The Clever Cook: Back to School Lunchbox Learning

Posted on: September 8, 2015

The Clever Cook: Back to School Lunchbox Learning

By Amy Rosenfeld

Getting in the back-to-school swing after a relaxing, stress-free summer might be difficult, but Banana Sunbutter Sushiit’s definitely doable. Here are some tips to get lunchbox organized:

1) Start a lunchbox meal planner and start a rotation. It may sound silly but taking the task of thinking of ideas out of your daily routine is a real time saver.
2) Get organized with great lunchbox materials. Stock up on a variety of portable containers, including many sizes for hot and cold packing.
3) Make recipes ahead and freeze. As much as you can do ahead of time, the better off you will be. One way to get started: make soups ahead and freeze in ice cube trays for easy defrosting.
4) Make time to pack lunches ahead. Pack ahead as much you can on the weekends for easy lunchbox stuffing. Get the kids to help and make an assembly line into a game! Then, take a few minutes at night to pack lunches instead of during the morning rush.

Fun and easy out-of-the-box lunchbox ideas:

1) BYO Pita Pizzas – Pack the tools they need to make their own pizza at lunch. Pack different sauces like tomato, pesto, or hummus as the base and send a variety of cheese and veggies for toppings. Here is a great example of hummus pizza:
2) Whole Grain Pasta and Noodle Salads – Cold and hot noodle or pasta salads can be an easy way to get all the food groups. Experiment with different types of pasta, everything from Asian Buckwheat Noodles to Orzo Salad:
3) Summer Soups with Grilled Cheese Dippers – Who doesn’t love soup in a thermos? Add a side of grilled cheese dipper strips and you have a balanced, delicious lunch. Plus, soup is an easy, nutrient rich make-ahead meal for a whole week of lunches or from the freezer. Try this End of Summer Soup Recipe:
4) Bento Box – Make meals out of snacks. Make sure to include proteins, including cheese, nut butters, tuna/egg/chicken salad, or sliced turkey or chicken, and a whole grain, like whole grain crackers or pretzels. Experiment with different dips like hummus, guacamole and veggie dips. Add a side of fruit and veggies.
5) Breakfast in a Box – Your little one doesn’t like lunch food? Pack a brunch style lunch with breakfast foods instead. Add yogurt parfaits, cottage cheese with fruit, whole grain pancakes or waffles, sweet and savory muffins, and hardboiled eggs.

Try NWH’s Sunbutter Sushi:

(serves 1)
1 6” tortilla wrap
1 banana, whole
1 tbsp sunflower seed butter*
1 tsp chocolate shavings

*Feel free to substitute peanut or almond butter as great alternatives!

1) Lay the tortilla on a flat surface. Spread the sunflower seed butter evenly over one side of the tortilla.
2) Place the banana on one edge of the tortilla. Roll the banana inside the tortilla until completely rolled up. Slice the tortilla into 6 even pieces (like sushi).
3) Dip each piece of sushi into the chocolate shavings. Eat immediately or wrap for an easy snack on the go!

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 370 calories, 13 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, 55 g carbohydrates, 8.5 g fiber, 10 g protein
Breakfast for Lunch: Silver Dollar Oatmeal Pancakes

(serves 4, make 16 silver dollar cakes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup skim milk
4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 cup fresh berries
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1) Preheat the griddle on medium heat and the oven to 200 degrees.

2) While the griddle is heating up, in a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg, milk, applesauce to the center. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Do not over-mix – some lumps are ok. Let the batter stand for about 5 minutes.

3) Spray the grill with cooking spray. Using a small ladle, spoon batter carefully onto the grill – 1 ladles per pancake. Do not touch until you start to see some bubbles start to form on the surface.  Add a few berries to each cake. Cook for about another 1-2 minutes.

4) As each pancake is done, place in the oven to stay warm. Mix the Greek yogurt with pure maple syrup and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt on each pancake.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 320 calories, 4 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 600 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fiber, 9.5 g protein

Editor’s Note: Amy Rosenfeld, M,S RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian at Northern Westchester Hospital