Kitchen Focus

September brings a return to school for kids everywhere and another challenge for their parents: sending them to school with healthy lunches that they won't pitch as soon as they are out the door. This month, we're tackling the challenge by offering some great lunch ideas and tips.

One of the hard things about packing lunches is that most kids won't be storing their lunches in a refrigerator between the time they arrive at school and the time they actually eat their lunch. Therefore, it's time for parents to get creative. Here are some lunchbox ideas that require no refrigeration:

  • String cheese sticks, oranges cut into wedges, whole wheat carrot muffins
  • Bagel spread with cream cheese, sugar snap peas, box of raisins
  • Tortilla rolled up with a slice of mild cheese, fresh green beans, tangerines
  • Banana bread spread with peanut butter and a little honey, cucumber coins, melon cubes
  • Cream cheese and apple butter on whole grain bread, baby carrots and snap peas, individually packaged pretzels
  • 1/2 pita stuffed with shredded carrot and mild cheese, small individual cup of applesauce

If you'd rather have more options available to you, freeze a small bottle of water or a juice box the night before and include it in your child's lunchbox to help keep lunch cold and serve as a frosty beverage to accompany his lunch. Then pack the frozen beverage on top of those items that need extra chilling. Some great ideas for packing like this include:

  • Salad greens, cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes, cucumber coins, small container of dressing
  • Chilled pasta or rice salads
  • Any number of sandwiches containing lunchmeats or egg products
  • Jello or pudding
  • Small containers of yogurt
  • Fresh vegetables, small container of dressing or dip
  • Tuna or chicken salad stuffed in tomatoes or over greens

Remember that a lunchbox offers an opportunity to send more than food with your child. Including notes, riddles, anagrams, cryptograms, backward messages and snapshots along with a lunch gives your child something special to look forward to. They also find comic strips, sports articles or photos clipped from the daily paper fun. It makes them feel special and lets them know that you're thinking of them.

Finally, you can sometimes include a small sweet treat to make lunch fun. Snack cakes, cookies or a small piece of candy would be appropriate. Also, some schools sell small bags of popcorn or servings of ice cream to students. If this is the case, you can take the opportunity to treat your child to a dessert and teach them some discipline by sending a small amount of cash with them at the start of the week for choosing one or two treats for themselves during the week. It gives your child a chance to be responsible with the money you've sent and decide which day or days a treat would be welcomed. It's all part of the process of teaching them responsibility and decision making and getting them ready to confidently leave the nest ... but maybe not quite yet!!!

If there's a topic that you'd like to see covered in this column, let me know. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

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