Not your boring brown bag lunch!

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Now that school has been in full swing and the first semester is almost over, how many of you are getting bored with making school lunches?  Kids also get bored easily and you may find them coming home with half eaten lunches or eating from the lunch line or vending machines more often.  

Many parents tell me that besides the stress of homework, one of their big stressors is packing a healthy lunch that their kids will eat.  Most of us who grew up in an ethnic or Chaldean household were not used to eating cold sandwiches or traditional cafeteria food for lunch.  When I was in grade school my parents would sometimes pack me Takhratha or other Chaldean dishes and I would get some strange looks from the other kids, but nowadays it is more the norm to pack healthier homemade alternatives.

Have your kids help in making lunch. If your kids are too young to help, you can sit down and create a list of food choices that you both will like. This will increase the likelihood that they will actually eat their lunch.

Here are a few suggestions for skipping the boring sandwiches and unhealthy cafeteria food. Surprise them with these very familiar and delicious alternatives.

Protein/grain suggestions:

• Homemade pizza on a whole grain English muffin or whole wheat pita

• Hard boiled eggs with whole grain pita chips

• Homemade tuna or chicken salad on a whole grain English muffin or bun

• Homemade soups kept warm in a thermos

• Homemade pancakes with turkey or chicken sausage (Applegate farms has some good varieties)

• Heat up some organic chicken nuggets in the morning and send in a thermos.

• Other foods to send in a thermos: chili, turkey meatballs, homemade spaghetti or zoodles (zucchini noodles) in marinara sauce.

For those kids who enjoy some traditional Chaldean cuisine for lunch:

 • Chopped salads, fattoush or tabouleh topped with leftover chicken or beef.

 • Meat pies…filled with lean beef, chicken or cheese… kids like them cold or in microwave.

• Anything pita (whole grain):  hummus, baba ganoush, veggies, kafta, beef or chicken kebab. 

 If your child is a real gourmet and doesn’t mind taking a thermos then you could send leftovers from dinner, like our traditional stews.

Next, don’t forget to add the fruits and vegetables. These foods are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that should be a part of every lunch.  Try to vary it every few days so they can learn to try new things and so that they do not get bored.  

Here are a few suggestions:

Mixed berries; Sliced or chunks of melon; Grapes; Apples whole or sliced (can sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown before lunch); Pears, mango, oranges, tangerines; Carrots; Cucumbers; Cherry tomatoes; Celery.

 If your kids like to dip, you can pack some yogurt or hummus.

Lastly, you can add a snack/dessert such as: Whole grain crackers;  Whole grain pretzels; Rice crackers; Roasted chickpeas; Popcorn; Homemade banana bread or cookies.

Try to have a list of healthy choices on hand and most important, get your kids to participate.  

Pamela Haddad is a Registerd Dietitian /Health Educator with a private practice in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  She provides nutrition counseling to individuals and groups in the area of weight management, digestive disorders, diabetes management and other nutrition related concerns. For more information you can visit her website at: