Well-schooled in Lunch

01 Sep Well-schooled in Lunch

Parents think outside the box when packing nutritious lunches


For the Tribune

Reading, writing and arith­metic— the school year official­ly has arrived. And for parents of school-age children, back-to­school means back to the kitchen packing sack lunches.

While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, local registered dietitian Laura Crist said a healthy lunch is critical to ensuring better performance in the classroom and on the play­ground.

Getting back to the basics is a great strategy in packing a sack lunch, Crist said.

“We need to cut back on foods that are processed and go back to whole, natural foods to fuel our children’s bodies and minds.

“Think about what your mother packed for you for lunch,” Crist said. “Chances are it was pretty simple — a sand­wich, a piece of fruit, maybe some beans from the garden.”

When planning your child’s sack lunch, it’s always impor­tant to involve them in the process, she advised.

“Take them with you to the grocery store and let them select the fruit of the week. Have them help cut veggies and keep them in a little water in the refrigerator for easy snacking.”

Stocking up on staples such as eggs, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, tuna fish, whole grain tor­tillas and fruits and vegetables provides parents with basics from which to build healthy lunches.

Crist said having protein in the morn­ing is essential for concentration.

“Add some protein to your breakfast with a hard-boiled egg or some peanut butter on your toast,” she said.

Serve a smoothie with some whey pro­tein powder in it or try to include “healthier” proteins instead of greasy meats.

Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, take a little longer for the body to break down and are full of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vita­mins, fiber and nutrients that allow for healthy development and maintenance of the body. Aim for five a day, which means there should be a fruit and veg­etable in your child’s lunch and probably in their after-school snack, Crist advised. Examples of nutri­tious main courses for sack lunches include:

 The classic peanut butter and jelly/honey sand­wich

 Make your own lunch-ables with cheese, deli meat and cracker

 A simple turkey or tuna wrap (small flour tortilla with a lit­tle mayo, cheese and turkey/tuna — you also can add lettuce)

 Mini Bagels (limit to two or three) with light cream cheese

Provide healthy, natural sides such as a piece of fruit, vegeta­bles and low-fat yogurt.

“If you want to let your child know that you care about them, include a note instead of an extra bag of cookies or chips,” Crist said.

Solving the childhood obe­sity crisis has been in the forefront of Cascade County Commissioner Peggy Beltrone’s mind in recent years as well. Her efforts have included help­ing to launch Get Fit Great Falls, chairing the National Association of Counties’ Rural Obesity initiative in 2007 and serving on the Institute of Medi­cine’s expert committee study­ing Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity.

Last February, Beltrone attended the White House kick­off of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Child­hood Obesity Prevention Pro­ject.

Since then, the task force on Childhood Obesity has written a report with 70 recommendat­ions, some of which were made immediately.

“As I sat in the White House, I was overcome with the feeling that finally a national leader had emerged who would use her position to help the country find solutions to childhood obe­sity,” Beltrone said.

Beltrone, who is resigning from the county commission this month to join the executive team at Exergy Development, said she has learned much as a result of her work on childhood obesity.

Her advice to parents is to pay attention to the eating and activi­ty patterns of their children, look­ing at whether kids are getting outside to play after school, and if they are on their own to make an after-school snack.

“Good routines can safeguard against weight gain just as bad habits can lead to weight gain,” Beltrone said.

“If you can make it at home, you have the ability to control how many calories you put into your child’s lunch rather than letting the food industry,” Crist said.

Here are ideas for pack­ing nutritious sack lunches.


 2 tbsp. peanut butter

 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

 1 tbsp. real mayonnaise

 2 tsp. brown sugar

 ½ cup chicken meat, cut in small chunks

 2 tbsp. grated carrot

 1 whole wheat pita

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine peanut butter, vinegar, mayonnaise and brown sugar.

Add chicken and grated carrot and stir to combine.

Open pita and fill with peanut chicken.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap.


 2-pound pork tenderloin (you’ll have leftovers)

 ¼ cup tbsp. apple butter, divid­ed

 1 slice raisin bread

 1 Gala or Pink Lady apple, thin­ly sliced

Preheat oven to 325°.

Spread two tablespoons apple butter over the top of the pork tenderloin and roast for an hour.

Remove from oven and let rest. Pork can be cooked ahead and refrigerated.

Cut raisin bread in half on cut­ting board. Spread with apple butter to cover. Slice pork into thin slices and layer pork slices atop apple butter. Arrange apple slices on top of pork.

Place second half of raisin bread on top and secure with a toothpick.


Easy buttermilk biscuits (makes 6­ 8 small biscuits)

 1 cup flour

 1 tbsp. baking powder

 2 tsp. sugar

 ½ tsp. cream of tartar

 ¼ tsp. salt

 ¼ cup butter

 ¤ to ½ cup buttermilk (or make sour milk by adding 1 tbsp. vinegar to milk)

Preheat oven to 450°.

Thoroughly combine dry ingre­dients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter, until small uniform clumps form. Add buttermilk and stir just until combined. Gather into a ball and roll out on lightly floured surface to 1 inch thick­ness.

Cut into 2- or 3-inch rounds and place 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.


 1 tsp. butter

 4 eggs

 Green food coloring

 ¼ pound shaved honey ham from the deli

Heat small saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and melt.

Using a wire whisk, whisk eggs in a medium bowl until com­bined.

Add green food coloring to achieve desired color.

Pour eggs into preheated pan and scramble.

To assemble: Slice biscuits in half.

Arrange ham slices attractively on bottom biscuit.

Top with green eggs and top biscuit.

Green Eggs and Ham in a Bis­cuit can be wrapped tightly in alu­minum foil and heated in a 325° oven for 15 minutes before pack­ing in lunchbox to retain heat.

George is a freelance writer spe­cializing in food journalism, recipe development and food photogra­phy.

She can be reached at sydne­george@hotmail.com.


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