The lunch box dilemma is a common challenge for many families. Mornings are rushed with finishing homework, chores, assembling books and gear for soccer and swim practice, walking the dog, and personal care. Finding time for a nutritional breakfast is difficult, and too often, lunch is an afterthought and on the fly.
It was a joy when my children (and husband) were ready to start packing their own lunches. But before stocking the refrigerator and striking out on this new culinary adventure, we had a family conversation about what components; fruit, vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates, were necessary to constitute a nutritional lunch.
At least five servings of fruits and vegetables are needed to maintain good body healthy, so we decided that every “lunch” should have at least one serving each of a fruit and a vegetable.
Protein is needed to build muscle, replace worn out cells, develop antibodies, help transport oxygen, and provide energy. The glucose from carbohydrates is the body’s preferred form of energy, and complex carbohydrates, or whole grains, promote the feeling of fullness and provide much-needed fiber. In addition to a fruit and veggie, a wholesome lunch should also contain a protein, and a complex carbohydrate or whole grain.
Over time, our family has developed some time-saving strategies for a quick and easy lunch. When we make a large supper, my husband likes to make “plates” of leftovers. These reheat easily in the microwave, and satisfy his midday hunger. If I’m traveling and a hot lunch is not available, I enjoy foods at room temperature, like leftover pizza, quiche or a frittata. Add a piece of fruit to complete the meal.
The remains of last night’s supper salad can easily become lunch: add chopped cooked veggies, meat, tuna or egg. Cooked grains like rice, pasta, barley, or wheat berries are quite tasty when tossed with chopped veggies, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
Our family favorite lunch for a hike in the woods, a skiing adventure or a long car trip is Easy Tomato Soup with peanut butter crackers and carrot sticks. Nutritional, filling, and American-style comfort food. That’s what I call lunch!
Easy Cream of Tomato Soup
- 1½ cups chopped tomatoes or tomato puree
- ½ cup cream, rice milk or soymilk
- Chopped fresh herbs of your choice (basil, oregano, parsley)
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- In a soup pot over medium heat, warm the chopped tomatoes or tomato puree. Slowly stir in the cream, rice milk or soymilk.
- Add the chopped fresh herbs if desired, and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. For a smoother texture, if desired, the soup may be pureed in the blender or food processor.
- To prepare your lunch: preheat the thermos by filling with hot water. Drain the hot water and add the hot soup. Cut a carrot into sticks; fill three crackers with peanut butter or cheese. Pack lunch box!