Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Bento Box Style!

I have developed a reputation for myself as a “snack luncher.” What does that mean? Many say I have“kid-like” lunches, with a little bit of this and little bit of that such as 1-2 oz low-fat cheese, hummus, crackers, veggies and fruit for example. Nothing wrong with a non-traditional lunch and can often be a refreshing change from salad and sandwiches! The best way to do this is with a bento-box. Passing my ideas along, here is my addition of Lunchbox Learning Bento-Box Style!

Why have you done a good thing?

I always run across the problem of balance in my clients’ meals. For kids, there are often a little too many carbs and not enough protein while adults often have the opposite problem. I always try to educate and encourage my clients of all ages to have well-proportioned meals that include every food group! Why? When you have a portion-controlled but balanced mid-day meal, your body is refueled and energized to help you get through the rest of the day. No matter what age you are, a healthy meal has been shown to improve concentration, athletic performance, mood, and productivity. Plus when you have a little bit of everything, yes even carbs, protein, and healthy fat, you feel full and satisfied, helping you to avoid excessive snacking and overeating at night.

So give these ideas a try and pack a lunch bento box style! Tip: always pack your lunch the night before. There is just no time in the morning. Try packing lunches as a family before or after dinner (yes, kids can help too!)

Bento box lunch ideas:

Step 1) Pick up bento box tupperware! Having the tools makes snack-like lunching much more convenient and easy. Much to my excitement the other day while walking through Whole Foods Market, I discovered they sell such wonderful creations: bento box plastic lunch containers! Here are some of the other great selections we found for bento-box tupperware from Walmart,  Pottery Barn, The Container Store, and Amazon.

Step 2) Get Packing! Try these great fun ideas as a spin on a traditional lunch.

  • Taco bar Everyone loves a little Mexican! Use soft whole-wheat taco shells for the base. Pack a couple pinches of low-fat cheese such as Monteray Jack, 2 tbsp of guacamole, 2 tbsp salsa (spicy or mild), shredded lettuce and tomato, and black beans or shredded chicken. Great hot or cold.  Add a side of sliced mango or papaya for dessert.

  • Yogurt bar – Bring the healthy yogurt bar to your lunchbox. With plain or flavored Greek yogurt, add sides of low-fat granola, Kashi Go Lean, Cheerios, or Puffins cereal. Add another container of slivered almonds or trail mix as well as seasonal sliced fruit or berries. Want your kids to eat plain Greek yogurt? Try mixing in a tbsp of their favorite jam with honey for sweetness. For another variety, try this bar with low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat ricotta cheese!

  • Anti-pasto box – Make your lunch Mediterranean. Pack a handful of pistachio nuts, 1 tbsp low-fat feta cheese with sliced cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes tossed with olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice. Add a whole-wheat pita (try Trader Joe’s mini pitas) with 1 tbsp of hummus. Optional: add a few slices of fresh turkey for a bigger meal.

  • Asian noodle box Make a cold noodle dish with lo-mein noodles, soba or udon noodles. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe. Try making other sauces such as peanut noodles! Add a side of shelled edamame beans and or sliced avocado. Finish it off with pineapple or sliced oranges for dessert.

  • Dip bar – Who doesn’t love to dip? Create a bento dip bar with low-fat chicken/tuna or egg salad and whole-wheat crackers or pretzels (such as Kashi TLC crackers), sliced carrots/celery/peppers, and sliced green apples for dipping. Vegetarian? Try adding various bean dips such as black bean dip and hummus. Try our low-fat chicken salad recipe:

1 ¼ cup of rotisserie chicken, boneless and skinless, pre-cooked and shredded
½ Gala or Fuji apple, finely chopped into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup blueberries
1 stock celery, finely chopped
Pinch of salt & pepper
2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
1 ½ tbsp honey mustard

1)    In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and honey mustard.

2)   Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

 No time to make your own bento-box? Look what we found in the prepared section of Whole Foods Market:

Don’t be afraid to be a snack-luncher like me. Perfect for kids and you...

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

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