Grab and Go Grub for the Lunchbox Warriors
Long gone are those grade school brown bag lunches of mushy PB & J sandwiches and warm sodas. Whether tucked in the latest trendy insulated lunch sack or favorite “character” lunchbox, taking the noonday meal to school has never been more in vogue. It’s like a picnic everyday!
Packing a lunch can be a balancing act for parents. Taking into consideration your child’s favorite foods, strong dislikes and special nutritional needs, can present a challenge. Planning ahead to have a variety of food on hand and make lunches the night before can prevent some of the morning mania.
Cooper Clinic registered dietitian, Cindy Kleckner offers tips and tricks to turn the science of nutrition into the art of packing a delicious and nutritious lunch. The goal—more food in their tummy and less in the trashcan.
The key is to get your kids involved in the lunch making adventure. Choose My Plate is an excellent resource with tools to provide information and guidance on the basics of feeding your kids. A good start is using color as a quick visual for planning a balanced meal. Is there something green? Red? Orange? Yellow? Building a better brown bag lunch incorporates as many food groups and colors as possible.
Use a mix and match concept for fun and creative combinations:
- Sandwiches made using a cookie cutter
- Wholegrain cereal, fruit, yogurt and nuts
- Popcorn, apples, carrots with hummus and a cheese stick
- Crackers, cheese, ham, cherry tomatoes and a Clementine
- Chilled Mac n’ Cheese with diced lean ham, broccoli and melon cubes
- Wrap sandwiches using leftover rotisserie chicken mixed with light mayo, celery and diced apples
- Egg salad in a whole grain pita pocket, lettuce salad, trail mix and a peach
Use these examples for the lunchbox or use them as an inspiration to create your own! Try a rotation menu chart and vary the meal with the day of the week. Rely on leftovers from the fridge or try some quick fix recipes (below) that can be made in a flash. Sprinkle in a dash of fun by adding a joke-a-day!
Quick Fix Recipes
- (1) 6-inch wholegrain tortilla
- 2 oz. thin sliced lean ham, chicken or turkey
- Finely shredded lettuce
- Finely diced tomato
- 2 Tbsp grated reduced-fat cheese
- 1-2 slices avocado
- 1 Tbsp Light Ranch dressing
Layer ingredients on tortilla, roll and eat it up!
Add this joke for fun – What is an astronaut’s favorite sandwich? Launch meat!
Lunchbox B-A-N-A-N-A Split
- 1 small banana
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 Tbsp combination of chopped strawberries, crushed pineapple, nuts, granola and dried coconut.
Slit an unpeeled banana lengthwise in half, almost all the way through. Spread the peanut butter on the inside. Add the chopped mixture; close the banana, wrapping the peel around the banana. Place in plastic container and when ready for lunch, peel and eat!
And add a joke: Why did the banana peel? It forgot it’s suntan lotion!
English Muffin Pizza
- 1 English Muffin split
- 2 Tbsp Pizza Sauce
- 2 Tbsp favorite veggies
- 2 Tbsp reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
Spread 1 Tbsp sauce on each English Muffin half. Cover muffins with veggies and sprinkle grated cheese on top. Good either cold or hot in the microwave!
And one more joke for laughs: Do you know why bakers’ kids are so bored? They have “muffin” to do!
With a little effort, planning and involving your child, lunches can be well-balanced, tasty and appealing. You’ll have your lunch warrior go from “yuck” to “yum” before they can even think of negotiating for that Twinkie snack!
Cindy Kleckner RD, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian at the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch and author of Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Cindy work with clients on lifestyle intervention with nutrition, helping to improve their diet, lose excess pounds, and enjoy optimal health. For more information or to schedule a nutrition consultation, call 214-383-1000 ext 2001.