Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Back-to-School Edition

As everyone gets settled into a new school year, you may be struggling on how to fill that daily lunchbox with nutrients and love! Striving for smiling faces opening their lunchboxes, we have come up with some unique MINI sandwich options to keep them satisfied and guessing each day. Here is this year's first edition of Lunchbox Learning!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Packing your own lunch (or lunch for your child) is the best way to eat healthily because you can control exactly what goes into the foods you eat. Lunch is an important meal to keep your child going strong for the rest of the school day; plus, it can be a sense of comfort for children to see a loving, fun-filled lunch packed just for them. Mini sandwiches are perfect for children because they are small! The can hold them better and more easily take a good bite. For us adults, mini sandwiches can be the perfect portion controlled lunch we have been looking for, with the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates.

Try these 5 mini sandwich ideas for you or your child:

1. Mini Bagel Monte Cristo

For your kids:            
Slice the mini bagel in half and spread a little bit of real maple syrup on each side. Place 2 slices of turkey or ham (in-house smoked meats are the best, such as at Whole Foods or Balducci’s) on one side and 1 slice of cheese on the other. Toast for 1-2 minutes until just slightly melted, then put together to form the sandwich and wrap in tin foil.

Your version: 
3-4 slices of turkey or ham and 1 slice of low-fat cheese. Top with fresh lettuce, tomato and 1-2 slices of avocado. 

2. Turkey Roll

For your kids:
When buying turkey for this, ask for it to be sliced very thick, around ¼ of an inch. Place plastic wrap down on a table or counter. Then place 1 slice of turkey down and spread about 1 tsp of low-fat mayonnaise, mustard, or honey mustard. Next, add a slice of cheese onto the turkey, followed by lettuce if desired. Roll up as you would a sushi roll. Refrigerate for about an hour, remove plastic wrap, and then slice into “sushi” style pieces.

Your version: 
Kick up the flavor with dabs of sliced roasted red peppers, hummus, jalapeno peppers or guacamole!

3. Pancake or Waffle Pieces

For your kids or your inner child: 
Lightly toast 4 frozen whole-grain mini pancakes or waffles (we like Van’s brand). Spread 1 tablespoon of nut butter or soy/sunflower seed nut butter for nut-free schools in between 2 mini pancakes or waffles with some jelly or sliced banana, if desired. Repeat for the other two.

4.  Rice Cakes

For your kids or you:
Spread 1 tablespoon of hummus in between 2 mini rice cakes (brown rice if available). Serving size is 2 mini rice cake sandwiches. Try adding sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, and even apple slices taste delicious!

5. Spectacular shapes

For your kids:
Make a sandwich of your choice on whole-wheat or multi-grain bread. You can try any deli meats, nut butter and jelly, low-fat chicken salad, egg salad, or tuna salad, hummus and vegetable or apple sandwich, etc.. Then using fun shaped cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Try to make 2 mini shapes out of one sandwich.Check out these great sandwich cutters from Williams Sonoma

Try different variations and continue to mix it up with different side dishes. Here are just a few ideas to turn those sandwiches into a full lunchbox with one vegetable and one fruit or grain:

Vegetables: Baby carrots, Pepper strips, cucumber strips, snap peas, jicama, cherry tomatoes
Fruits: Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apple, pear, peach, plum, small box of raisins,
Grains: pretzels, wheat thins, Pop chips, baked potato chips, popcorn, 100 calorie mini cookies from Trader Joes, homemade mini muffin

We hope this gets you started on lunch ideas for the year and makes your back-to-school time a breeze! 

-Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

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