Last year was my first as a full-time school-lunch packin’ mama. I was a rookie. This year, though, I’ve got it down. And these hall-of-fame packed lunches from my repertoire will help you master the school lunch game, too.
When most folks think beyond the sandwich, they default to leftovers. But, no matter how much my hungry boy enjoyed dinner the night before, leftovers don’t cut it at school. Not even pasta. So when I think beyond the sandwich, I need to get creative. My hummus plate, served with slices of all-natural cheese, pita or pretzel chips, fruit, veggies and a hard boiled egg, is a favorite. In fact, it’s become a weekly request.
Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Roll-Up
I’m on a mission to keep lunch meat free. I figure we eat plenty of meat at dinner, so there’s no reason to load up on high sodium and over processed lunch meats at school. Our frequent exceptions to vegetarian lunch is tuna or salmon salad and smoked salmon cream cheese roll-ups. The name alone gets kiddo excited. Who doesn’t want a ROLL-UP for lunch?! Simply spread cream cheese on a wrap, tortilla or crepe, top with smoked salmon and, if you’ve got them, snipped chives, and roll. I serve these with a side of fruit, veggies and a handful of nuts or seeds mixed with dried fruit.
(PS: If you’re wondering about the crepes, here's a quick read on how to make them easily, how to store them long term and why they are perfect for kiddo's lunchbox.)
I love peanut butter, but it ain’t the only nut butter in town. In fact, in looking at a nutritional comparison of nut and seed butters, I realized that I was way under utilizing almond butter—not a hard problem to solve given how delicious it is! A simple almond butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread or, for a fun treat, whole grain waffles is an easy go-to that gives kiddo variation on and eight times the calcium of their PB&J. Serve with fruit, veggies and a side of yogurt or cheese.
Frittatas are genius. They are delicious; easy to load with tasty and good-for-you ingredients; taste great hot, warm or cold; and are perfect for any meal, even the one that comes in a lunchbox. One evening, gather a bunch of eggs, leftover veggies from dinner and whatever cheese you have lying around. Whisk and cook a frittata that can serve as breakfast, lunch, dinner or any combination for days following. For lunch, pack two small wedges with a side of veggies, fruit salad and some whole grain crackers.
Creative Salads (Hold the Lettuce)
Leafy greens aren’t high on my hungry boy’s list of favorite foods. So while I can’t resist a hearty salad at lunch, I dutifully skip the lettuce when it comes to packing his lunchbox. Instead, I go with an avocado mango salad or this Lunchbox Caprese Salad, also with nutrient-rich avocado. Chop everything in small chunks, add nuts or seeds if you’re feeling fancy and serve with fruit, cheese (unless there’s some in the salad) and a little crunchy thing on the side. Better yet, pair your lettuce-free salad with a hearty homemade soup or stew.
What are your favorite all-star lunch box meals? Please share!