Last month 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, one each Sunday –– 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?
Pizza Sandwich or Veggie Burger with Whole Grain “Buns”
Spice up the ol’ sandwich by using high-quality whole grain buns, which can also come in the form of toasted English muffin halves.
My children, bless them, love to provide “feedback” whenever I try something new in their lunches. My sixth grader shared with great exuberance how much he enjoyed, and I quote, “those pizza thingies.” To make “pizza thingies,” begin by toasting the muffin. Then, melt a little shredded mozzarella on them. Place turkey pepperoni on top, and smoosh together. Voila! If your little one likes veggies on pizza, add those in too for an even more well-balanced lunch.
You can also shop for (or make your own) black bean burgers. They freeze and defrost well too. If you purchase patties in the market, check the ingredients labels for a lower-sodium and lower saturated fat version. Heat the burger per instructions in the microwave, melt some cheese on top for 5-10 seconds, and sandwich between a whole grain bun. You can add condiments if your children like them and even pickle slices. For lettuce and tomato, I pack those separately to avoid mushiness. And yes, kids will eat these burgers cold. And no, they will not suffer from doing so.