In September, we shared speedy breakfast ideas to help us all slow down a bit and get where we’re going in the a.m. more safely. Now we’re sharing five lunch-making strategies to help us face school mornings armed with inspiration (along with a cup of strong coffee).
The focal point of these meals is whole grains, which pack nutritional punch in kids’ lunches. Not to be confused with refined grains found in white bread, rice and many snack crackers and cakes, a whole grain has the entire grain still intact. Even making “half your grains whole,” as we nutrition nuts like to say, is a head start. When our children bite into whole grain-based lunches, here is what they’re gaining:
– Complex Carbs for energy to power through the rest of the school day, as well as a steadier blood sugar to avoid “hangry” tantrums after school.
– Fiber for, well, think poo emoji. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water though because lack of adequate hydration can counteract this benefit. Kids may even crave fewer packaged, processed snacks when they’re satiated from higher-fiber intake. But, in fairness, I’m no miracle worker, and my kids still guzzle goldfish like maniacs. Ugh.
– Protein, Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants, and Other Plant Compounds for an immunity boost, essential as cool weather ramps up.
For those unable to process the gluten found in barley, rye, and wheat, there are still plenty of good whole grain options like oats, brown or wild rice, corn, and quinoa.
Since our children are unlikely to trade a pack of gummy fruit snacks for a scoop of oats or barley, here are some get-real, kid-friendly ideas. Have fun with them, and let us know how you riff on them in the comments. We can all use more help, right?
Start with Whole Grain Tortillas
The basic idea here is to maximize the potential of a basic whole grain tortilla. It can be a quesadilla, wrap, or roll. It’s the chameleon of bread. The Mission whole wheat brand is my favorite for taste and texture.
My daughter loves a lower-fat shredded cheese (great source of calcium) folded between 1 wrap, heated for 30 seconds in the microwave, pizza-wheel sliced into triangles, and eaten cold. Honestly, I think she’d eat it everyday.
My son, meanwhile, likes a single wrap heated with cheese and lower-sodium deli ham on top, rolled into a tube, and pizza-wheel sliced in half or a couple more times into “pinwheels.” It never fails to amaze me how these two, born into the same household, who look so much alike, are so different in their personalities and preferences.
Bonus: This is one even little people can help make or make by themselves once old enough to operate the microwave and pizza wheel.