Ask any kid how long it takes for them to get tired of eating the same old sandwiches and chips for lunch every day and they’ll tell you it doesn’t take long. Growing up, I envied my classmates that got to buy their lunch every day. I virtually always had the same thing: a sandwich on white bread with some chips, Kool-aid and the occasional treat: a couple of cookies. To this day, I’m not sure how I can stomach sandwiches at all after serious overkill during my childhood. Needless to say, I plan to pack more interesting lunches for my children and I’m already taking note of good options.
While all sandwiches aren’t created equal, some have a lot less nutritional value than others. White bread generally doesn’t help matters any. For something that’s different and a little more nutritious, try stuffing a whole wheat pita pocket with shredded turkey or chicken, baby spinach, tomato, and honey mustard. As a side you could pack fruit salad topped with vanilla yogurt.
Don’t forget that a bag lunch can go beyond the realm of sandwiches. If your child likes tomatoes, try this dish: slice a tomato into eight wedge sections while leaving the bottom intact (so it won’t fall apart). Allow the pieces to fan out into a sort of flower shape. Top with chicken or tuna salad. For a side dish, serve cottage cheese and peaches. (If your child doesn’t like cottage cheese, put it in the blender until it’s creamy and then serve it with fruit and graham crackers. Tell them it’s a “build your own personal cheesecake.”)
Nevertheless, eating a cold lunch every day gets really boring. So, one of the best things you can do is purchase a thermos or other insulated container for your child’s lunch. Soup isn’t the only thing to carry in a thermos, either. Make some vegetarian chili and give your child homemade tortilla chips to go with it. Just slice up whole wheat tortillas and bake at 400 degrees until crispy.
Are you worried that your picky eater will complain about the change from his standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Try making some pinwheels; they are fun to look at and to eat. Take two slices of whole wheat bread and cut off the crust. Place them next to each other on a clean flat surface while overlapping the edges by about half an inch. Flatten the bread with a rolling pin until it seems to be the thickness of a tortilla. Top with deli meat, cream cheese (or whipped cottage cheese), and green onions. Roll it up (it should only be one bread slice wide when you’re done) and slice it. Serve with veggie sticks like celery, carrots, and cucumber. If you think this doesn’t sound like something a kid would like, don’t worry. My toddler loved it!
As the school week draws to a close with pizza day, your child will be happy to know he can now enjoy pizza along with the rest of his classmates. Simply pack toasted whole wheat English muffins, a thermos with warm pizza sauce, a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese, and his favorite toppings. Your child can also have a healthy dessert to go with his pizza: make a yogurt sundae! Make several alternating layers of fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt in a plastic container then top with granola.
Parents usually choose to have their child carry their lunch to school because they can’t afford to pay for school lunches every day, or they want to know that their child is going to be eating something healthy. It’s easy to give your child simple, inexpensive, and healthy lunches without repeating the same menu day after day. Don’t be afraid to get creative; more than likely, your child will thank you for the change.