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...
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:
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...
Protein source: chicken & black beans & cheese
Whole grain: brown rice
Fruit: raspberries, tomatoes, avocado
Veggie: bell pepper
Little extra: cinnamon graham cracker
Protein source: mozzarella balls
Whole grain: snap pea crisps & sunbutter muffin
Fruit: blackberries, tomatoes
Veggie: bell pepper, basil
Little extra: sunbutter muffin
Protein source: salmon
Whole grain: quinoa
Fruit: mango, tomatoes
Veggie: baby boy choy & mushrooms
Little extra: ginger snap cookie
Protein source: egg/cheese/spinach strata
Whole grain: sun butter muffins
Fruit: watermelon chunks
Little extra: dye free chocolate candies
Protein source: pesto roasted chicken
Whole grain/starch: sweet potatoes
Fruit: grapes & grape tomatoes
Veggie: sugar snap peas
Little extra: fig cookie
Protein source: hardboiled egg
Whole grain/starch: whole wheat pasta (cauliflower mac n cheese)
Veggie: bell peppers & cauliflower
Little extra: dates
Protein source: sun butter & yogurt
Whole grain/starch: whole wheat tortilla
Little extra: dried apricot
Protein source: edamame & seeds
Whole grain/starch: quinoa
Fruit: apple slices & dates & apricots (in Fruit & Seed balls - recipe below)
Little extra: dark chocolate
A special shout out to my assistant, with her new birthday present camera for helping me on this post!
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!
(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.