For Lunch with Love...

I don't know about you, but I start each school year off strong. Yep, I set my alarm early, make a great breakfast, figure out lunch, run on the treadmill, shower, etc. By about the second week, so begins the slide. My alarm clock gets set later and snoozes longer, fewer things happen in the morning, and by about now, we are all waking up at the same time for a chaotic hurry-up-and-get-out-the-door routine.

So let's talk lunch. Lunch art is all the rage right now, and if you are anything like me, Pinterest and art-y lunches are oh so intimidating. I love to cook, but I'm certainly not making butterfly fruit arrangements for lunch. So, here's what I think a lunchbox should be... 

Credit: Petite Nutrition

Credit: Petite Nutrition

I love the bento box (lunch box) because it encourages us, as lunch packers, to think outside the sandwich and provide portion appropriate variety. Kids love to see finger foods, colorful nibbles and different options. And I love to use leftovers because they are already made and can be packed the night before, tend to be more nutritious than cold cuts and crackers and are economical. So, here is my lunch box checklist: 

Credit: Petite Nutrition

Credit: Petite Nutrition

Lunch is such an important meal because a lot of kids eat a less than stellar breakfast, and need a nutritional anchor in the middle of the day to fuel their school day. Food safety is an issue, and if your school does not refrigerate lunches (or put them in heavy duty cooler with lots of ice), make sure you use multiple commercial grade ice packs. It is also a good idea to pack lunches the night before and refrigerate to make sure they are cold to begin with. Food should not be held for more than 2 hours between 40 and 140 degrees. So here are some lunch box examples...

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: chicken & black beans & cheese

Whole grain: brown rice

Fruit: raspberries, tomatoes, avocado

Veggie: bell pepper

Little extra: cinnamon graham cracker

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: mozzarella balls

Whole grain: snap pea crisps & sunbutter muffin

Fruit: blackberries, tomatoes

Veggie: bell pepper, basil

Little extra: sunbutter muffin

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: salmon

Whole grain: quinoa

Fruit: mango, tomatoes

Veggie: baby boy choy & mushrooms

Little extra: ginger snap cookie

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: egg/cheese/spinach strata

Whole grain: sun butter muffins

Fruit: watermelon chunks

Veggie: broccoli

Little extra: dye free chocolate candies

Photo Credit; Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit; Petite Nutrition

Protein source: pesto roasted chicken

Whole grain/starch: sweet potatoes

Fruit: grapes & grape tomatoes

Veggie: sugar snap peas

Little extra: fig cookie

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: hardboiled egg

Whole grain/starch: whole wheat pasta (cauliflower mac n cheese)

Fruit: strawberries

Veggie: bell peppers & cauliflower

Little extra: dates

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: sun butter & yogurt

Whole grain/starch: whole wheat tortilla

Fruit: banana/raspberries/blackberries

Veggie: cucumber

Little extra: dried apricot

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Protein source: edamame & seeds

Whole grain/starch: quinoa

Fruit: apple slices & dates & apricots (in Fruit & Seed balls - recipe below)

Veggie: carrots

Little extra: dark chocolate

A special shout out to my assistant, with her new birthday present camera for helping me on this post! 

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

For nut-free schools, try my Fruit & Seed Balls that are a nut-free/ school-safe alternative to Larabars/energy bars/granola bars! So easy - no bake! Little hands grabbed these so fast it was hard to snap this picture! Enjoy!! Like what you read? Please subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the box on this page to get my posts in your inbox! And like us on Facebook or follow us on instagram!

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

(Nut-Free) Fruit & Seed Balls

1 1/3 cup Medjool fresh dates, seeded and chopped (about 21 dates)

2/3 cup chopped dried apricots

1 cup seeds (here I used 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and 1/2 cup sunflower seeds)

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Put everything in a food processor (such as Cuisinart).

2. Pulse repeatedly in the beginning to combine ingredients until ingredients are broken up.

3. Then process continuously for 1 -2 minutes until a clump begins to form. 

4. Put clump into a bowl, and use hands to form into a huge ball. Then have children help you roll into 1-2 inch balls. Serve immediately. Store in refrigerator.