Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Healthy “Brown Bag” Lunches

I realize it has been too long since I last posted - life seems to have gotten a little hectic! But here is a post that is helpful for both kids and adults when making lunches for school or work. My own son complains that I give him the same snacks all the time so I know we could all use a little help thinking outside the box when our thinking capacities are stunted!

It's back to school time again, so when planning meals and snacks, teach young children about making healthy choices by explaining how "grow-and-go" foods will help them feel good and have fun at school. Grow-and-go foods are foods high in complex carbohydrates, good sources of protein, include vitamins and minerals and a moderate amount of fat.

Here are some quick and easy ideas, some of them courtesy of the Defense Commissary Agency for lunch and snacks that are grow-and-go foods:

  • B-n-B wrap (Banana and nut butter wrap). Mash a banana and mix with any nut butter. Here is an opportunity to try a different butter - like almond butter, which is high in vitamin E and protein. If your child prefers, sprinkle with dried fruit or coconut for a different flavor. Spread it on a whole-wheat wrap or flat bread, roll it up, cut it up and bag it.
  • Turkey, ham or chicken with hummus or Greek yogurt wrap. Spread some plain hummus or Greek yogurt on a wrap, add meat slices, any cheese (optional), lettuce or spinach and cucumber slices. Roll it up and bag it. Hummus or Greek yogurt adds a unique flavor, so if your children do not like it, use mustard or a little mayonnaise.
  • M-n-C roll up (Meat and cheese roll ups). Take any thinly sliced luncheon meat and your children's favorite cheese, sweet peppers and thin cucumber slices. Roll it up and bag it.
  • Pita pocket with curry chicken salad. Take chopped chicken and mix it with a little curry, Greek yogurt, chopped celery and chopped carrots. Put it in a whole wheat pita pocket with spinach or romaine lettuce.
  • Flat bread or bagel pizza. Toast a flat bread or 1/2 whole or sprouted wheat bagel and make a pizza with a little spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of vegetables such as spinach, tomato slices, squash or broccoli.
  • Stuffed Bagels. Stuff with cottage cheese and berries or stuff with omelet pieces and sprinkled cheese.
  • Baby carrots, cucumbers chunks, grape tomatoes, hummus, whole-grain crackers and pita chips. Put some hummus in a small container to use as a dip. Bag the carrots, cucumber chunks and grape tomatoes. Also pack some whole grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.
  • Vegetable Roll Up. On lavosh or whole wheat tortillas, spread roasted red pepper sauce or pesto, add vegetable sticks and roll. Or, spread with bean dip, sprinkle with jack cheese and grated carrots and zucchini, and roll.
  • Also try lettuce leaf wraps. Stuff lettuce leaves with egg salad or canned chicken and olive spread, then roll. Or stuff with hummus and vegetable shavings and roll.
  • Whole what pita stuffed with ricotta cheese, goat cheese and herbs. This is for kids who like a little variety with their cheeses!
  • Tortilla chips, plain yogurt and salsa. Cut up tortillas in quarters, sprinkle a little salt on them and heat them in the microwave for a minute or two. Mix the yogurt, for protein and calcium, with salsa or just put plain salsa in a small container for a dip.
  • Trail mix. Mix almonds, peanuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for a nutrient dense, energy-packed food and bag it. This is a great "take it anywhere" kind of food.
  • Great snacks. Cheese sticks, nuts, yogurt tubes, dried fruit, fresh fruit and canned fruit (packed in water) all make great snacks and additions to lunches. Mix a handful of granola with dried apricots and cranberries and pumpkin seeds. (Try to avoid the pre-packaged snacks such as Lunchables, that contain more fat, salt and unnatural ingredients than a child needs, not to mention the excessive packaging made with petroleum derived plastic and dyed cardboard.)

I encourage you to keep trying certain foods that your kids may not care for - one day, they may just change their minds unannounced. My 5 year old was never crazy about tomatoes, and one day out of the blue, he ate an entire bowlful of sweet baby grape tomatoes and loves them now! Don't give up!

If you have some healthy brown bag lunch ideas, please comment. We would love to hear!

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