You are probably already bored with making school lunches, and your kids are tired of eating what you pack. Just because my kids are grown hasn't stopped me from thinking outside the lunch box. I offer some alternatives to the usual peanut butter and jelly. When I was packing for my kids, I had a plan that helped me break the boredom. I share my ideas to help you get out of the rut you may already be in:
Packaging: Lunch bags and boxes are made of insulated materials that keep foods safe at the proper temperatures. Make sure you invest in one of these totes. Then get some small ice packs to ensure your kids are eating food that is wholesome. I also get packages of washable plastic containers sized to hold individual servings. These can be reused.
tortillas and pita too.
Wraps: Try filling wraps with avocado, hummus, flavored cream cheese or cashew and almond butters. Combine creamy spreads with shredded carrots, crisp romaine, hard-boiled eggs or English cucumber slices.
Try an updated PB & J with almond butter and some great preserves on a cinnamon wrap. If your kids are vegetarian, try one of the baked tofu squares available in natural food stores. I slice them thin and put them in a wrap with hummus and field greens.
Salads: I use small containers filled with chopped salads and then top the base salad of greens and veggies with egg salad, avocado or tuna salad. Dressings can be packed in reusable 2-ounce plastic containers to add just before eating.
If you don't like the idea of washing the plastic containers or don't think your child will bring them home, you can buy dressing in single-serve packets. My kids used to enjoy getting a salad a few times a week.
Snacks: There are many healthy items available such as whole-grain cookies that are lightly sweetened with alternative sweeteners. Trail mixes made with nuts and sun-dried fruits abound in bulk stores and even come packaged. And even crispy snacks are available that are healthy. I never thought I would see the day a Cheez Doodle-like snack would actually be healthful. But they are.
Fruit: Pack something seasonal. In the fall, cut an apple in half, scoop out the seeds and fill the cavity with a bit of almond or cashew butter. It's a great power treat. Or break the monotony by offering a kiwi cut in half with a plastic spoon for scooping out the pulp. A sliced star fruit is a real Florida treat.
Drinks: There are so many alternatives available today that weren't around when I was raising my kids. But you can't beat good old water. Especially now that we have access to reusable safe "bottles." Get your kids into the eco-friendly habit of refilling bottles instead of recycling them.
Steve Petusevsky is a freelance writer in Coral Springs. If you have questions for him, write Vegetarian Today, Sun Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301-2293. Or send an e-mail with your full name, address and telephone number to dhartz@SunSentinel.com with "Vegetarian Today" in the subject line. Personal replies are not possible.