Back-to-School Lunch Ideas from My Best Friend's Kitchen

Kathie Riley of My Best Friend's Kitchen visited NewsChannel 7 Today Friday morning and has some recipes for adorable lunchbox snacks and some great back to school tips for packing healthy lunches.

Here are some ideas for a no hassle, healthy and fun lunchbox.

1. First stick to a formula such as main dish, vegetable and something sweet.

2. Also make a list: sit down with you children and write out the items in the above categories they would like to have in their lunches. Keep it updated as their likes and dislikes change. Make a note of healthy alternatives to things that are NOT healthy at all. Store it where it’s handy so you can pack a lunch without thinking.

3. Keep stock of lunch items: set aside one area of your dry storage and one are of your refrigerator just for lunch-box items, make sure kids know it’s off limits during non-school hours and keep it stocked.

4. Portions size is important for grade school lunches; use this as a general guideline: two to three ounces of meat or cheese, one or two slices of bread or ½ cup cooked grain or rice, one whole fruit or ½ cup prepared fruit or 6 oz 100% fruit juice, one cup vegetable raw or ½ cup vegetable cooked, and one cup milk or 4 oz other dairy product.

5. Include something fun like a package of Smarties with a note about how smart your child is, a sticker, cookies wrapped in plastic wrap with a ribbon, sandwiches cut into different shapes or cheese or fruits threaded on a stick.

6. Freeze small bottles of water or 100% fruit juice boxes: they will help to keep other food cold and will thaw to just the right temperature by lunch time. Pack lunch-size leftovers ahead of time. Pack leftovers in sizes just right for lunch and store in pantry, refrigerator or freezer for future use.

7. Double up when you make healthy items for lunch make extras and pack them up right away into lunch box size containers and keep them in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer for later use.

8. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Sometimes food can go un-refrigerated for extended periods of time. This gives bacteria a chance to grow and multiply, thus increasing the risk of a food bourne illness. Buy gel packs and keep in the freezer to include in lunches when needed. Purchased thermos bottles/containers for hot items such as soup or cold items such as salad. Insulted lunch bags are the best choice for keeping foods cold. Paper lunch bags provide no insulation.

Lunch box and snack ideas:

1. Food cut up into cubes (cheese, rotisserie chicken, carrots, fruit or brownie bites)
2. Tuna or egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread
3. Quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla with thinly sliced banana and a few chocolate chips or grated cheese and thin slices of an apple but into small wedges for easy packing
4. Natural Peanut Butter and all fruit spread on whole grain bread
5. Turkey, lean ham or lean roast beef sandwich on whole grain bread
6. Roll ups: use whole wheat tortillas with refried beans and shredded cheese, tuna fish, pizza sauce, cheese, meat and veggies or with blueberry or strawberry flavored cream cheese with fresh fruit
7. Healthy Hot Dogs: string cheese wrapped in lean turkey or ham and served in a whole wheat hot dog bun with mustard or mayonnaise packets
8. Peel and segmented orange with flavored yogurt
9. Fruit or fruit and cheese kabobs
10. Hot soup in a thermos
11. Container of unsweetened applesauce or hummus with celery sticks
12. Fresh fruit and raw nuts
13. Raw vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes) with ranch dressing
14. Mini salad with salad dressing on the side
15. Celery sticks with peanut butter or hummus
16. Dollops of yogurt, frozen on a sheet pan
17. Fresh made trail mix with dried fruit (raisings, dried cranberries, dried cherries), raw almonds or other nuts, sunflower seeds, goldfish pretzels or popcorn
18. Natural peanut butter with whole grain crackers
19. Baked tortilla chips and salsa
20. Fresh made pita wedges and hummus
21. Mini quiches with their favorite ingredients (chicken, lean ham, vegetables, etc.)

Here is a recipe for Baked Pita Chips:

Whole wheat pitas, open and cut into wedges
½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Separate layers of pitas
Spread them on a baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil spray
Sprinkle them with parmesan
Baked for 8 – 10 minutes until toasty and brown

Serve with hummus for dipping

Here is a Quesadilla recipe:

2 whole wheat flour tortillas plus
½ cup grated cheddar cheese and 1 apple cored and cut into thin slices
One banana, thinly sliced and a ¼ cup chocolate chips

Sprinkle ingredients in an even layer over one of the tortillas
Top with the remaining tortilla
Put on microwave safe plate and microwave for 30 seconds until the cheese or chocolate chips melt (or may be heated in a skillet for 1 – 2 minutes on each side
Cut into 6 – 8 wedges for easy packing

Here is a recipe for Caterpillar Pizza:

Store bought pizza dough (in the refrigerated section)
Olive oil spray
Toppings, such as olives, pepperoni, peppers, etc.
Jar of pizza sauce
Sliced mozzarella, cut into discs with a cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet
Divide the dough into 14 pieces, rolling each in your hands to make a 1” ball and using 3 to make the head
Arrange balls on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand; spray lightly with olive oil spray
Bake until dough is just starting to get brown around the edges
Remove from oven and let cool slightly
Put a teaspoon of sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese on each of the body pieces; using toppings to create the caterpillar features for face, etc.
Return to oven and bake until the cheese is just starting to brown, about 8 minutes

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