Curran (3) starts preschool next week and I know some of you have been in a few weeks or are approaching your start as well. I will be honest with you, I get stuck on kid lunches. A sunflower butter and banana sandwich on repeat seems the simplest way out but I'd rather save that for days when I have no minutes to prepare something. Generally speaking, I try to get some protein, fat and fiber in there to keep his energy up and stable. I recognize the sugar will get in there naturally via fruit, crackers, bread etc. and believe me, I don't always get this right, but I try to keep in mind that kids' blood sugar is even more sensitive than ours. If it's a nut butter and fruit sandwich, the side is leftover roasted chicken or a hard boiled egg or string cheese. I'm not a nutritionist, but I read a lot, and there is a plethora of research explaining the short and long term benefits of not having huge spikes in blood sugar throughout the day, and that includes kids. It helps their mood, behavior, attention span and normalize energy levels. Curran runs on the ultra sensitive side, so whatever I can do prevent a crash. Below are a few ideas, whether you have kids in school or not, or for yourself. I love the broccoli pesto in my scrambled eggs. My kids are not vegetarian, so some of these ideas include animal proteins but you can easily leave them out.
* Most schools are no nuts, so sunflower butter is a staple. They sell an unsweetened one at Trader Joes and Whole Foods. I've made my own but can never get it as spreadable as the store-bought stuff. Jam most often has added sugar, so think about layering fresh fruit in its place. Banana slices, strawberries, peaches and apple have all been successful. They have no added sugar and add texture to an otherwise moosh sandwich.
* Frittata type things. Made in muffin tins make them super portable. These are easy if your kid is ok with mushrooms. I find they are passable when chopped small enough. On the note of great breakfast items that can also be thrown in a lunchbox, these pancakes look perfect.
* These broccoli balls. They travel well and pack some good protein, fat and fiber. Speaking of, these Vegetable Flatbreads from Green Kitchen Stories are amazing and so easy. For the little kids and big kids here, we love these Squash, Greens and Quinoa Fritters.
* I am not above a packaged snack. I try to do one if I need to fill it out and I'm certain it's the first thing he eats and that's ok, I did the same thing.
I found a variety snack pack of Luke's at Costco recently. They were half the price they are on Amazon but just so you can see them. Both kids like the crispy chickpeas from The Goodbean. Both Costco and Trader Joes sell dried broccoli which I think smells like fish food but my kids love it so I add that to the mix. We also like the kids Rx bars or cut up half a Perfect Bar and put it in the "dipper jar" of his lunch box** (see note below). These would be considered a treat. They sell these at Costco, Trader Joes and Target in the fridge section. Add other things you like in the comment section!
* I am planning to make Laura's Seedy Granola Bars (recipe posted here) and just skip the chocolate drizzle on top. Cut these Brown Rice Crisp Treats into smaller squares and you'll make someones day...including your own. Or I will hide a few chocolate chips inside a pitted Medjool date as a treat. All are nut free options.
+ Water bottle and a love note post-it or a sticker and I feel like WHEN DID I BECOME OLD ENOUGH TO BE PACKING LUNCHES?!?! Ok, good luck!
LUNCHBOX SAMMIES, THREE WAYS
V.1 "sushi sandwich" (which I learned about from Weelicious )
1 slice of soft sandwich bread
2 Tbsp. hummus
1ish Tbsp. grated carrots
sprinkle of herbs or sprouts, optional
Roll the bread with a rolling pin to make it flat and thin. Cut off the crust. Spread the hummus over the top and then top with the grated carrots and herbs/sprouts, if using. Roll it up lengthwise and slice them into 1/2" pinwheels.
V.2 "Broccoli Mashup"
This will make enough for a few sandwiches. I also mix a few spoonfuls into my scrambled eggs halfway through cooking and eat it with a sliced tomato. Make a double batch for that reason alone.
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. sea salt
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup barely steamed and cooled broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
small squeeze of lemon
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 whole grain tortilla or sandwich bread
cheese, chicken, salami or garbanzo beans, one or all to taste
In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts, garlic and salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves, broccoli, olive oil and pulse to combine. You want it well chopped but not a puree.
Into a tortilla or between bread, do a generous spread of the broccoli pesto and then layer with cheese, shredded chicken, salami and or chickpeas as you wish.
V.3 "cheese + veggie spread"
This is sort of like a lazy version of hummus, but is a way to add vegetables to the sandwich without them being particularly noticeable.
3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup white beans
handful of baby spinach
1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
sliced turkey or chicken, optional
1 whole grain tortilla or 2 slices sandwich bread
sprinkle of shaved parmesan or 1 slice of provolone, havarti or mozzarella
In a food processor, combine the artichokes, white beans, spinach, oil and a good season of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times just to chop and get everything to hold together a bit. Barely toast the bread or warm the tortilla (I like to take the raw edge off but not dry it out). Spread the vegetable mixture on, a layer of turkey, if using, and a slice of cheese or sprinkle or parmesan on top. Roll and slice the wrap or sandwich.
**The lunch boxes posted here are from Planetbox. Comes with a bag and a dipper container that I'll use for necessary dips, hummus or plain yogurt. I find stainless to not hold on to color and smell like plastic does.