For most of us, it’s still mid-summer, but for many others, Back to School is the big theme at this time of year. The emphasis on First Lady Michelle Obama's Let’s Move campaign and keeping meals at school healthful set the stage for going beyond the usual sandwich lunch. Try these ideas that combine nutrition (using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new MyPlate icon) with ease:
• Vary the protein with hummus, lower-fat (and sodium) cheese and, of course. peanut butter (great with banana). If the school has peanut-free zones, soy, almond or sunflower seed butters deliver flavor and protein along with healthy fat. Limit the deli options to those that are controlled in sodium and fat. Sliced hard-boiled eggs also make the grade (as long as temperatures can be kept cool). And for a change from tired old sandwiches, use turkey or ham slices and wrap them around veggies sliced lengthwise, substituting a grain salad for the usual bread or roll.
• Fruits and veggies are half of the MyPlate program, and the options can range from salads to cut veggies added to sandwiches and wraps, to the fruits of the season. Salsa or hummus with cut veggies are popular choices. If time is an issue (and it always is), then try precut fruit or veggies from the store. This is a time to have aisle demos that give lunch-packers some ideas on ways to serve kiwi, papaya or mango — a great change from the ever-popular grapes, pears, apples and bananas. A fruit kebob (using a straw to skewer strawberries, grapes and chunks of fruit) is popular. Add some cubes of cheese or yogurt for a dip to help satisfy the protein requirements of the meal.
• Along with a serving of milk, yogurt and cheese can also be used to meet the requirements for dairy.
And remember: These ideas work for all ages. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy them!
[Photo credit: USDA]