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More school lunch tips

Jennifer Oakley
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Olivia, Parker and Ashton Bell

Olivia, Parker and Ashton Bell (from left) get ready for lunch in the new school year. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

This month, moms Shannon Bell, Allison Sovany, Lindsey Lee Hirsch and Jordan Maedgen shared their creative, healthy lunch ideas and recipes to prepare for back-to-school time in Back to School: Lunches that make the grade. See more tips and school lunch menus below, and read the story and get the recipes here.

From Shannon Bell

Shannon Bell has come up with some clever ways to prep for school snacks and lunches. “We like snack bags, reusable snack bags and reusable cup-size containers labeled with our name on it,” says Bell. “I use our last name to label so anybody can grab a container and go.

“I like to use compartmentalized containers the most because it allows a little variety under one lid. Colorful, silicone cupcake liners work well to separate foods too.” She shops for containers at Walmart, Target, Amazon and The Container Store.

For keeping perishable foods cold, “we use a cold pack in a neoprene lunch cooler for perishable snacks. I like them because I can throw them in the wash when they get soiled.” The Bell kids also use reusable water bottles for drinks, so they can be washed and filled.

Bell likes miniature condiment cups [Diamond Daily, at Kroger] for dipping sauces, dressings or nuts – placed inside a container. Bell has also discovered edible color markers [wilton.com] that she uses to decorate foods. In her fruit kebabs, she writes messages on plain white marshmallows. She turns to Pinterest for inspiration for class parties and holidays.

Preschool menus:

Protein: turkey, chicken or low-fat ham roll ups, meatloaf cubes, double-rinsed canned beans, edamame, shrimp cocktail, meatballs, lemon pepper fish (“You are laughing, but I’ve done it and really cod and tilapia are mild white fish that have little smell!”)

Dairy: organic cheese sticks, organic Greek yogurt

Veggie: fast-steamed carrots or broccoli, fresh red or orange pepper slices, avocado cubes, cucumbers

Fruit: Berries, diced melon, unsweetened applesauce, grapes (sliced and frozen in the summer), kiwi, mango

Complex carbs: Whole-grain bread or toast cut into cubes, brown rice, flash-steamed sweet potato cubes, whole grain pasta, mini whole grain pancakes and waffles, whole grain crackers
Snack ideas:

Organic Greek yogurt: Add granola and freeze it in shapes or on stick.

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries. “My kids love using a cherry pitter – it can quickly draw all the neighborhood kids in with a bag of cherries and a few pitters!”

Mango, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, bananas, organic sliced apples (prepackaged from Costco), pomegranate (sometimes available in cups at Costco)

Deli meat slices in rolls

Muffins

Deviled eggs, hard-boiled eggs

Cherry tomatoes, sweet bell pepper slices.

Organic applesauce pouches and cups

Rice rolls

Popcorn

“Ants on a Log” – celery or banana with peanut butter and raisins along the top, sometimes sprinkled with  shredded coconut

Spiced pretzels

Banana, zucchini or pumpkin bread

Organic string cheese

Organic carrot pouches with hummus 

Frozen edamame packs

Pretzels with hummus/cheese

Nuts: peanut butter, almond butter or any butter; raw organic almonds. “I actually keep bulk almonds in my console in case things get really ‘hangry’ in the car!”

Caroline, Henry and William Sovany

Caroline, Henry and William Sovany (from left) get ready to dig into mom Allison’s healthy snacks. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

From Allison Sovany

“Both my husband and I are gluten free. I am lactose intolerant, and the kids don’t eat nuts,” says Allison Sovany. “As far as individual food allergies, though my husband and I are vigilant, our kids know what they cannot eat and they take that seriously for themselves and each other.”

To help her kids eat right at school, Sovany has some tips for packing up lunches. “As for cold items, the insulated bags with the freezer inserts seem to do a good enough job, considering their lunches are relatively early. I always make sure to strategically place the freezer packs around my daughter’s yogurt so it doesn’t spoil.” Prepping the night before school is key to a well-oiled morning. “Fruit is cut and put in Tupperware; chips and/or crackers are placed out, as are napkins, and utensils. Sandwiches and rolled meats are made in the morning so they are fresh.”

Daniel, Jonah and Nicholas Hirsch

Lindsey Lee Hirsch creates healthy Pizza Men for her sons, (from left) Daniel, Jonah and Nicholas, to pack in lunch boxes. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

From Lindsey Lee Hirsch

“School lunches are extremely important,” says Lindsey Lee Hirsch. “To maximize our kids' attention spans and optimize their behavior throughout the afternoon, we have to fill their bellies with wholesome, nourishing lunches. Protein is a key element for lengthening the duration of that satisfied feeling that gets kids through the day.”

To ensure her kids eat the right items to help them throughout their school day, Hirsch limits the number of items. “Sugar has no place in a lunch box. No one needs dessert after finishing lunch. It compromises attention span, and, let's face it, it's addictive poison. What works best for my kids is to pack just two items, both of them being healthy and filling. If I just pack a healthy sandwich and a piece of fruit, then I know exactly what they're eating. And I know they'll eat most of what's there, instead of a little bit of a bunch of different things. I never pack fillers; they have no nutritional value, and only satisfy them for about half an hour. The other thing that works well for my kids is to use variety when packing their lunches. For example, not packing the same thing two days in a row, or even within the same week. Variety is truly the spice of life!”

Hirsch suggests kicking off the school year on the right foot. “A new school year is a great opportunity to make changes and try new things,” she advises. “Have a great first day. And don't forget the first day is the perfect day to put a love note in that lunchbox!”

Carter, Coleman and Charlotte Maedgen

Carter, Coleman and Charlotte Maedgen (from left) get healthy lunches with notes of encouragement on hard-boiled eggs, thanks to mom Jordan. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

From Jordan Maedgen

“This is a weekly sample of what I might pack for my kids,” writes Jordan Maedgen. “I include/decide upon the 1) main food item and then they can choose/have a selection for the 2) dry or carb item 3) and 4) fruit items and 5) dairy item; 6) extra snack/treat is only on occasion. Water to drink each day unless we randomly have a few juice boxes left over from a party or something.”

Maedgen says she uses easy-to-find ingredients when she prepares school snacks and lunches. “I do all of my shopping at HEB Bunker Hill or Randalls in Town and Country, so there is nothing hard to find in any of my recipes.”

Jordan’s sample school lunch menus:

Monday: 

1) Turkey sandwich on Hawaiian rolls

2) Veggie sticks

3) Cutie orange

4) Frozen grapes

5) Yogurt

Tuesday:

1) Chicken-filled tortellini

2) Trail mix

3) Dried fruit pieces

4) Apple slices

5) Boiled egg

Wednesday:

1) Cheese cube, chicken bite, tomato kabob (blunt ends to sticks!)

2) Pirate’s Booty

3) Applesauce

4) Mixed berries

5) String cheese

Thursday:

1) Pita sandwich (turkey with little hummus or PBJ)

2) Almond or nut crackers

3) Blueberry yogurt bites

4) Homemade smoothie (drink)

5) Yogurt

Friday:

1) Ham roll ups (ham wrapped up in a tortilla with a pretzel stick holding it together)

2) Hidden-veggie grain muffin

3) Raisins

4) Banana

5) String cheese (this could be added to roll up)

6) Occasional or snack items: chocolate chip Clif Kid bar, Fig Newtons, chocolate-covered almonds or blueberries

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