September 06, 2013

Week 35 - Back to School Series, Part 2: Healthy Lunchbox

Printable Version of Meal Plan

Whenever I talk to Mom's about back to school I commonly hear about two things - the crazy school supply list and the dreaded packing of lunches.  I've said it before and I'll probably say it again... I look forward to packing Marin school lunches.  I know, I know... file it away so you can say "I told you so" but the way I see it is that whether I'm packing it the night before or making it the day of, ya gotta eat!  And I pack a lunch for Dave and I every day so what's one more?

The Inspiration

Here's some great links I've come across while doing my "research" this week:

100 Days of Real Food, 10 Recipes to Freeze for School Lunches
100 Days of Real Food, 21 Ways to Plan Ahead for School Lunches
Top Lunch Tips from Weelicious
Weelicious School Lunches on Pinterest
Canadian Family, 15 School Lunches They'll Love
Kraft What's Cooking, Simple Lunch-Box Ideas

And very exciting news... the Weelicious Lunches Cookbook is out!  I love the original Weelicious Cookbook (highly recommend it and not just for wee ones!) and can't wait to get my hands on this one!

And don't forgot to follow 100 Days of Real Food for daily lunch inspiration.

Recipe Quick Links

Overnight Oats, Kath Eats
Tex Mex Rice Cakes, Weelicious
Sticky Honey Sesame Chicken, Canadian Living
Fish Sticks, Attach of the Hungry Monster
Sushi Bowl, 101 Cookbooks
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, Women's Health
Dinner Dippers, Canadian Living
Whole Grain Fruit Filled Bars, Weelicious (via Two Peas in Their Pod)
Hummus, Carrot and Avocado Wraps, Weelicious (via ewg.org)


Lunch Snack Ideas

For me the bigger challenge with lunches is the snacks.  I always pack our main lunch the night before, but I rarely prepare the snacks ahead of time.  Instead I just grab 2-3 things on my way out the door.  Some mornings end up being rushed and that just doesn't end up happening.  As a result we're either starving when we get home or grabbing unhealthy (and expensive) snacks during the day.  Individually wrapped granola bars, pretzels, etc... are fantastically convenient but I have to say since I've become more of an ingredient reader I'm finding them less appetizing.  I'm continually irked by how many (seemingly healthy) things have artificial color!!

Here's a few of our favorite snacks to have on hand.  Sometimes you just need some fresh ideas!

Cheddar Crackers - surprisingly simple and delicious!
 
Muffins - Blueberry, Banana, Pumpkin, Zucchini.... the possibilities are endless!!  Tip - I almost always replace the oil with apple sauce and can never tell the difference.

Homemade Pop Tarts - can be frozen and definitely a welcome lunchbox treat!

Granola Coins - nut free and super quick and easy to make!  A perfect granola bar replacement.

Apple Sandwich - use a seed butter to make this a nut-free treat

Fruit cut into fun shapes using cookie cutters.

Nature's Bakery Fig Bars - one of the things I do buy (at Costco) in single serve packs.

and a few more ideas...

Whole Grain Fruit Bars - This was a Weelicious Lunches sneak peak that I found and tried and they are pretty easy to make and very tasty.  I made the mistake of pressing down a little too much on my top layer and as a result squeezed out most of the jam... but even the jamless ones are good.

Apple Sauce - another thing I sometimes buy pre-packed.  Just beware of ingredients because some have added sugar and artificial color.  PC Brand Just Apples is... just apples!!  It's also really easy to make and great way to use up old-ish apples.

Popcorn Snack Mix - In place of popcorn you can use a puffed cereal such as Puffed Rice or Puffed Kamut (or as Marin calls it "Puffy Popcorn") and whatever add-ins you like such as chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, rainsins and pretzels.

Yogurt & Berries - I put frozen berries in a single serve container, top with plain yogurt and maple syrup or honey to sweeten.  The berries thaw by the time I eat it.  I was actually never a yogurt fan until I started eating it this way.

Fruit - We each take at least one piece of fruit a day.  I always core and slice my apples and pears (with a corer/slicer tool).  I wrap in Saran, either fit it all back together including the core or I remove the core and replace it with a spoonful of peanut butter.

Cheese & Crackers - Cheddar and Triscuits are our standard choices in this category.  I love cheese strings for the grab and go convenience.

Smoothie Pops - I've been making smoothies and freezing them in popsicle molds.  It's been a great after daycare treat to have on hand!

Check out my favorites tab for even more ideas!

Week in Review

Monday

We were actually just getting back from the cottage on Monday so we didn't make either meal on the menu.  But since this was a themed week I though I'd throw in a couple of ideas.  Another Weelicious Lunches sneak peak too!

Tuesday

Lunch - Tex Mex Rice Cakes.  If you've gotten this far you now know I'm a huge Weelicious fan.  I've made these many times... love them!  I actually used quinoa in place of the rice this week and I reheat them at lunch but they could most definately be eaten cold.  You could round out this lunch with some veggies and dip.  One of my favorite dips is Ranch... you can premix the spices and then just stir them in with some sour cream and mayo when you're ready or prepare the dip to store in the fridge for a few days.


Tex Mex Rice Cakes
 

Supper - Sticky Honey Sesame Chicken.  Remember when I was looking for the perfect Honey Garlic sauce for meatballs a few months ago?  Found it!  The recipe calls for drumsticks, I used boneless skinless breasts instead and I think meatballs would work great too. 


Wednesday

Lunch - Quesadillas.  The idea was to use up leftover chicken in the quesadillas... but there were no leftovers.  That's what happens when you find a tasty recipe!  So they became cheese quesadillas with some orange pepper and onions.  I used packaged tortillas that were in the freezer - from before I found out I was capable of making tortillas!!  I reheat these at work but would happily eat them cold as well.  I mixed sour cream and salsa for dipping.

Supper - Fish Sticks w/ Sweet Potato Fries.  I first made this recipe in Week 7 and it was a huge hit but I've been so busy trying new recipes I haven't had a chance to make it since.  Happy to report we still like it.  I pre-cut the sweet potato into sticks the night before, boiled them for a few minutes and then tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 450 until they were nice a crisp! 

Thursday

Lunch - Sushi Bowls.  I love sushi but admittedly it's a bit of work.  This sushi bowl recipe was much easier to put together.  I loosely followed the recipe because the orange I bought for the sauce was rotten in the middle.... grrr!  I made the Asian Sesame Dressing from my salad dressing cheat sheet instead and replaced the avocado with orange pepper and mango because that's what I had.  Dave email'd at lunch to say the rice tasted like sushi... I'm not sure if he liked it but at least he recognized it.  I'm going to call it a success.

Sushi Bowl
 

Supper - Dinner Dipper with Veggies and Crackers.  Another find from the September issue of Canadian Living!  Well it was a find for me because I liked all three dips.  Marin and Dave both ate but were less enthused.  Seriously... I have a kid who will eat fish and kale with no problems but turned her nose up at a pink dip that was sweet enough to almost be considered dessert!!  It makes no sense.

Dip Trio
 

Friday

Lunch - Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese.  This was ok... the sauce was less creamy and more clumpy than I had hoped but the taste was good.  You would never know there was squash hidden in there so a good way to sneak in some vitamins if you happen to be the sneaky type.

Supper  - Steak and Salad. Have to get some grilling in while we still can!


I realized at the end of this week that I might be in a lunch rut... Patties, Quesadillas... not exactly new to me.  Going to review my links above and see if I can switch things up in the next few weeks.

What are you packing for lunches and snacks??

Sandra

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