The School Lunch Solution

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At Annabel and Luke's school today, some moms and I were discussing the school's lunch dilemma. How much food should we send? What do our kids actually eat? How do we offer them variety without making ourselves crazy? How can we encourage healthy eating?

It looked like my kids were the best eaters of the bunch. I highly doubt that & # 39; s my doing – I tend to think with kids and eating habits, you get what you're doing! I'm lucky that my kids eat salad and live for fruit, but I know that's not always the case. So here it is, I'm no guru, but I thought I'd try to offer my best school lunch solutions:

Firstly, invest in some re-usable containers, like a small thermos , a package of small, flat tupperware, and my favorite, a sandwich cover. Our school sold the wrap-n-mats last year, and I spent two days using and washing. And a must-have is a re-usable water bottle, like the ones from sigg. Let's face it, using baggies might be easier, but in the long run, we'll be teaching our kids about importantly about using re-using and reducing waste. So, we'll be teaching them responsibility because they have to remember to put the things back into their lunch bags and bring them home!

Here are some non-pbj ideas for sandwiches:
* mini-bagels with cream cheese or hummus
* cheese sandwich
* peanut butter and honey (and banana!)
tortilla roll-ups with luncheon meat, flavored hummus, and cheese
veggie delight: wholemeal tortilla, ranch dressing, sliced ​​red pepper, spinach, and cheese

You do not always have to pack a sandwich. I mean, Annabel ate pb & j three times a week last year, but it does not get a little old. I like to call you I call, "Hodge-podge" lunches, which means I stick about 3-5 different random things in different containers. Today, Annabel's contained: 4 baby carrots, 4 wholemeal tortilla wedges, a container of multiple dolphins of hummus, string cheese, and a handful of graham cracker bites. What did you come home with? Three of the carrots and one of the tortillas. Bad, huh? And this took me only 5 minutes to throw together the night before!

Here are some protein-packed ideas for you:
* hummus
* canned, rinsed black beans
* string cheese or cubed cheese
* chick peas (garbanzo beans): rinse and drain a can, put on a jelly roll pan and season with garlic salt, and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or so, shaking the pan to make all sides crunchy (a GREAT potato chip alternative!)
* hard-boiled egg whites
* tofu: Okay, I know what you & # 39; re thinking. Kids, eating tofu? Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with. For you tofu-virgins, I buy the extra-firm, slice it thinly, season it with seasoning salt or garlic, and fry it in olive oil or sesame oil till it's crispy. My kids love it! You can serve it with warm angel hair noodles and some soy sauce!

Here are some thermos ideas for you. Make the meal in the morning and it'll stay warm till lunch. Cubby or desk:
* soup (my kids' favorite is Italian bean and pasta soup *** – my recipe at
* Whole wheat pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese or pasta with marinara sauce
* mac and cheese
* grilled cheese: sounds a little big, but I have a friend who makes grilled cheese in the morning, slices into "sticks," and keeps it semi-warm in the thermos. Her kids LOVE it!
* French toast sticks
* leftovers: stews, lasagna, whatever your kid will eat!

Here are the other staples:
* yogurt
* yogurt drinks: The Yoplait store
* sliced ​​fruit
* ants on a log: celery with peanut butter and raisins
* cold leftover pizza
* applesauce in small containers

Trying to feed our children healthy, varied foods can be tough, I know. But if we want to increase their palettes, then we need to make a bit of creative and keep introducing new, healthy foods. Look through the list above again; I've venture to guess that you have half of the items already in your pantry or fridge. Now get cooking, and let me know which ones are big hits at your house!

Italian Bean and Pasta Soup
2-3 cans cannellini beans, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 – 3 carrots, peeled
2 [3] celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken (or vegetable!) stick
1 can diced tomatoes
salt, pepper to taste

In saucepan over medium heat, saute onion, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil, about 8 minutes. Add liquid, beans, tomatoes, salt and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.

Remove 2 ladlefuls of beans / veggies and blend in a blender, then return pure to pan. (I always puree the veggies, like tomatoes, that my kids say they do not like to eat!). Season with salt, pepper and reheat gently.

Cook pasta to barely al dente. Add to soup. Simmer a few minutes. Serve with cheese and olive oil.

*** If you make ahead, just add pasta when reheating.

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Source by Melanie Diamond