Packing lunches for my children can be tricky, even for a mom like me who happens to cook for a living. My boys each have their favorite requests, and neither one of them ever ate the sandwiches I packed for them. (It’s no wonder, really. Have you ever seen a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that’s been sitting in a lunch box for 5 hours? I wouldn’t eat mine either!)
So last year I finally got smart. I looked at what they were eating at home for lunch, then tried to find the foods that would still taste great after a few hours in a lunch box. Guess what made it to the top of the list? Salads!
Granted, I’m using this term loosely because in my house, a salad is any combination of healthy, fresh ingredients. After taking my children’s favorite foods and messing around a bit, here are the combinations that actually got eaten at school:
- Black beans (canned are fine) combined with raw corn kernels, chopped red bell pepper, chopped jicama, a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. (I’ll make a big batch of this and use it all week.)
- Orzo pasta mixed with a little vinaigrette, currants, sliced green onions and toasted pine nuts.
- Chopped romaine lettuce with lemon dressing and croutons. Romaine is the crunchiest of lettuces so it holds up in a lunch box. To keep things from getting soggy, I keep the dressing and croutons separate. Then the kids can mix it up themselves or just dip the lettuce and croutons in the dressing.
- Couscous salad mixed with chopped carrots, mint, tomatoes, currants and any other small colorful things I feel like throwing in there.
- Fruit salad — you name it and they’ll eat it! My favorite combos for lunch boxes are pineapple/blueberry/strawberry and nectarine/plum. If I’m giving them apples or bananas, I leave them whole so they don’t turn brown. (Remember, we all eat with our eyes, and I think that’s half the battle with getting children to eat their lunches.)
As your kids head back to school and you hit the “what should I make them?” doldrums, think salads. You might be surprised by the results!
For more free salad and lunch recipes for your children, visit www.onefamilyonemeal.com.
About the author: Amanda loves spending her days talking about food as the Manager of the Test Kitchen at Williams-Sonoma. She moonlights as a cookbook author, recipe tester, and founder of the website One Family One Meal. When she’s not thinking about food or eating food, she loves hanging out with her husband and two young sons. She lives in the Bay Area.