The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

August 14, 2013

Amanda Stone: School lunches pack punch

CARTHAGE, Mo. — School lunches have gotten a bad rap in the past few years. When the rumors started flying about french fries and ketchup passing as a vegetable, parents were up in arms, and justifiably so.

School lunch menus have been cleaned up a bit, offering fresh fruit or vegetables daily. However, processed food such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs and tater tots are still regulars.

Sending your kid to school with a packed lunch is your best option. Brown bagging has evolved past mangled sandwiches and squishy bananas. Do yourself and your kid a favor by investing in a divided container. You can get fancy with bento boxes and laptop lunch containers that come in plastic or metal. Or just buy a couple of zip-close divided containers. There's less waste, and it's easy to give kids the smaller portions they need.

I've never met a kid who didn't love Lunchables. There's something so enticing about tiny stacks of cheese, meat and crackers. You can make your own healthy Lunchables to store in your divided containers. Try a pizza version by using whole-wheat pita cut into triangles, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and black olives. Or let your little ones assemble their own sandwich by including sliced cheese, meat, spinach leaves and a whole-wheat roll sliced in half.

You must make packed lunches interesting in order to keep your little darlings from straying to the dark side. If not, before you know it your kid will be swapping his daily PB&J for his buddy's Crispito, whatever that is. Keep sandwiches fun by cutting them out with cookie cutters, or use a whole-wheat tortilla or pita instead.

I like to use silicone muffin cups to make extra room in the divided container. Sliced apples, peanut butter, baby carrots, a homemade muffin and some popcorn stored in silicone muffin cups make a great lunch. Or include a boiled egg, a whole-wheat waffle, a few celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, and some grapes. Hummus is a fun option as well, packed with veggies and pita for dipping. A thermos of chicken noodle soup or beef stew will be welcome on a cold day.

Here are a few ideas to help beat the boredom of brown-bag lunches. Consider making these recipes for dinner then using the leftovers in lunchboxes.

 

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