Packing innovative, fun and healthy back-to-school lunches that you’re kids are actually excited to eat is an ongoing challenge for some New Jersey parents.
Jennifer Burns Katafigiotis, author of the popular children’s book Belinda Bumble Bee and owner of the Lyndhurst, NJ based Weight Wellness Center, LLC provides her resourceful recommendations that will leave you with enough ideas to last you through the school year. With a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition Education, Jennifer’s suggestions pack in an array of nutrients in each lunch idea that will keep your children focused throughout the day. She starts by reminding us to keep it simple and fun by allowing kids to play with their food!
“I love using skewers because they are inexpensive, quick and easy to prepare and my daughter takes pride in having something unique in her lunchbox that the other kids want to try.”
1. Salad on a Stick Skewer
Try Jennifer’s favorite – the “Salad on a Stick Skewer” making sure to include all the colors of the rainbow by using grape tomatoes, cucumber chunks, a touch of radish, grilled chicken pieces and more to keep it aesthetically appealing and packed full of nutrients. As a bonus, as your children grow they can have fun creating the skewers themselves. Food safety is always to be kept in mind – so freeze their water bottle and put it in the lunch box for temperature control. Another fun tip is to try the snack skewer made up of colorful fruit and a dip consisting of Greek yogurt with honey and touch of cinnamon.
2. Sushi Roll Sandwiches
Using an interesting twist on Japanese food, Jennifer suggests making sushi roll sandwiches. Take real whole wheat bread and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Place shredded carrot, cucumber, pulled chicken breast with a little pesto sauce or ranch dressing and roll it like a California roll. Then slice it into pieces and place in their lunch box. Create a colorful play on a traditional Bento box as you lay it all out.
3. Soup in a Thermos
Put a creative spin on an old favorite – Soup in a Thermos. Jennifer recommends serving soup since it is an easy way to get in veggies, beans, grains and leafy greens. Create a theme for your child to easily turn this meal into something exciting. If they are into gaters and lizards, for example, give your creation a fun name like swamp water and serve it with homemade “goldfish” crackers in frog or dragon shapes.
4. Inside Out Sandwich
Consider making the super simple and inventive “Inside Out” Sandwich! Take one slice of Applegate deli meat, put baby spinach leaves on top of the deli slice, and then place slice of cheese on top of that. Wrap the meat long ways around the bread stick. These are easy to eat and take a minimal amount of time to prepare.
When all else fails, Jennifer recommends purchasing a really good thermos for soup and hot items to pack dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Always remember that lunch preparation can be a fun, enjoyable experience filled with creativity and education on healthy eating!