When our boys were kids in school, I spent my early mornings every Monday through Friday of the school year, toiling on the lunch sack assembly line. It’s a lonely and often thankless task to try to plan something that is not only nourishing and healthy for your kids, but something they’ll actually eat. In my experience, admittedly only an “n” of 3, the first directive is decidedly easier to manage than the second.
Actually for one year, it was an “n” of 4, since during our oldest son’s senior year in high school, one of his classmates moved in with us for the year. His step-dad had been transferred to another state and his mother and younger siblings moved when the house sold, which happened to be at the very start of his senior year. Nobody wants to move in his senior year and start anew, if he can avoid it, so when our son came home the first week of school and asked if his friend could live with us for a year, we were more than happy to have him.
That year, in particular, the lunch sack assembly line grew, since this young man was a big guy, number one, and a big eater, number two. I dealt out an entire loaf of low-carb (light) bread every morning to make the requisite number of sandwiches for 4 hungry boys.
Would that during my tenure on the lunch line, there had been the variety of raw materials available now. For instance, low carb tortillas would have enabled me to make an endless variety of wraps and even lunch box “sushi” rolls for variety.
When you’re confronted with the empty brown sack or lunchbox, you long for something to break the monotony, even if your kids could content themselves with a plain ham sandwich, a bag of trail mix, and an orange every day of the year. For those of you currently packing a lunch every day for your kids, here are a few ideas:
Lunchbox PBJF ‘Sushi’ Roll
1 large low carb tortilla
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons low-sugar apricot or grape jam
8 fresh raspberries
1. Lay the tortilla flat and spread the peanut butter evenly to within about 1″ of the edge.
2. Spread the jam evenly over the peanut butter
3. Lay the raspberries single file down the side of the tortilla closest to you, about 2″ from the edge.
4. Carefully fold the near edge of the tortilla over the row of raspberries, going all the way over them, then tightly roll the “roll” across the remaining width of the tortilla.
5. Cut the “roll” into about 6 or 8 pieces, wrap it securely in plastic, Press’n’seal, or put into a reusable snap lid plastic Glad or Ziplok container.
This ‘roll’ is another of those stealth nutrition ideas that in this case sneaks fresh raspberries into their PBJ. You could also use blackberries or pieces of strawberries.
Lunchbox Chicken Caprese ‘Sushi’ Roll
1 low carb tortilla
1 cooked chicken tender (grilled, olive oil, salt, pepper, the night before and refrigerated)
1 large fresh butter lettuce leaf (or 2 smaller ones)
3 thin slices smoked mozzarella cheese (or provolone)
1 tablespoon diced tomato
3 large fresh basil leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil vinaigrette (homemade or your choice)
1. Lay the tortilla flat and lay the lettuce leaves in the center.
2. Drizzle half the vinaigrette on the lettuce leaves.
3. Arrange the cheese slices to cover most of the lettuce.
4. Place the chicken tender on the side of the tortilla closest to you, about 2″ from the edge. (Lay the basil leaves down the length of the chicken, if you’re using them.)
5. Sprinkle the diced tomato in a line just inside the chicken tender, from end to end and distribute the remaining dressing over the chicken tender and tomatoes.
6. Starting from the edge closest to you, roll the tortilla up and over the chicken tender and tomato line, then tightly continue to roll the ‘roll’ across the width of the tortilla.
7. Cut the ‘roll’ into 6 or 8 pieces of ‘sushi’ and wrap in plastic, Press’n’seal, or put into a reusable Glad or Ziplok storage box.
Although this roll doesn’t have any mayo in it, it does have chicken and for that reason, you should be sure to include a cool pak in the lunch sack or box for safety’s sake.
As the weather gets colder, you might want to beef up their lunchfare with a thermos of chili or chowder, too. You’ll find recipes for these and other hearty soups (as well as other kid friendly and nutritional stealth food ideas) in the companion cookbook to our PBS television show, The Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook.
I have to say, as much as I complained about the daily grind of packing lunches, I sort of miss it. While you’re in the throes of the routine of school years, it seems as if the day will never come that you don’t start your morning by packing lunches. But, time passes very quickly really and the day does come and suddenly, it seems, your kids have kids of their own.
So, thought for the day: Enjoy your kids. Enjoy their lessons, practices, homework, last minute projects, scout trips, school plays, and yes, even packing that brown bag. Just be sure to put something good for them in it!