I was lucky, because my mom packed most of my school lunches - so often, in fact, that it was a treat when I 'got to' buy lunch at school! But, financial stuff aside (sorry, but making healthy lunches affordable is a political issue, not a food blogger issue) many moms just don't pack lunches for their kids because they don't know what to pack - or they pack the same boring sandwich day-in and day-out that their kids eventually throw in the towel and say they'd rather have the cafeteria food.
For such cases, I thought it might be handy to put together a post full of healthy, kid-approved* lunches for back-to-school! In Guilford County this is the first week of school - and as I'm still at home for this last week (before I head up to school myself on Saturday!) I'm packing all of my little sister's lunches (she's 7 and in the second grade!) and getting her feedback.
I've enlisted the help of some healthy food companies and will be, day by day, sharing her healthy lunch boxes with you in my healthy lunch box series!
After all, how can we expect America's children to learn their best and grow to be their best, if we don't do our best to fuel them right? They're our future, let's give them the tools they need to succeed!
I mean, I don't know about y'all, but... I want my social security when the day comes. ;) Bwahaha, JUST KIDDING - I actually do love kids (particularly my little sister) for reasons other than wanting a cushy retirement!
Kids love trying lots of different things, so a finger food assortment is always fun!Who are we kidding? Some older people like it too. ;) I could totally see a similar meal working for the rest of us, just with bigger portions of everything.
For her first day of second grade, I packed a salad of mixed greens with a light drizzle of olive oil and a scoop of homemade tuna salad (note: my little sister is not vegetarian), sharp cheddar cheese cubes with Newman's Own Organics Mighty Pretzel Minis, an Ocean Spray Cran-Grape juice bottle, and frozen banana bites for dessert. You know, in honor of today as Banana Lovers Day.
My mom made the tuna salad. She combined tuna, a wee bit of olive oil, whipped mayo, chopped celery, and salt and pepper to taste. Then I served the dollop on some organic mixed baby greens (I think lettuces are part of the dirty dozen? If not, they ought to be) for a nutritious tuna side salad.
I made the frozen banana bites on my own, YUM.
Here's what I used:
Halve the recipe for a kid's portion. I made double as much, because it would obviously be completely irresponsible of me not to taste test the dessert first. ;) Oh, and this recipe is vegan!
Banana Dessert Bites
1) Peel the banana.
2) Slice the banana horizontally.
3) Stick a toothpick in each piece of banana.
4) Drizzle each banana generously with honey.
5) Top with nuts.
It was already pretty tasty before freezing:
but it's worth a little restraint until the bites are frozen (about an hour will do the trick). They're so much more amazing frozen (or well chilled, as frozen ones will be after a few hours in a lunch box).
I give this recipe two thumbs up, but who cares what I think?
My sister says she enjoyed the lunch - it was the right amount and it was fun to eat, because of the different sections of the lunch and the finger food portions. She enjoyed the cran-grape juice, though it was a bit tarter than her usual grape juice, as a way to mix things up. She also liked the pretzels, but said that the banana dessert was kind of messy from the honey. She said she still wants to have it again, but she wants me to pack more napkins next time.
Whoops. Napkins? Such a rookie mistake.
Anyway, now that you've had a review from my little sis, here's a picture-heavy, word-light (since a picture is worth 1,000 words) review of some Newman's Own Organics products that would make great additions to a kid's (or adult's) lunchbox!
These are crunchy, not stale-tasting at all, and neither overly-salted nor under-salted. They also didn't take on the taste of the plastic bag, even in this hot August weather, unlike a pack of airline mini pretzels I had the misfortune of rediscovering in my backpack the other day. *Insert ick face here.*
But I'm more of a sweets than savory girl, so I'd still rather find their cookies (!!!) in my lunchbox.
And I thought I'd be loyal to Oreos forever! I'm sorry, Oreos. Apparently even your yumminess is yummier organic.
And with mint. *Swoon.*
The chocolate is as intense as Oreos and the cookie bits are just the same in texture (not too crunchy or too soft). They're sweet enough, but not as sweet as Oreos, which can border on too sweet after a few. My little sister actually prefers these to Oreos and wants them as her after-school snack!
We were almost hesitant to try these, as pretty much everyone in my house (with the possible exception of my dad) is a Reese's fan. How could an organic counterpart compare?
Answer: WONDERFULLY. My mom, little sister, and I all liked these even better than Reese's!
The chocolate is just a touch less sweet, but extra creamy so it's perfect!
Meaning, of course, that we were stoked to try the caramel cups.
Again, 1 package = 1 serving = 3 cups.
It's the same delicious chocolate and the caramel is delicious, too, but we preferred the chocolate peanut butter cups. The caramel here was just a bit too runny for our tastes.
The peppermint cups had a really creamy peppermint filling, enrobed by dark chocolate, and put Andes Mints to shame.
The huge surprise here was that these were my little sister's favorite! I wasn't expecting that, as I think of minty dark chocolate as a more adult taste!
Newman's Own Organics also makes chocolate bars (what don't they make?).
Both the mocha milk chocolate and plain milk chocolate were beyond creamy, effortlessly replacing Hershey's as our household go-to chocolate bar.
I liked that they tell you the cacao percentage, I like the gold foil, and most of all I like the creamy, dreamy chocolate!
Check out the super dark chocolate!
It's also creamy, not at all bitter or crumbly (which can be a problem for dark chocolate bars) and still sweet, but not overly so.
They make the same cups that htey have in milk chocolate in dark chocolate as well.
Again, the caramel cups' filling is just a touch too runny for our tastes. We still really enjoyed them, but we'd love them if the caramel was creamier!
And, again, the peanut butter was delicious. Oh, and ignore the color above - I don't know what was going on with the lighting, but these were nice chocolaty cups, not whitish at all!
I love Craisins, so I had to try Newman's Own Organics' organic version:
Just three organic ingredients and no dyes!
They're really not needed, considering how love the red dried cranberries already are.
And they're every bit as yummy as Craisins! They're a touch chewier, not quite as hard, so I think I might even like them a bit better!
The crunchy cookies stole the show for my mom, though.
They're little, perfect for a bite-sized treat. The chocolate chips are delicious, not hard as some can be, and the oatmeal adds a nice heartiness to the cookie.
There are about 30 cookies per bag, with each serving as 5 cookies.
The double chocolate cookies are perfect for satisfying a chocolate craving!
Aaaaaand another pic, because they're that good:
I've always liked fig newtons, though, so Fig Newmans were my favorite.
Fig Newtons can be a bit too sweet and these are just a little bit less sweet so they're perfect!
How could you not love them?
My dad's favorite were the ginger snap, because he really likes ginger cookies but likes them super crunchy.
These fit the bill!
They have real pieces of candied ginger in them, which is an extra little something to knock the flavor level up to AWESOME.
The Hermits reminded my mom of Lebkuchen. But I think these are yummier! I'm not a Lebkuchen fan, but I liked the Hermits microwaved for 30 seconds and served with vanilla ice cream.
Like my Healthy Lunchbox Series, Newman's Own Organic is all about proving that food can be delicious and convenient without giving up the healthiness by pumping in artificial ingredients and preservatives. They do a great job!
Did you have packed lunches in school?
Do you feel that government is doing enough to promote healthful meals in school? Should it be their job?
Did you know it was banana lovers day?
*No children were harmed in the preparation of this series. All meals were