Brown-bagging it gets a bad rap. I automatically think soggy sandwiches that are anything but healthy (blame the Wonder Bread era). But the mid-day meal has come a looooong way from what my mom used to pack. And you don’t need a cooking degree to pull off a perfect packable: “Keep it simple, but make it fun,” says Sarah Jones, Nutrition Counselor for Mountainside Fitness. “Focus on balance and variety.” That’s exactly what Sarah did with these 5 easy-to-make, nutrient-dense lunches that are guaranteed to be a hit with kids and parents alike
Veg-Head Whole Grain Pita: Stuff a whole grain pita with your favorite hummus and veggies
How to: Fill ½ a whole-wheat pita with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers (all colors), lettuce and olives (plain for kids; Kalamata for adults)
Sides: Sweet potato chips + Plum
Balanced Bento Box: Pack a bento box-style lunchbox full of fruits, chopped veggies and healthy proteins
How to: Focus on balance and variety here. Choose a rainbow of fruits & veggies (eg: grape tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers, sugar snap peas, blueberries and purple grapes with a side of yogurt dip or low-fat ranch dressing) + whole wheat pretzels + a palm full of favorite unsalted nuts.
Pinwheels and Ants on a Log: These 2 kid classics pair up for a kid-pleasing meal!
How to: For pinwheels, top a whole grain tortilla with low-fat cream cheese (or chevre for adults) with low-sodium deli turkey or chicken. Roll it up and cut it into 4 pieces. For ants on a log, top celery with peanut butter (or alternative nut butter) and raisins or dried cranberries.
Protein Kabobs: Use small skewers (with the tips cut off!) to make meat & cheese kabobs
How to: Alternate between chunks of cheese (Havarti, Swiss, marble) and meat (low-sodium deli turkey or chicken, cooked chicken sausage, chicken chunks) on skewers.
Sides: Whole grain crackers + Nectarine
PB&J Alternatives: Good old peanut butter & jelly on whole grain is a standard, but not your only option
How to: Start with whole wheat bread and mix it up with almond or cashew butter and choose fruit spread that’s sweetened with 100% fruit juice, like Crofter’s Organic. Try using a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich into fun shapes – kids love eating food when it’s fun!
Sides: Applesauce cup + Edamame pods