Lunchbox Lamentation

Don’t get me wrong: I’m *ecstatic* that the boys are off to school again on Monday. The Bear will be in third grade, and The Monkey will be joining him at the local elementary school as a brand spanking new Kindergartner. The downside to having two kids in full-time school is lunch. We are lunchbox packers for a few reasons: 1) it’s economical, 2) it’s a healthier choice, and 3) my kids like to choose what they eat.

Although The Bear would be perfectly happy with a PB&J on whole wheat with carrots and either grapes or a clementine every day, I think that variety in his diet is important. The Monkey hasn’t had to pack a lunch with any regularity so far, so we’ll see his preferences. At any rate, *I* have lunch rules: lunches must have a protein, a whole grain, and at least one fruit and at least one vegetable. They get water to drink. We avoid artificial colors, HFCS, and trans-fats. Thankfully, we have no peanut restrictions or allergies to work around. And if it isn’t already obvious, I’m way too lazy to do the Bento thing with any real commitment.

I wanted to involve the boys in our lunch planning. We sat down a their table in the kitchen, and each boy got a piece of paper. The Bear was in charge of listing out all the whole grains he could think of. The Monkey was charged with listing proteins. Then we all brainstormed other options for each list.

Whole grains: whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortilla/pita, multigrain crackers, popcorn, Veggie Booty, cereal (whole grain, high fiber), whole wheat or multigrain pasta, oatmeal, and granola

Proteins: greek yogurt, lowfat cheese (cubes or sticks), peanut butter, eggs (hard boiled, already peeled), deli meat (low-sodium, nitrate-free), beans (black, refried, garbanzo, kidney), hummus, nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios), lowfat cottage cheese, milk, tuna, lowfat cream cheese, turkey mini-meatloafs.

Fruit and vegetable choices can be made from whatever we have in the house. My kids are great fruit & veg eaters, so these lunch items are not a struggle in my house.

We also brainstormed some favorite combination foods: bean & cheese burritos, quesadillas, hummus & veggies, yogurt & granola, sandwiches/wraps, pesto pasta primavera, trail mix, cottage cheese with fruit, cereal & milk, pita cheese pizza, chicken salad (a modified waldorf style), homemade lunchables

Now my boys are ready to help pack their lunches. We have the lists posted in the kitchen, so they can use them for reference. I don’t need lunch to be fancy; I just need it to be healthy and easy.

I’m sharing the lists here, but I urge you to sit down with your kids and make your own. There are a lot of good conversations to be had about balanced meals, portion sizes, and healthy options. I’d love to hear about your favorite packed lunch menus.

Here’s to a happy, healthy school year!

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