I wanted to use “brown bags” for the nice alliteration, but of course now there are wonderful insulated lunch bags. (How did I escape salmonella after years of warm baloney sandwiches?) These bags are great and can be cleaned out easily.
My daughter has never been a fan of sandwiches. I tried, but the sandwiches would come home, uneaten, and she’d be starving. Eventually, though, we came up with some healthy, appetizing combos.
Curried Chicken Salad: To a can of chicken, add two tablespoons of light mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of chopped celery, 1/8 cup chopped apple and some nuts. Stir in a teaspoon of curry powder. Pack into a container and toss in a bag of crackers or pita bread. Include a soy milk box, carrot sticks and a cookie. This was a big hit.
Soup: Homemade is best, but the lower-sodium soups were usually a hit. The trickiest part of this one is to find a good thermos. Pre-heat it with boiling water to keep hot items hot. I like to add bread sticks and cheese cubes to go with.
Tofu: Cubes of tofu, a little packet of soy sauce, and a baggie of snow-peas and carrots were a favorite. Don’t forget the chopsticks.
Peanut butter . . . without the bread: A container of peanut butter is fun when you send a baggie of celery sticks and apples to dip. Add string cheese and a granola bar and this is a fun lunch.
Nachos (kind of): My friend Anne came up with this one. Pack a container of salsa, olives, and cheese. Add a baggie of tortilla chips. Warning: their friends love to share this one. Send lots.
Wraps: My daughter really liked the combo of light cream cheese, turkey, and lettuce. I usually sliced them because they looked sportier. Low-fat cheese puffs and apple juice went well with this lunch.
Noodles: We avoided the instant brands because of the MSG, high sodium and fat content. It was easy to make a home-made version, adding cooked chicken or tofu and vegetables. We would just pour them into the thermos.
Leftovers: Yup, you read that right. The biggest hits were slices of cold panko-fried chicken, over salad. There are many leftovers that can be re-made into lunches. If they liked it the first time, they’ll probably like it again.
I suspect my love of Bread and Jam for Frances (by Russsell and Lillian Hoban, Harper Collins Publishing) influenced my lunch-packing. Presentation matters! Check out Japanese bento boxes to understand the meaning of “the eye also eats.” Packing your child’s lunch gives you, not a bureaucratic lunch program, the power to provide nutritious, lower-cost, and better-tasting lunches.