You recognize the signs of a slow decline to boring school lunches and snacks. You see the signs in the same shopping list, the lack of interest on your child's face when you run through the list of options and snacks that stick around in their lunch bag day after day. But that brand-new bento box and those reusable pouches and containers were supposed to inspire perfectly balanced, innovative lunches and snacks, right?
What you need is a class in School Nutrition 101. First topic: the anatomy of a lunch. Start with a protein, add carbohydrates, fat and fruits and vegetables. Next, pack snacks that fuel. Learn how to go beyond Goldfish to create snacks that curb hunger. Pack the right food and you'll earn high marks from your kids.
If the sandwich bread gets soggy, then ditch it altogether and go for little skewers instead. Use a toothpick, a thin pretzel stick or something similar and create a kebab of cubed cheese, meat and fruit or vegetables, such as a piece of apple, apricot, grape tomato or cucumber. You can also add some greens like kale, spinach or crunchy Swiss chard.
Tip: Ask for a very thick slice of meat at the deli counter so that you can easily cut and cube it. Otherwise, you can use leftover grilled chicken.
Pack your delicious homemade trail mix with fresh fruit and protein-rich Greek yogurt for a quick, colorful lunch.
Bento Box = Mini Food Truck
Use the sections to create Asian Lettuce Wraps. Use cold edamame, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts for the perfect fillers. Or make street tacos with a variety of beans, salsa, guacamole and cold tofu or other protein along with small corn tortillas and you have a fun, gluten-free lunch.
Dinner for lunch is perfect when you top it just right. Make mashed potatoes (or, even better, mashed sweet potatoes), scoop them into a thermos or similar container and top it with cooked broccoli and shredded cheese.
This is fast, easy and tasty -- a win-win-win. Microwave a pouch of brown rice, then add beans and a scoop of salsa for flavor. Serve with sliced avocado on the side and you have a nutritious, flavorful, fiber-rich lunch. Make it even more fun by ditching the fork and using corn chips to scoop it up instead.
Snacks for Energy
- Pretzels with a small scoop of almond butter or sunflower seed butter
- Carrot sticks and guacamole
- Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar Cheese Snacking Bar and whole-grain crackers
- Four ounces of Greek yogurt
- Trail mix (save money and have some fun with your kids by making your own!)
Trail Mix Recipes
Simply toss all the ingredients together in a bag and you're ready to go.
- Whole, mini or slivered almonds and cashews (dry roasted, unsalted)
- Dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds
- Original Puffins Cereal
Peanut Butter and Apples
- Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios
- Dried apple slices, cut into small pieces
- Peanuts (for a nut-free version, replace with dry-roasted soy beans)
- Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Cereal
- Dried strawberries
- Mini dark chocolate chips
Edamame Blend(gluten-free option)
- Dried edamame
- Sunflower seeds
- Small pieces of crystallized ginger
- Gluten-free Honey Rice Puffin Cereal
- Cascadian Farms Cinnamon Crunch Cereal
- Emerald Dark Chocolate Flavor Cocoa Roast Almonds
- Vanilla yogurt-covered raisins
Four Ps (gluten-free option)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pretzels (mini gluten-free pretzels can be used for a gluten-free mix)
- Dried pear
Sweet and Salty
- Dried apricot chunks
- Dry-roasted cashews
- Mini pretzel sticks
- Bear Naked Peak Protein Granola
By ALLISON STOWELL