Brown Bag Revival, or Ideas for Lunch That Won't End Up in the Trash

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Mealtime

Dishing it Out Rob Barrett

Welcome to Dishing it Out, ParentDish's weekly food column. Rob Barrett is a dad who knows his way around the kitchen; his web site, Cooking For Dads, provides simple video recipes for dads (and moms!). You can read all the Dishing it Out posts here.

In an attempt to do the right thing and serve healthy food, our daughters' school served barley soup every Thursday for the entire year. Barley soup! After week one it was clear that we'd be packing lunch that day.

Packing a lunch, brown bagging it, or brandishing your Brady Bunch lunch box at school is fraught with dangers. We've had some hits and some misses. We, I say we, but in an attempt at full disclosure, mainly my wife packs lunch for the girls. I help with almost everything around the house, but I rarely pack lunch. So any ideas herewith are less mine and more gleaned from others.

First of all, I'm going to make a couple assumptions:

1. Your school has peanut issues so I'm going to leave out peanut butter. (Do you really need me to tell you about PBJ?)

2. Your child does not have access to a microwave.

3. Your child won't eat sushi, cow tongue, or other strange substances at school. Way uncool.What made the biggest shift for us was in changing our thinking from "What sandwich can I make today," to "I need a protein, a starch and a fruit/veggie." This opened up a whole new world to us. For instance lunch could be a bunch of nuts, a granola bar and some grapes; some leftover chicken, a rice ball, and cherry tomatoes; or a quesadilla and some carrots.

And the nutty bars, did I mention the nutty bars? We do like to include a treat but only with the understanding that everything else gets eaten first. Yes, it is based on the honor system but my Ellie is 11, I coach her volleyball team, and her friends are more than willing to rat her out. There is a time and place for tattling.

Here are some other ideas that our kids like:
• Quesadillas - lay down a tortilla, cover with grated cheddar cheese, add some sliced tomatoes and some shredded chicken, microwave until the cheese just melts. Cut like a pizza. Can also be fried in a pan.
• Salami sandwiches with cheese. They have just enough moisture to not need mayo.
• Any kind of cut up fruit, kiwi, pineapple, star fruit, peaches, or apples.
• Finger food like cherry tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, or grapes. Remember, no carrots - no nutty bar.
• Rice balls - use sushi rice, make a ball around chicken or some other cooked meat. Super yum. Include a soy sauce packet if desired.
• If you need condiments like mayo, ketsup or mustard for your sandwiches, use the little packets. I like to stock up when I'm at McDonald's or Super Target. Just grab a handful and run.

Remember, our kids love us. Love them back with a lunch that won't embarrass them.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.