Over the years of lunch packing our family has developed a bit of a repertoire of foods for our lunches. Today the bigger girls pack their own lunches, following the expected guidelines of a balanced meal and going off a list we created together to be sure we have plenty of variety and interest.
Each lunch is expected to have the following:
Two (or more) proteins
One (or more) veggie
One (or more) fruit
No more than one "pantry food" (i.e crackers, pretzels, bread, baked snack, etc. not central to main dish)
For a while we included grains in our list but since that tends to happen anyway and is often covered in the main dish or pantry food option, we don't worry about it too much any more and instead just aim to have healthy grain options available to make for easy lunch packing.
|Our family's favorite homemade granola bars|
Easy grains for lunch options:
(Adaptable for the gluten-free diet as well.)
- whole wheat bread
- cooked brown rice
- cooke quinoa (actually a high protein seed)
- cooked barley
- homemade granola bars (we love this basic, build your own recipe)
- whole wheat tortillas
- corn tortillas
- whole wheat pita bread
- whole grain crackers
- whole grain baked snack (a delicious and fun recipe that is easy to convert to whole wheat are these soft pretzels, my girls love helping to make them.)
- whole wheat pastas
- whole wheat couscous
- popped popcorn
- whole grain muffins
- whole grain pancakes
Together we sat down and brainstormed lunch options, making a list to go on our refrigerator and color coding based on food type. With thick colored pencils and a few block crayons and we had a colorful list of foods to fill our lunch pails and lunch baskets. Not only does it make it easy for the girls packing their own lunch, but daddy and I use it too, not only for packing school lunches but often for inspiration for lunches and even relaxed dinners for the family. With a simple list of nutritious and tasty foods we've already agreed upon and enjoy, preparing our shopping list is easy, and putting our lunches together even more so. We are omnivores so there is meat and dairy on our list but it's simple enough to adapt to your family's diet and preferences just by following the basic outline above.
|Homemade avocado/carrot/cucumber/cooked tuna sushi |
with an apple, pretzels, hard boiled egg, and peanuts
Some of what's on our list
Brain food, muscle food, growing food. Don't skimp on this one.
(At the time of this writing, Bayou Village School had no known nut allergy issues, so nuts are on our list. If your child's school is a nut-free-zone, you would want to be sure there were no nut options on your list.)
- all nuts
- roasted chick peas (a huge family favorite- recipe coming!)
- tuna fish
- hard boiled eggs
- egg salad
- nut butters
- quinoa (or anything made from quinoa)
- cooked beans
- hummus (homemade)
- black bean and spinach hummus (homemade)
- chicken salad
- strips of meat (often from left overs)
- taco mixture
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
- any vegetable julienne (carrots, celery, zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers, etc. Best w/a dip like hummus!)
- salad (keep it simple and dressing on the side or it gets soggy)
- homemade salsa (corn chips as the pantry food make this a real treat for my kids)
- avocado slices/chunks
- veggie based sauces for pasta
- slice cucumbers
- whole fresh, raw veggies- wash and go (asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli chunks, etc.)
The best kind of sweet is the kind packed with nutrients and flavors straight from the earth. Earth's dessert!
- fresh and contained fruit (apples, clementine, berries, peaches, tangerines, plums, pears, etc.)
- chopped fruit (pineapple, fruit salad, fruit kabobs, etc.)
- kiwi (cut in half, accompanied by a spoon to spoon out the insides)
- fruit rolls (fruit with nutbutter wrapped in a tortilla)
When you can, make it fun but don't stress over it, share the experience with your child.
- Veggie Rainbow Wraps
- bean pizza (mashed beans with garlic, salt, and pepper, spread on bread or tortilla, sprinkle with cheese and veggies)
- lettuce wraps (shredded carrots, a touch of dressing, tuna or other protein wrapped in lettuce)
- sandwiches (think beyond peanut butter and jelly, almost anything can be on a sandwich!)
