Favorite Back to School Lunch Ideas

Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.meijerhealthyliving.com


Tina Miller 2011Packing a lunch doesn’t have to be boring, showcasing the same old sandwich every day. The Meijer Healthy Living Team has some great ideas to make school lunches healthy, safe and fun.

Making Lunch Healthy

Pack a lunch with a variety of nutritious and fun foods for taste and visual appeal.  Use these tips to make lunches that your child won’t trash or trade!

• Include 3 to 4 of the 5 core food groups in their lunch (low fat dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Protein foods such as dairy and meats, nut butters and beans provide “lasting power” to keep your child fuller longer.  Carbohydrate foods provide energy; choose healthy carbs such as whole grains, fresh (or canned / frozen fruit without added sugars) and vegetables—which are low in calories but rich in nutrients.

• Make snack bags of vegetable sticks, and cubed fruits so they are ready to grab and throw into lunch boxes.

• Select juice boxes that are 100% juice (fruit or a blend of fruit and vegetable juices).

• Try some new sandwich ideas: wrap lean lunch meat, shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato in a whole grain tortilla that’s been spread with low fat vegetable cream cheese. Use whole grain pita bread or English muffins stuffed with tuna or chicken salad. Add banana slices, raisins, sliced strawberries or peach slices to a peanut butter sandwich.

• Other easy ideas: pack leftover chicken or pizza, hard boiled eggs and whole grain crackers, pasta salad with vegetables and shredded cheese, pita bread triangles and baby carrots with a hummus dip, cheese cubes, crackers and grapes or tortilla chips with bean/cheese dip.

• Replace the chips and candy with healthier alternatives: trail mix, popcorn, mini fruit muffins, string cheese, whole grain graham crackers, multi grain pretzels, dried fruits, vegetable sticks and yogurt ranch dressing, grape tomatoes, baby carrots and pepper strips, dry cereal mixed with nuts and dried fruit, whole grain granola bars.

 

Recipe: Bistro Beef Wrap

1 Meijer whole wheat (whole grain) wrap or burrito size shell

1/4 ripe California avocado (or 1 pouch Wholly Guacamole 100 calorie pack)

2 ounces (2 slices) Meijer Deli Certified Angus Beef

1/2 cup Earthbound Farms Organic Leaf or Romaine Lettuce

Spread avocado (guacamole) over burrito shell.  To one side of the burrito add slices of roast beef and top with lettuce.  Tightly roll, starting at meat side, cut in half (or pinwheels) and secure with toothpicks or wrap in plastic wrap.

Serve with Meijer applesauce and milk

 

Making Lunch Safe

It’s always important to keep food stored at appropriate temperatures, especially ones packed in lunch boxes that sit for hours on end while children are in the classroom.  Use lunchtime essentials like insulated lunch bags, sanitizing hand wipes, ice packs and thermoses to keep lunches safe.   And for those with food allergies and special diet needs, Meijer offers a wide variety of healthy gluten free options and website resources on MeijerMealbox.com.

Safe foods tips:

• Always prepare lunches with clean hands and on a clean surface.

• Keep cold foods cold with freezer gel packs, and/or insulated lunch boxes; pre-chill foods; use frozen juice boxes or tube yogurt that is frozen to keep food col); keep hot foods in a thermos.  Pre-heat the thermos first by filling with boiling or very hot tap water, allow to rest for about 1 minute then dump water.  Fill with heated foods (like soups, chili, or spaghetti) and cover tightly.

• Pack hand sanitizing wipes for quick clean up.

 

Hot Recipe: Very Veggie Soup

1 Can (14.5 oz.) Meijer Organics Vegetable Soup, add 1 Cup Meijer frozen vegetables such as cut green beans or Edamame and heat through.

 

Pre-heat thermos with very hot tap water or boiling water; let stand one minute then empty water.  Add hot soup and seal tightly.

 

To make it a meal, add:

Whole grain Goldfish Crackers

Meijer reduced fat string cheese

Fresh Michigan apple

Horizon Organic Milk box

 

Making Lunch Fun!

Unveiling what’s for lunch is often a big to-do around the lunch table. The Meijer Healthy Living Team has tips to make your child’s lunch the envy of the lunchroom by simply making it fun with stickers, colored napkins, and personal notes to your child.  Try these fun ideas for your child’s lunch box:

• Have your children help you prepare their lunch – they are more likely to eat it.

• Cut sandwiches into fun shapes (try using a cookie cutter).

• Write your child a note on the peel of a banana by scoring the skin with a toothpick or using a sharpie marker.

• Buy cheese in different shapes – sun and moon, cubes, etc.

• Assemble fruits chunks on a straw “skewer”. Serve with yogurt dip.

• Use fun shaped pasta for pasta salads.

• Pack ingredients so kids can assemble their own lunch – tacos, mini cheese/meat/cracker sandwiches, etc.

• Make your own trail mix at home using your child’s favorite cereal, raisins, nuts, and mini-pretzels. Toss in a few fruit gummies as a surprise.

• Add a special treat – a note, small game, riddle, cartoon, etc.

 

Fun Recipe: Lunchbox Taco Salad

Makes 1 Serving

1 cup Dole bag shredded chopped Romaine or Just Lettuce Blend

¼ cup chopped tomato (or Meijer grape tomatoes, halved)

½ cup canned reduced sodium black beans or kidney, rinsed and drained

¼ cup Meijer 2% milk reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup baked tortilla chips

¼ cup salsa

1. In a plastic container big enough to use as a bowl toss together lettuce and beans. Pack tomatoes, crumbled tortilla chips, salsa and shredded cheese in separate small containers.

2. At lunch, your child can have fun topping their salad with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese and salsa.

Serve with 2-3 healthier cookies:

 

Shortcut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 17.5 oz. pkg. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie mix

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 large Meijer egg

1/2 cup Country Crock Butter Blend

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, flax seed, butter and egg until soft dough forms.

3. Line baking sheet with parchment baking paper (if desired) and drop by rounded Tbsp. onto cookie sheet.

4. Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Find more kid pleasing lunch ideas at www.Meijerhealthyliving.com

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Author:Tina Miller

Tina is a Meijer Dietitian and Healthy Living Advisor for East Michigan and Northern Ohio. With over 20 years of experience as a registered dietitian, her goals include providing you with simple steps to achieve and maintain good health, menus and recipes that are easy and enjoyable, and sound nutrition advice that is based on current and credible research.

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