Tag Archives: Lunch

Lunch-ENABLE: you can pack healthy options for your school kids!

The kids are back to school and there’s a meal you have to send with them – every day.  But you don’t want to depend on pre-packaged ‘foods’, snack bags, chips, and sodium-infused ready-mades – so here are some options to help you provide variety without undue stress at the start of your weekday!
First, I highly recommend that you have a good lunch-packing system.  There are a lot of great lunch container sets out there with different sizes and shapes for your favorite foods.  We use and love the stackable, modular, Rubbermaid ones – they come with a matching icepack.  

Rubbermaid stackable lunch boxes

Get a couple of units so you can mix and match lids and always have a cold pack in the freezer.  Reusable containers allow for a lot of flexibility in what you want to serve them and are more environmentally friendly than sandwich bags.  You can get insulated lunch bags – make sure your containers fit them appropriately – or an old-fashioned lunch box.

If you are strongly anti-plastic, you still have several options: you can buy or make beeswax-infused wrapping cloths, use wax paper/butcher’s paper/brown paper, and combine with a thermos and small screw-top sturdy glass pots for non-‘dry’ foods.  You can sew your own cloth lunch sack from washable canvas or insulated fabric (the padded, quilted material sold for making oven mitts, for example) with the advantage of being able to personalize it. 

beeswrap – wax-infused wrapping cloths

Now, what to put in?  Of course, that’ll depend on what your child will eat and enjoy, and you know best what that is.  I encourage mine to try new things, and she’s not a fussy eater and has no allergies…. so I’ll go with a broader range here and you can customize to fit your child’s preferences and needs.

PROTEIN:   a lot of lunch meats are high in sodium and preservatives.  The heavily processed ones like baloney and ‘loaf’ should be avoided completely…but there are healthier options, branded and otherwise.  My local butcher has GOOD lunch meats – real sliced roast beef and real sliced ham – the flavour is unbelievable. Otherwise, take a day to cook a large roast/ ham/turkey breast from scratch, cool thoroughly and slice with electric slicer, freeze in small portions in sandwich bags. You can fit all three in the oven together and save cooking energy and your time. Lunch meats for the next three months! Also, there is nothing wrong with a piece / chunks of the leftover meat from last night’s dinner: cube the chicken breast, take the BBQ sauce skin off the left-over chicken leg, slice thin strips of a pork chop, or put in some cooked and cooled peameal bacon. Cold meatballs or mini hamburgers are often quite acceptable, with the trimmings.  Once in a while, serve thin slices of sausage.

Don’t forget boiled eggs as a good protein.  Oh, and soy ‘nut’ butter instead of the banned peanut butter – it even comes with little stickers on the back of the label for your kid’s lunch to ensure the teacher and other kids know it’s the safe stuff!   Fish – we have it frequently but a lot of North American kids won’t even touch canned tuna.   If yours is the happy exception, nothing wrong with tuna salad, or chunks of albacore!  Cold shrimp, tossed with just a little bit of cocktail sauce (tone it down with a shot of ketchup or tomato paste) are delectable on hot days.   Fish tacos?

Cheese, glorious cheese.  It deserves a paragraph all to itself.  Don’t limit yourselves to golden cheddar, lovely as it is.  Anything you’ve got in the house for yourself, except maybe that expensive imported Blue from Germany, you can cut a wedge/sticks/chunks off and package for the kids.  There, done.  Also – cream cheese, cottage cheese, quark, and so on!

Fruit and cheese! Still life by Bard Judith for the Santharian Dream

VEG & FRUIT:  Veggies, veggies, and fruit! Most come in great colours and neat sizes. Take some prep time to wash and slice, bag or put in little lunch containers and you can grab and go for a week. Green grapes, red grapes, a single mandarin in its peel, banana ditto, two rambutan (amazing chilled) or dragonfruit cubed and frozen hard the night before (it’s like ice-cream!), mixed dried fruit for a change. Cut apples, of course (wash quickly in a cup of water with a bit of lemon juice if you want to delay discolouration).  Chunked pineapple. Berries are amazing: strawberries and blueberries work the best and hold up under packing.   Applesauce is not to be scorned, or good quality fruit cups if you are out of fresh fruit. Sliced yellow and green zucchini, snow peas, baby carrots, celery, broccoli florets, with their favorite salad dressing/dip. Cherry tomatoes – sprinkle salt and pepper over after washing and they are good to go. We always have a big tub of baby spinach around and put it into every savory sandwich we make, or just drop a few leaves in next the cut veggies to dip and eat out of hand.
STARCH/GRAINS:  Mix it up! Bread, buns, fajitas, tortillas, bagels are all fairly acceptable to North American kids.   Corn bread.  Homemade biscuits, scones, pretzels.   Pumpernickel (in strips, with homemade spinach dip, mmmmm…)   Put in dry ramen noodles (leave out the salty and processed ‘flavour’ packet!) as a snack/starch. Crackers once in a while, especially if they aren’t big eaters at lunch and don’t need a filling slab of bread. There are all sorts of commercial crackers from goldfish to artisanal whole grain, so you needn’t sacrifice nutrition, either.

Get bold and make rice balls – there are all sorts of packaged mixes to flavour them in any Asian supermarket/import store. While I’m thinking about it, most kids take to dried seaweed pretty easily – sold in the sushi section of your supermarket, probably right next to the panko crumbs or the soy sauce. It comes in large sheets AND in individual packages about 3×2 inches, perfect for wrapping bites of meat and rice or just snacking on. Avoid the wasabi and perilla flavours.   OK, rice, what else? Maybe couscous if they’ve had it at home before, stellini with some sort of sauce… cold pasta salad… you get the idea!  Potato chips don’t have to be evil if you pick an organic brand, and there are other vegetable chips available that are delicious – taro, parsnip, etc.

