Back To School Series: Healthy Lunches

by - August 20, 2011

School lunches. It's a hot topic these days, with the Jamie Oliver "Food Revolution" show, coupled with a slew of blogs that expose the school lunch system. Despite new labeling and attempts at healthifying the lunch line, in the end it's still mostly processed, reconstituted, high trans fat, sugar-filled, easy-to-transport and feed-the-masses fare.

The good news? We are the parents and we have control. We can make a difference, one lunch at a time. If we're too rushed, too busy to care or too distracted, our kids are shuttled off to school to fill their bellies with nutritionally dead food. And so we wake up an extra 15 minutes earlier in the mornings to pack nutrient-dense foods that provide our children with the energy to learn, focus and feel good.

Now if you're like me, despite being full of good intentions, sometimes the well runs a bit dry in the idea department. Peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese? Here are some healthy lunch ideas to fuel the brains of those we love the most.

Photo Source via HERE.

nitrate-free turkey/ham lunch meat with string cheese, lettuce, mustard, red onion, tomato
hummus spread with julienne celery, onion, carrot
brown rice and sauteed onion, garlic, peppers, feta cheese

meat roll (nitrate-free lunch meat rolled up), cubed cheese, assorted fruits/veges with yogurt/ranch to dip
cookie cutter sandwich, bust out the seasonal cookie cutters and have some fun!
BLT with spicy mustard (my daughter's fav)
pizza sandwich - open-faced sandwich served with fruit
egg salad sandwich
leftover pasta/birds nest pesto can be served cold
meatball on a stick
Turkey pinwheels
Chicken salad 
Pasta salad
rainbow wheel
cranberry spread on turkey and lettuce

A quick note on PB&Js. Many school cafeterias are banning peanut butter due to an increase in allergies. Almond butter (I get mine at Costco), Tahini (sesame seed butter) and Sun Butter (sunflower seed butter) are excellent substitutes that still fulfill that PB&J craving. If you're really feeling adventurous, make your own almond butter or other nut butter in your super blender/food processor.

hummus and carrot/celery stix or corn chips/pita chips
homemade pickles - my kids like them spicy so we add cayenne
apple slices (don't forget to dip in lemon juice to prevent browning) and raw caramel sauce for dipping
hard boiled egg
edamame on a stick
meatball cut in half with carrot/lettuce/cheese on a stick
inverted green and red grapes sliced in half on a toothpick
homemade fruit leather in dehydrator
yogurt taffy
dehydrated apple chips

homemade nutella on 9 grain bread or used to dip fruit

I make a bunch of these ahead of time and keep in the freezer to take out for lunches as needed:
granola bars

After reading this list, somehow greasy, limp pizza slices just don't sound very appetizing, huh. Or flavorless beef on a nutrition-less white bun. Or reconstituted mystery side. Buh Bye lunch line ... Hello exciting lunch box!

Have any other lunch ideas to add? Please share them in the comments!

*This is part 1 of my Back to School Series. Coming up, we'll talk about quick, easy and above-all HEALTHY breakfasts, dinner ideas and more ...

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