Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Creative with School Lunches

by Kelley Lindberg

When I was a kid, school lunches were so terrible you only bought one if you absolutely had to. Just about everyone brought a sack lunch from home instead. It was actually embarrassing to have to eat school lunch.

Nowadays, even though kids assure me that the quality of school lunches hasn’t improved much, almost everyone buys one anyway. We’ve apparently become so addicted to fast food, instant gratification, and convenience above all, that it seems this generation is completely flummoxed by the idea of making a home lunch every day. “What? And take those extra five minutes? That’s inhuman!"

But when our kids are diagnosed with one or more food allergies, sending a lunch from home may suddenly sound like the smart thing to do – and although it sounds awful at first to add one more thing to our frantic morning schedule, we soon find that the extra five minutes is worth the comfort of knowing our kid will have safe food to eat and less risk of a reaction.

Like everything else, making a lunch for school soon becomes a regular part of our routine day. And then we discover that finding that extra five minutes to throw one together isn’t the hard part.
No, the hard part is coming up with ideas for healthy, safe lunches that our kids will actually eat. So what’s a parent to do if their kid is sick of the same ol’ sandwich every day for lunch?

I went hunting for ideas, and here are some links to websites with lunch ideas. The main thing to remember is balance – try for a serving of carbs, a serving of protein, a serving or two of fruit and/or veggies, and something with calcium (some fruit juices are fortified with calcium, if dairy is off the list). Things that dip in dressing, barbecue sauce, apple sauce, or Sunbutter are often a hit (cooked meatballs, veggies, sliced fruit, etc.). Last night’s leftovers can be great if you heat them up, and then put them in a good lunch-sized Thermos. Get wild with sandwiches – add fruit to that Sunbutter and jelly sandwich, add diced apples or mango to your safe chicken salad recipe, make a Mexi sandwich with bean dip and olives, or use safe tortillas or safe rolls from last night’s dinner instead of sliced bread.

For more ideas, check out these links:
If you and your child decide to give the school’s lunch program a try (I sure hope they don’t still serve those Army-drab-colored peas from when I was a child!), be sure to read FAAN’s article called “Consider School Meals.”

If you have a great idea for school lunches that your kids love, please share it with us!

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