SOUPS/SAUCES:  Most Asian lunches (yeah, we spent years in South Korea, ok?) include soup, so don’t limit yourself to dry lunches. You can send a thermos of hot soup or try some chilled broths like chicken or gazpacho. They also often include a sauce, so think outside the (lunch)box and add in things like a little container of hoisin for dipping that sliced pork chop, ketchup for the potato chips, soy with the rice balls, etc. Again, lunch containers have a lot of different options these days, and if you investigate the bento box fad – you needn’t go whole hog on the making-it-a-work-of-art – you’ll find many great ideas plus extra containers to make them possible.
TREAT:  For ‘dessert’ or the extra ‘treat’, lots of little things suggest themselves.  I should note here that this is optional, but it helps my child to consider fruit as an essential rather than a treat!   Make your own pudding in the sealable lunch containers.  Yoghurt and granola ditto. Homemade cookies or date bars – something sturdy and healthy. A couple of squares of dark chocolate. A piece of candied ginger..mmm, freshens the breath and helps digestion, too!  A chewable mint, like Mentos.  I buy the Halloween boxes in the fall and stick them in the freezer so once in a while I can drop in a treat-size choco bar.

a site that contains a collection of ‘love’ fortune cookie messages you could just print off, cut apart, and tuck into the lunch bag!

Last – this isn’t food for the body, but rather the soul – consider a little note in the lunch box.  A doodle on the outside of the paper bag, a calendar day torn off a mini inspirational desk calendar, a printed slip that looks like a fortune cookie… you can prepare your ‘love notes’ a month in advance and have them ready to go in a bag on the side of the fridge or tucked in with the lunch containers.   Something that says to your child that she’s loved, that he’s cared about, that they can take in along with the food they are eating and have it strengthen their spirit!

Much love to you as you consider how best to feed your darlings – you are ‘lunch-ABLE’ to do this!



Lunch Was Not Delicious


Today I ate something extremely unusual.

Now, I love glorious pictures of delectable food.  I adore the mere descriptions of food and its consumption, oozing with unctuous adjectives that can make you salivate just imagining the dish – which literary niche Anthony Bourdain once famously described as ‘food porn’ and then proceeded to indulge in for an entire chapter’s worth of food-orgiastic episodes – such as can be found and sated on Pinterest or They Draw and Cook or Tumblr or Instagram, yes, yes, you know where to get your fix already.

But alas, this isn’t going to be that kind of post.  Pie

In fact, no one ever really wants to hear about,

much less try for themselves, what I had for lunch.

And yet every human on this planet has had a chance to taste it.

Today I ate humble pie. 

It’s not, no matter who cooks it up or how prettily it’s served, a tasty dish,

and requires much chewing to make it at all digestible.

It usually doesn’t sit well in the stomach anyhow.  And you’ll know

– because you’re a human –  that the taste of humble pie sucks.

But, like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and beets, it does become more palatable as you attain spiritual maturity.   Humble pie is the modern monastic’s equivalent of giving up meat for Lent; it’s a spiritual discipline to accept humility  – and to do it humbly, which is not a contradiction in terms.  It is possible to affect humility and then be proud about how spiritually advanced you are.   Nope, that doesn’t count.  What I’m talking about is basically saying, “Hey, I was wrong.  And, um, sorry.”    And that is not an easy thing to do.

I screwed up in the way I talked to and related with my spouse this morning. I was polite, calm, and totally wrong in my attitude.  He made a couple of points – in a polite, calm, slightly defensive way – in return, and went off to work.  I took my attitude over to my girlfriends’ group which meets Tuesday mornings, and promptly got called on it.

Ouch.  I listened, I nodded, and I heard the point my husband was trying to make – without ever feeling that my friends were taking ‘his side’, or defending him, or in fact bringing him into the equation at all.  I was getting MY issue put out in the daylight, and through my own words.   Convicted.   In a totally sweet way, and on a silver platter with loving garnishes around it, but there it was; a nice big slab of I-Was-Wrong Humble Pie to swallow.

So yes, I apologized to my husband as soon as he got home.  But that’s not even the hardest part about humility.  Sometimes it’s easy to mouth the words but not bite into them – that is, sometimes you can say sorry without being sorry.   And it’s even harder to digest the lesson of humble pie – that your point of view is not the only one in the world, that it’s not always the correct one, and that sometimes you even have to change that point of view.  It’s still sitting in my stomach and reminding me – rather like a spicy taste in the back of your throat several hours after eating Tex-Mex – that I need to watch what I put into my mouth.  That I need to watch what comes out of it.  That I need to check what the calorie value or the damage fallout might be as a result.

No, this sort of discipline is never pleasant, but there are always results…whether you are practicing it physically (like giving up chocolate for Lent, or working out twice a week, or walking daily, or sitting down at your computer to write at least one page) or practicing it spiritually (like controlling impatience, or praying for others, or sitting in meditation).

So in the end, at the end of my day, what more can I tell you about my lunch?   Just this.  After you’ve had your own slice of humble pie…and it’s digested… you can change your point of view.   Stand up, move, and get a fresh, forgiven, and shiny new perspective.  Wash the crumbs off, and come out with a bright, clean, plate.   Hold it up, in trust and faith, and see what God serves you up for dessert.   Because there is, thankfully, always dessert after humble pie.