Our requirements: a protein, whole grain, at least a fruit or veggie or two, and something with a little heart healthy fat would be perfect. You get extra credit for a dairy!
Think a variety of colors. I can remember perfectly one lunch we were served in elementary school. Visualize a metal tray with turkey gravy on mashed potatoes, corn, applesauce, and a half sandwich made out of one slice of white bread and one slice of brownish bread, with a big slab of margarine--not quite thawed out--in the middle. Do you see it? Yep, all tan. And all the same texture: mush. Not too appetizing. We really need to go for variety of texture, too.
OK. I think we're ready for Lunches To Go:
- Wrap It Up--PBB. Start with a whole wheat tortilla and let your imagination go. Try spreading it with peanut butter (or any nut butter,) lay on a whole, peeled banana, and sprinkle with a few dried cherries or raisins, and add a tablespoon of strawberry Simply Fruit strawberry jam, if you wish. Roll it up. Kids of all ages love 'em!
- Mexican Wrap. Fat-free refried beans, low fat shredded cheese, a few black olives, lots of shredded lettuce and salsa.
- Deli Wrap. 2 tbsp. light garden vegetable, or chive onion cream cheese, lay on 1-2 oz. of your favorite lean deli meat, add shredded carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber....or anything! Roll it up. This one's my favorite!
- Pizza. A slice or two from last night's take out or make one out of whole grain English muffin, pita bread or pizza crust. Add tomato sauce, low fat cheese, all the veggies you like, and a bit of ham, turkey pepperoni...use your imagination. Cold pizza is really quite good (ask any college student,) or you could zap this one in the microwave.
- Pita pockets. Anything that can go in a sandwich or wrap can go in a pita. Be creative! Try 3 Tbsp. hummus, bean sprouts, sliced tomatoes, and shredded light cheese. Or pop in a bit of last night's salad and add a pouch of tuna or a 1/3 cup of drained and rinsed canned black beans. Drizzle on your favorite light dressing and you're there!
- Planned Overs. When you have extra left over from dinner last night, it doesn't have to be "left over", you can plan to have enough left for lunch! Easy way to make a great lunch.
- Trail Mix. 1 cup whole grain cereal (Cheerios are good for this,) or 1/2 cup cereal and 1/2 cup whole grain little crackers, 1 ounce of your favorite nuts, 1/4 cup dried cherries, or your favorite dried fruit, 1 Tbsp. chocolate chips. This one's another kid-pleaser, but a useful on-the-go one for those of us of any age!
- Whole grain crackers and light cheese. Low fat mozzarella string cheese sticks or low fat cheddar 1 ounce squares are great for quick lunches. Add a little sandwich bag of whole grain crackers, a 100% juice box or vegetable juice, grab an apple, and lunch is done.
With all lunches, do a quick check.
- Food safety is critical. If you have no refrigeration, tuck in a little freezer ice pack or freeze your juice box the night before. Some lunches, like the PBB and the trail mix, will be fine without refrigeration.
- Add a bottle of water, skim or low fat milk, 100% fruit juice or low sodium tomato or V-8 juice to make your lunch really work for you.
- Double check for fruit or veggies. Little bags of carrots, celery, cucumber sticks, grapes, kiwi....mini boxes of raisins always need to be there!
- Treat? If you choose to have one, make it a small, portion controlled one. This should not be the major part of your lunch. One of those big cookies at the cafeteria can cost over 400 calories--not nutrient dense! Try 2 or 3 Hershey kisses (if you can control them)... dark chocolate adds some antioxidants for health!
I hope this helps those of you stuck in the lunch box rut...
And now I need to know, what do YOU bring for lunch?