Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lunch Box Basics for Big and Small “Kids”

I am the official “lunch maker” in our house. I actually love the ritual of getting up early and making hubby’s and the toddler’s lunches with love, unless I’m really tired; then I have less virtuous thoughts at 5:30 a.m…. Winking smile Anyway, while I love making lunch, it can be quite challenging to come up with “fresh” ideas and not bore hubby and the toddler. While hubby will eat pretty much any lunch, the toddler is getting a bit more picky and really likes variety. I therefore came up with a list of lunch box items that I choose from. Planning a little at the beginning of the week really helps to keep lunch interesting, new, and stress-free. I also try to involve the toddler as much as possible in making his lunch by letting him choose what fruits and veggies to buy for his lunch at the farmers’ markets. Finally, I try to prep as much as possible the night before.

Lunch box “tools:”
  • A sturdy, preferably isolated lunch box (mini ice packs are also useful to keep things cold)
  • Lots of little containers of different sizes for salads, sliced fruit, condiments – I prefer glass containers
  • Utensils
  • Napkins
  • Water bottle – ours are stainless steel 

Lunch box “main courses:” 

Wrap 02Brussels Sprouts 06
CSA Lunch 04Summer Salad 0001
  • Wrap with hummus and veggies
  • Wrap with chicken, salmon, or egg salad
  • Quinoa salad with roasted veggies and sesame dressing
  • Pasta salad with roasted veggies and chicken
  • Brown rice pasta salad with tomato/basil/almond pesto
  • Couscous salad
  • Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, and feta
  • All kinds of variations of sandwiches (different rolls and “fillings” keep things interesting; I also change out the veggies I add to my sandwiches and alternate between tomato slices, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, arugula, roasted veggies (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms…) ….)
  • Leftovers!!!! – That’s my favorite one as I can just pull it out of the fridge and put it in the lunch box!!!!
  • And many, many more…
Lunch box veggies: 

Tomatoes 03
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery
  • Mini tomatoes
  • Bell peppers strips (red and yellow are nice and  sweet)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • And many, many more…
Lunch box “crunchies:”
  • Snapea Crisps – sundried peas – we just recently discovered them and love them!
  • Tortilla chips
  • Popcorn
  • The list is really endless…
Lunch box veggie and “crunchies” dipping sauces:
  • Hummus
  • Greek yogurt with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill (or any other herb you like)
  • Any other dipping sauce you like. If you have mini containers on hand, taking a dipping sauce is easy and often makes a “boring vegetable” much more enjoyable.
Lunch box fruits:

Lunch box fruit
  • Bananas
  • Apple slices
  • Orange slices
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon slices
  • Pineapple pieces
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi
  • Fruit salad – make sure you use enough lemon juice to keep the fruit from turning brown.
  • Any other fruit that’s in season. Don’t limit yourself! Cutting fruit up, putting it in a container, and eating it with a fork makes pretty much any fruit lunch box friendly.
Lunch box “extra protein:”

  • String cheese
  • Almonds (string cheese and almonds go REALLY well together)
  • Hard-boiled eggs with a mini bottle of Tabasco
  • Greek yogurt  
Final Lunch Box Tips
  • Prep as much as possible the night before (wash water bottle, refill and put in fridge, put non-perishable food items, utensils, and napkins in lunch box, wash fruits and veggies, and pack refrigerated items and put them in fridge, etc.)
  • Making a big bowl of whole grain or brown rice pasta salad with some protein is a great way to get several healthy lunches prepped for the week on Sunday night.
  • Think “outside inside the box.” Pretty much anything can be made into lunch. Often you just need a few containers and you are good to go.
  • Spruce up your water by adding lemon and/or orange slices, frozen berries, mint leaves, and/or cucumber slices.
  • Choose colorful napkins and fun containers to brighten up lunch.
Questions: Do you pack your lunch? I usually am able to run home for lunch in between teaching, but I do pack a lunch every day for hubby and the toddler. What’s your favorite lunch? I really like leftovers. They are easy, and I really don’t mind eating the same food a few days in a row. In fact, I like the predictability… Smile

Be well,