It may be hard to believe, but we’re already just a few weeks from the start of school. Despite its popularity, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can get monotonous after awhile. We’ve uncovered a few alternatives for lunches as you start to gear up for back-to-school planning.
Most experts recommend including a protein source, a vegetable (cooked or fresh) and a fresh seasonal fruit along with water or 100% juice to ensure a balanced lunch.
- Mix and Match Savoury Lunch Box Roll-Ups. We found this idea in Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family” cookbook. Using a whole wheat tortilla or pita as your wrap, mix and match from a variety of protein fillings and spreads. Protein suggestions include black beans, brown rice, shrimp, turkey and chicken. Then simply add a garnish or spread such as avocado slices, grated carrots, grated zucchini, lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes, cheese, salsa or hummus. By keeping a few “mix and match” favourites on hand in the fridge, you can quickly assemble a roll-up in no time at all. One of our favourites is black beans and brown rice with green onions and cilantro, flavoured with a bit of salsa and a handful of cheese. Add a veggie and a piece of fruit, you’re good to go.
- Soup is an often overlooked champion of lunch. Whether you go for the quick win of a canned soup or take some time to make a hearty homemade soup, it makes a filling and very satisfying lunch. We liked Rachel Ray’s Quick Chick n’ Noodle as a traditional starting point (and yes, you can make it in 30 minutes) but soup can be very creative and unique, adjusted to your family’s preferences.
- Sandwiches are a simple staple of lunches for a reason. Of course, the usual PB&J is the joy of many but if you’re looking for other alternatives, try a veggie sandwich. One of our favourites is herb and garlic cream cheese with cucumber and tomato on whole wheat. Other options are tuna or chicken salad in pita pockets, grilled cheese with ham or bacon and tomato.
- Leftovers are the unsung heroes of lunches the world over. Tuck away a portion of last night’s supper in an air tight container during clean up and you’re already set for lunch the next day. In fact, some meals taste better after they’ve had a chance to marinate overnight in the fridge anyway.
- Breakfast for Lunch. When you make pancakes, make a few extras and tuck them away for lunch. Omelettes, egg scrambles, oatmeal and French toast are all good options for lunchtime eating as well. They have the added bonus of being quick to prepare usually.
One suggestion that we loved from Cynthia Lair’s cookbook was that for those “days where you feel like adding something special or extra, tuck in a flower, a cartoon or a note from you instead of candy.” One parent we met admitted to writing funny notes on her daughter’s banana peel with a marker which turned into a family tradition, a special link between her and her daughter all through elementary school.
What are your favourite healthy lunch ideas? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.