It's back to school time in the Houston area, and if you already have your child's lunch box, you need some ideas now to pack it with healthy meals. Planning ahead, you can get the supplies you need to ensure that your child never gets tired of the lunches that you pack.
Sandwiches are a good, fast option for lunch boxes, especially in the chaos of the first week after your child goes back to school, but there are ways that you can dress up even an ordinary sandwich to make it extraordinary. For back to school lunches, sandwiches are a great entree, and when you and your child collaborate on ideas to make a sandwich different without being too exotic, your child will be more likely to eat it.
Toasted Bread – Toast the bread for your sandwich before putting it together. The toast will help the sandwich stay together and add more flavor and crunch. There are two ways to keep your child's toast crunchy until lunch: separate the meats, vegetables and cheeses into a separate ziptop bag or spread fatty condiments like mayonnaise, peanut butter or butter on the sides of the toast against the fillings to keep the toast from absorbing the moisture from the fillings.
Waffles – Waffles are not just for breakfast. Use prepared toaster waffles or homemade waffles and add your fillings between a pair of them. Even homemade waffles freeze well for reheating in the toaster later, so you can make up extra waffles the next time you are preparing breakfast. Ham and cheese sandwiches will never be the same again if you make them with waffles instead of bread.
Pancakes – While on the subject of breakfast cakes, use pancakes for a slightly sweeter alternative to standard bread for your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or cream cheese and fruit. Pancakes are also a great bread alternative for kids who hate bread crusts. After all, if McDonald's can use pancakes for the bread in its McGriddles breakfast sandwich, so can you. You could be more traditional and send pancakes with a small container of maple syrup.
Raisin Bread – Raisin bread makes delicious toast, but don't think that you are limited to that use. Incorporate raisin bread into your kid's sandwiches for a sandwich that is slight sweet enough for your child to eat it. Make an apple and cream cheese sandwich, peanut butter or even a simple cheese sandwich, all of which are great choices when you are in a hurry on September mornings getting accustomed to the back to school routine.
Hot Dog Buns – Hot dog buns are great if you run out of bread while making toast in the morning and your child wants a sandwich for lunch. You can send a hot dog inside the bun, but why not try something different like peanut butter with a banana cut lengthwise in the bun or raisins dotted atop the peanut butter along the length of the bun, similar to ants on a log. You can even pile sliced meats and cheeses on the bun to make a kid-friendly size submarine sandwich.
Hamburger Buns – Hamburger buns can stand in for any plain bread in any sandwich, sweet or savory. If your child likes Arby's, why not pile a hamburger bun with deli-sliced roast beef, or you can replicate Chik-Fil-A with a grilled chicken breast leftover from last night's dinner on a hamburger bun in your child's lunch.
Whole Grain Bread – Boost your child's nutrition by sending a back to school sandwich made with whole grain bread. The heartiness of the bread works well with savory, hearty fillings like multiple types of sliced meats and cheeses and vegetables. This week, you can get a free loaf of 9-grain bread when you buy a pound of deli meat at Central Market. That will be enough for over a week's worth of sandwiches.
Crackers – Forget buying Lunchables for your kids and make your own. This lets your kids pick out their favorite crackers, cheeses and meats. Consider seed, whole wheat, vegetable, pretzel, lentil or other cracker alternatives to buttery crackers or saltines. You could even get creative and send spreads like hummus, cream cheese, Nutella or pecan butter with your child's crackers. Be sure that you pack any spreads that need to stay cold with an ice pack in the lunch box. Even dull knives in your kid's lunch box could be confiscated, so opt to send a spoon for applying spreads to crackers instead.