- left overs
- pinwheels (just about anything protein plus veggie/fruit topping rolled up in tortilla and sliced in pinwheels)
- sushi (whole wheat rice, sushi wraps, tiny chopped veggies, and tiny pieces of protein, roll and slice)
- pancake sandwiches (left over homemade whole wheat pancakes with nut butter and fruit slices)
- beans and rice
- stackers (protein options and veggies sliced to stack on whole grain pieces of bread or crackers)
- couscous surprise (couscous mixed with protein options- beans and/or meat with cooked veggies usually)
- avocado and black bean salad
- quinoa salad
- shredded carrot and walnut salad
- chick pea and cilantro salad
- nut butter mixed with honey or agave nectar (fruit dip)
- live culture yogurt or sugar-free yogurt with molasses and honey/agave nectar (fruit dip)
- nut butter mixed with soy sauce, ginger, and honey (veggie dip)
- 1/2 plain yogurt, 1/2 cream cheese in food processor with cilantro, cumin, spinach, salt, pepper, tablespoon of salsa (veggie/chip dip)
- yogurt whizzed with fruit (fruit dip)
- hummus (easy to make your own: chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt pepper)
- bean dip (any bean can be made into it's own version of hummus, experiment!)
- marinara dip (veggies- left over spaghetti sauce!)
- Take advantage of left overs and don't be afraid to "repurpose" food, creating a new dish from left overs.
- Don't underestimate the power of dips, veggies and fruit with dip is fun to eat and maybe even new foods will be attempted this way.
- Small portions, try not to over pack food, it can overwhelm and just gets thrown away.
- Individual containers in lunch box/basket makes it easier for young ones to manage.
- Introduce new foods along side a favorite.
- Include home rituals such as cloth napkin, utensils, etc.
- Intentionally create left overs- make too much rice and set aside, grill an extra piece of chicken, etc.
- Ask your child what their friends have for lunch that looks good, try it if it fits with your lunch standards.
- Pack foods that can last most, if not all day unrefridgerated and encourage finishing lunch for after school snack to avoid waste.
- Aim for whole foods (not processed, whole grains, fresh produce, etc.) for more nutrition, less chemicals.
- Have an idea of lunches for the week so shopping is done ahead of time.
- When possible, make the night before and have ready in the fridge to grab and go.
- Involve your child, even young ones, in packing lunches. Ownership tastes better.
- Have occasional treats, specially homemade ones like these fruit roll-ups.
- Make food together over the weekend that can keep and go in lunches later like the roll-ups or granola bars.
- Limit refined sugars and high sodium foods to help your student's attention span.
- Reusable containers save money and avoid trashing our planet.
- Be creative- we're often boxed in by our ideas of meals, branch out and be creative.
- Trust the old standbys too- if your child likes the same thing every day, if it's balanced then why not?!
- Pack it fun and attractive but don't stress over presentation, they won't care.
- Know when to stop trying if a food keeps coming home uneaten and wait for another time to try again.
- Clean out the lunch containers together immediately and talk about tomorrow's lunch then.
- Let your child get creative, they may surprise you with interesting and nutritious choices to try.
More links for ideas:
Some of our favorite lunch containers are the tempered glass containers with snapping lids from Wean Green. Wean Green is a family owned, eco-friendly company with practical and affordable products that help make packing lunches and storing food safely a snap. I love this company. Featuring tempered glass (break-resistant, and we've tried, trust me) and BPA-free snap on lids, Wean Green's containers come in a variety of sizes to meet all your lunch packing needs. I love how colorful my 4 year old's lunch basket is with the bright Wean Green container lids and she loves helping pick which containers to use when we're packing her lunch.
Wean Green is generously giving away a set each of their wean tubes, snack cubes, and sandwich cubes to one lucky winner, a $40 value.
To be entered, please leave a comment below sharing your favorite packed lunch tip.
For a second entry, visit the Wean Green site and come back to post here with the link to the set you'd like to have today.
That's it, two easy steps for a possible two entries. Please also be sure to head over to the Wean Green Facebook page and thank then for this opportunity and click "like" to keep up with news, information, and additional opportunities from this wonderful company. Opportunity to enter the giveaway will be available from February 28 - March 28, 2012. A big thanks to Melissa Gunning, the mom behind Wean Green, for this giveaway, their generous support, and for caring for families and the environment. Good luck everyone!
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