They're baaaccckkk! School is in and it's time to make those daily school lunches again. Tired of packing your child's lunch only to discover it barely touched when you empty her backpack? After a summer of leisure (read: mostly unhealthy) eating, you may be challenged to prepare lunches that will meet both your child's taste preferences and your own health expectations.
Based on age, impart mini-bites of knowledge to your child about nutrition, healthy vs. unhealthy foods, etc. so that they will better appreciate your efforts to create portable, tasty yet nutritional lunches. Engage your child in selecting his/her favorite flavors and foods and build lunch meals around them. For example, if your child doesn't drink his milk well but loves the taste of chocolate, work out an agreement for chocolate milk one day a week, if your child drinks their white milk the rest of the month.
More and more food manufacturers are increasing their lines of nutritional snacks, especially for kids. A relatively new chewy snack called "Gudernoobs" is made by Woo Hoo Foods. The chews are low in calories, fat and sugars and can be ordered from www.woohoofoods.com. In addition to lunch "entrees," select nutritious and delicious "brain" snacks to round out the meal. Here are a few to consider:
o Cheese sticks or "Babybel" rounds
o High-juice-content drinks or probiotic yoghurt drinks
o Goldfish crackers
o Sugar-free Applesauce and "Jello" cups
o High-fiber granola
o Fruit-nut or granola bars
o Nutritional animal "gummies"
o Freeze-dried fruit or fruit leathers
o Carrot sticks with dip
o Dips for Veggies: Salsa, almond butter, flavored yoghurt,
o Bite-sized crackers and cookies, e.g. "Cheeze-it" Scrabble
o Bags of cereal, grapes, blueberries, melon pieces, etc.
o Snack mix packs of pretzels, fruit, nuts, raisins, etc. e.g.
"Chex" Mix Sweet 'n Salty Trail Mix (or make a DIY version
with your child's input)
o Leftover pieces of chicken, beef, etc. placed on a stick
(with a tasty sauce cup of peanut sauce, salad dressing, etc.)
Tuna Rollups (makes 4 halves)
1 can (6 oz) light tuna fish, preferably packed in water, drained and flaked
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
¼ tsp wasabi paste* or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 10" flour tortillas
2 medium leaves Boston lettuce
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded lengthwise (without seeds)
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
½ ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced ½" thick
1. Combine the tuna, 2 Tbsp mayonnaise and wasabi paste in a small bowl; mix until blended.
2. Lay the tortillas on a flat surface. Spread ½ Tbsp mayonnaise on each tortilla. Arrange the lettuce on top of both; arrange cucumber, carrot, and avocado lengthwise in rows near one edge. Spoon the tuna in a line next to the vegetables (away from the edge). Roll each tortilla up snugly into a cylinder.
3. Cut crosswise in half.
*Note: Wasabi paste is available in the Asian section of the market.
PBJ Sandwich.2 (makes 1)
2 slices whole-grain or pita bread
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp softened reduced-fat cream cheese
½ cup favorite fresh fruit, sliced
1 tsp honey
1. Spread the peanut butter on one slice; cream cheese on the other.
2. Arrange fruit slices in an even single layer on top of the peanut butter. Drizzle the honey on the fruit; place the slice with the cream cheese on top. Cut sandwich into halves or quarters.
Veggie Rainbow Wheels (makes 8)
½ cup white bean dip
2 whole-wheat or spinach tortillas
Pre-sliced lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickles, avocado, cheese, etc.
1. Spread white bean dip on the tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato, cheese, cucumber and other favorite vegetables.
2. Roll up the tortilla. Then slice into 4 1" cross-sections to make the wheels.
Mini-Pizzas (makes 2)
1 whole-grain English muffin
1 small jar Marinara sauce
½ cup pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup steamed broccoli or spinach, optional
1. Top English muffin halves with marinara sauce. If your child won't balk, add chopped steamed broccoli or spinach on top.
2. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 min. Let cool, then wrap up.
French Toast Sticks (makes ~16 sticks)
4 slices whole-grain bread
½ cup milk
½ cup pureed pre-cooked sweet potatoes, squash or eggplant
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1-2 Tbsp margarine
1. With eggs and milk, create a French toast batter. Add pureed vegetables to batter for an extra boost of beta-carotene.
2. Cook French toast with margarine until browned; sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Let toast cool, slice into sticks for a fork-free dish. Store slices in plastic bag and keep refrigerated until use.
Cookie Moon Pies (makes 3 dozen)
36 favorite cookies e.g. peanut butter, chocolate chip
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups marshmallow cream*
1. Beat the butter and sugar at low speed until blended and then beat at high speed until fluffy, about 5 min. Add the vanilla and marshmallow cream and mix at low speed until blended, about 1 min.
2. Match pairs of cookies with the same shapes and spread the bottom side of 1 cookie with filling and sandwich together with the other cookie. Store the finished pies in a covered plastic container and chill for up to 3 days.
*Note: Whole Foods sells "Tiny Trapeze" marshmallow cream, a "no junkie stuff" version.