bowls (Tostitos makes these), shredded cheddar cheese, salsa
Make-Your-Own Pitas: mini pitas, cut in half, hummus, vegetables, feta cheese

Dips
Hummus with pita, sliced carrots, cucumber slices, or the vegetables of your choice

Peanut butter with whole wheat crackers, apple slices, celery sticks, pretzels

Barbecue sauce with chicken strips (thanks Jenn, great idea)

Vanilla yogurt with apple slices, crackers or pretzels, or served in a bowl with "toppings" to make a yogurt sundae, such as raisins, dried fruit, granola, coconut

Cottage cheese mixed with salt and pepper, whole wheat crackers, vegetables

Cream cheese (combined with a bit of ranch dressing to make it more easy to dip), vegetable sticks

Alouette (or soft pub cheese from Trader Joe's) cheese with whole wheat crackers, vegetables


Leftovers (this is a partial list of things we have tried or will try with our thermos funtainer food jar)

Tortellini with vegetables and a touch of olive oil
Vegetable Dumplings and edamame
Pasta Carbonara (really, any pasta)
Soups
Barbecue Pork or Chicken (Erin, do you have any extra of this in your house?)
Meatballs, noodles and broccoli
Spaghetti Os (make your own with tomato soup and pasta--super tip Katie)
Rice and Beans

Odds and Ends (other lunch ideas)

Smoothies in a thermos
Hard Boiled Eggs
Homemade Trail Mix (what a good thought Mayhem)


Last but not least, I try not to get on a high horse with food, but it is so important to read the labels of your food. Here, from Kraft's own website, is the ingredient list of one of their new "wholesome and nutritious" (their words, not mine) Lunchable options:

INGREDIENTS: ROAST WHITE TURKEY - CURED - SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED - WHITE TURKEY, WATER, POTASSIUM LACTATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, DEXTROSE, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SMOKE FLAVOR, SODIUM NITRITE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR. PASTEURIZED PREPARED CHEDDAR CHEESE PRODUCT - MILK, WHEY, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), CHEESE CULTURE, ENZYMES, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION. CONTAINS: MILK. CRACKERS - UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, SALT, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), WHEY (FROM MILK), SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL FLAVOR. CONTAINS: WHEAT, MILK, SOY

Our kids all suffer from I-want-junk-fooditis, I think it is part of being a kid. I am not trying to single out a certain type of food as "bad," but I think this ingredient list can serve as an example. I fall into the 90-10 camp with food with ingredient lists like the above...make sure you allow your kid to be a kid from time to time, but make sure the majority of their food has ingredient lists that you can pronounce!

Oh, and keep those ideas coming, I am always looking for new inspirations!

SPC

15 comments:

Slacker Mama said...

Holy moly this list *ROCKS*!

It's just me and the girls this weekend so maybe we'll have a wrap-tasting party to see if my girls (you know, Ms. I'm Super Picky and Only want PB&J but Go to a Peanut-free School and Ms. Lunchables and School Lunches are WAY Cooler Than What You Offer) like them.

I'm also thinking of doing "Breakfast for Lunch". You know...either muffins (maybe more savory than sweet), or cereal and yogurt, or even waffle/jelly sandwiches.

Amer21 said...

Sunflower butter is a great alternative to peanut butter for schools that are peanut free. Evan likes it and TJ's sells it. He often gets a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich when he can't eat what his preschool is serving (due to his allergies).

Kimberly said...

Love this list of ideas! I actually did the homemade lunchables option for my 6 year old this morning (whole grain triscuits, aged cheddar, and garlic sausage). She was so excited when she saw me packing her lunch!

And I truly love and applaud your 90-10 philosophy - it's mine as well. I want my kids to be healthier than the norm, but I also want them to experience the norm and not feel deprived. =)

Kimberly said...

p.s. Another favourite around here is muffins. I especially like making whole wheat pumpkin muffins (sometimes with chopped pecans, sometimes chocolate chips for a treat).

Tasha Allen said...

Another Roll-Up idea...

Whole wheat tortilla, spread with Peanut Butter (or Almond Butter), sprinkle with raisins and/or granola, place a banana on there and roll away!

My kids call them "Banarittos"

JerseyBaby said...

You totally rock! And guess what!? Haven tried her favorite "raviolis" at school - the one item she wanted to buy this year - and hated them! Said they were cold and tasteless. All the more reason to test out these roll-ups and mock-Lunchables!

marla {family fresh cooking} said...

I love your 90-10 mindset when it comes to what we feed our kids. Deprivation is never a good thing especially when we are trying to raise healthy, happy kids. Your lunchbox ideas are awesome & I will refer back to this post for great ideas.

Elizabeth Kronoff said...

You are my new favorite person. Kids start school on Wednesday and I think they'll LOVE the roll-ups. I might buy stock in whole wheat Chi-Chis.

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Thanks Elizabeth!! Also, you can use regular bread and roll it flat too. I did a post recently on this.

Michele said...

Snack - Roasted garbanzo beans!

melissa said...

You are amazing once again!! Thanks for the reminder when lunches have become such a pain to make when they are not eaten! I am going to get tortillas and try out some of these!
I also send my baked oatmeal to school in her thermos and she loves it! Yogurt on the side and she gobbles it up!

Vicki said...

Love, love, love your list Jessica. Don't forget: edamame, organic turkey breast wrapped in lettuce, celery with peanut butter and raisins, cucumber and tuna stacks.. Always thinking gluten and dairy free.

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Thanks Vicki! And thanks so much for sharing on FB!!

Jennifer Jupp said...

This is great, Jessica! One of my new favorite items is great for smoothies in lunches: http://tinyurl.com/9ny9ndn. The price just went down, too. I paid $15 just two weeks ago.

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Thanks for the tip Jennifer!