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Ask the Nutritionist: Getting Into the Groove of Back-to-School Lunches


By Leika Suzumura, R.D., PCC Nutrition Educator

Q: It’s time for packing lunch again. Can you help me with some new ideas?

ask_kid_eating_school_lunch_250The ultimate challenge when packing school lunches is keeping them interesting, tasty and balanced. Involving your child in the process can set you up for success. Having a good thermos also is essential, and it never hurts to have a flashy bag that makes packed lunch look chic!

Here are some ideas I’ve found successful:

Hot dishes
• Soups — They’re a great way to get protein, grains and veggies all in one. Go for chicken noodle, lentil or chili.
• Fried rice — Use up that leftover rice and chicken or toss in that last little piece of salmon or chicken with some frozen peas.
• Pasta variations — Spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, even pasta salad can make a satisfying lunch. One of my daughter’s favorites
is “Mac Chee Pea”: macaroni and cheese with frozen peas. Easy and oh, so good!
• Meatloaf or turkey loaf: Pick up a slice in the PCC Deli, add a roll and a side of coleslaw and you’re set.

Beyond the PB&J
• Tuna, salmon or egg salad on a croissant or pita
• Turkey wraps using PCC spreads such as artichoke dip, tofu aioli or guacamole
• Different nut and seed butters
• Whole grain bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon and avocado slices or a crisp lettuce leaf to add a splash of color
• Crackers, cheese, lunch meats and dip. Some kids prefer to have everything separate to assemble themselves.

ask_lunch_box_250Other things to consider
• Rotate the menu, keep it exciting. Throughout the week, try various types of grains (pasta, rice, pita) and switch up the protein. Find veggies your child will eat: carrot sticks, veggies with ranch, or veggies mixed right into the main dish.
• Favorite Friday! My daughter loves when I pack something special on Fridays so she can look forward to the surprise.
• Have these basics on hand:
• Thermos
• Water bottle
• Containers
• Reusable utensils
• Lunch box/bag

Learn more here.


About the Nutritionist

Leika received her undergraduate degree in nutrition at Bastyr University. She has dedicated her career to community nutrition with an emphasis on childhood nutrition and parent education as a way to support the livelihood of the next generation. Her approach focuses on bringing kids and parents into the kitchen so that learning nutrition is fun and delicious!

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