August 25, 2011
- Local Things to Do with Kids, Teens, and Families
- School Lunch Ideas--What to Pack for Kids
- Boring School Lunch? Nope! Packing Fun Lunches
- Ideas for Toddler and Preschooler Tooth-brushing
- Allergies in August--Allergies and Kids
- Back-to-School Check List
- Tax Free Week in Connecticut 2011--August 21-27
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- Region 12, Region 14, Region 15, Oxford
- Emergency Preparedness for Parents
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- Highwire Deer and Animal Farm in Woodbury, CT
Lunches seem to be one of the things that us parents fret about over and over again. Between trying to include healthy foods, and picky eaters, sometimes we're at our wits end.
I have one child who eats peanut butter and jelly or hard-boiled eggs. I have another who takes something from the freezer to microwave at school (usually things that are about the same quality as the cafeteria food) or turkey wraps. My littlest also enjoys the same food day after day: slices of deli meat, a slice of cheese (no bread), cut fruit, and some crackers--though we do vary the fruit that's packed.
I am not going to claim I have all of the answers, but there have been some things I've picked up over time to help.
We concentrate on the macro-nutrients in lunches. My kids know they need to have at least a protein, a dairy, and a fruit and/or other carbohydrate in their lunches each day.
Sometimes the dairy counts as a protein (I think there was a few months where I couldn't figure out anything else one of my kids would eat). Occasionally a fruit juice box is the fruit.
- Lunch at schools is short. My daughter has become a person who wolfs down her food because school has trained her to eat as fast as possible. Foods needs to be prepared already and easily opened.
- Watch out for tomatoes in packed sandwiches. They tend to make the bread soggy. Try placing a larger lettuce leaf next to the bread or spreading the bread with butter or mayonnaise to keep it from absorbing the water from the tomato.
- Small children eat small meals. Keep portion sizes small. Try making a half-a-sandwich for little ones.
- My children hate when their sandwiches get crushed, so we use sandwich-sized reusable containers instead of sandwich bags.
- Ice packs help keep lunch cold and so do frozen juice boxes, if you'll be sending juice in with your child.
- Keep dressing and salad greens separate.
- When making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (assuming your school allows peanut butter--please check), put a thin layer of peanut butter on both sides--it keeps the jelly from soaking into the bread.
- Cut apples will brown. Either rub the cut surfaces with lemon (which my children hated) or send it whole. If they don't like the peel, then save the apple for home and send a banana, raisins, or other fruit instead.
- hard-boiled egg, egg salad, deviled eggs (it is really easy to make just one or two in the morning)
- deli meat
- cubed ham
- bacon--possibly for a BLT
- peanut butter and nut butters (like almond butter)
- meat salads (my kids hate mayonnaise, but you might do better) like tuna fish, chicken, or ham
- chicken or steak slices for a wrap
- cheeses (whether sliced cheddar, American, Gouda, or cheese sticks)--don't forget that old standby of cheese sandwiches. I used to eat mine with mustard--also dairy
- cream cheese--also dairy
- yogurt--also dairy
If your child likes sandwiches, you can try:
- deli breads like pumpernickel, rye, whole grain
- rolls like kaiser or sub rolls
- mini sandwiches between two crackers
- lettuce leaves as wraps
- thawed frozen waffles
Rinse the Thermos with hot water before adding hot foods. Heat the foods hotter than you would normally serve.
- soup, of course--tomato and chicken noodle are traditional, but any soup your child eats at home will do.
- spaghetti and meatballs in sauce
- spirals and meat sauce
- ravioli in oil or sauce
- fun pasta shapes like stars or wheels in oil with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
- macaroni and cheese
- sloppy joe
- baked beans
- rice--try mixing the rice with some chicken bouillon or a slice of cheese for variety
- re-fried beans
- Vegetable sides:
- carrot sticks, celery sticks, or broccoli spears sometimes with a dip (sour cream and onion, ranch or blue cheese salad dressing, peanut butter, hummus, yogurt)
- coleslaw (mine wouldn't get near this with a 10 foot pole)
- Fruit sides:
- fruit--strawberries, banana, apple, pear, raisins, grapes, orange slices or oranges they peel and section themselves, you name it! It's nature take-along snack food.
- applesauce and variants like blueberry, strawberry, or peach applesauce
- mandarin oranges or other fruit cups--pear, apple, peaches, fruit cocktail, pineapple
- Starchy sides
- graham crackers or Teddy Grahams
- Goldfish Crackers, Cheez-its
- Wheat Thins
- pasta salad
- Diary sides:
- cheese--sliced, cubed, cheese stick, on a sandwich, melted over a warm main dish
Some more unusual ideas:
- wraps cut cross-wise into pinwheels
- stuffed celery--celery sticks with cream cheese spread on them
- ants on a log--celery with peanut butter and raisins
- guacamole or salsa and corn chips
- pita bread spread with hummus
- veggie wraps with julienne carrots and cucumbers, peppers, maybe some sprouts and tofu
- Cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese or butter spread thinly on both slices of bread
- peanut butter and banana sandwich or peanut butter and raisin sandwich
- cheese cubes or slices with pepperoni or ham and crackers
- bagel with cream cheese
- wraps with cream cheese and nuts and jam cut cross-wise
- wrap with cream cheese or mayonnaise with shredded carrots
- Nutella on bread
- croissant with melted chocolate chips spread in the middle
- bananas or strawberries dipped in chocolate
- chocolate covered pretzels
If your child has more sophisticated tastes than mine (that would not be difficult), consider the exact same things you would enjoy; a Greek yogurt with nuts or granola they can mix in or a parfait--prepare it the evening before and freeze overnight and it will help keep the rest of lunch cold, salads with meat and dressing sent in separately in a jar with a tightly fitting lid.
Go through the ideas with your kids before you head out shopping. Find out what they are willing to try and what their absolute favorites are. If they are willing to try something new, be sure that they have a slightly larger side in case they don't like it.
I've even placed a similar list on the refrigerator with the ingredients that are on-hand highlighted so the kids know at a glance what's available to make. The list also makes it easier for them when I ask what I should get at the grocery store. They can check the list to be reminded of things they may want to have around.
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