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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

What's in YOUR kids lunchbox this year?

Remember that commercial from a large school/office supply chain?  Playing that very song and featuring joyous moms and dads stuffing their carts with notebooks and pencils and dancing down the aisles? 

Yes, my friends!  I do declare it IS the most wonderful time of the year!  School is NOT out for summer!  We are a mere week or so away from early rising, breakfast wars, drop off traffic and the dreaded homework! 

BUT...your little angels will be absorbing tons of useful information in their classrooms that they will carry with them for life. And the very important question that you parents and caregivers will be struggling with quite soon is the all holy lunch question.  "WHAT DO I MAKE?"  Now simmer down.  We've all been there and all thrown a spoonful of soy nut butter into the sink with frustration when the whines of "I don't want that!" are heard.  I ask you to take a deep breath, step away from the peanut/tree nut free butter and listen to me.  It's going to be ok!  I will do my best in this blog to steer you in the quick and easy yet yummy and healthy lunch making tutorial.  I hereby promise to try and leave the allergens and stinky food groups out of my lesson.  So let me start off by saying how proud I am that the Springfield, NJ school system has such an amazing and healthy lunch program. 

I have compared it to many other districts and schools across the country and I am thoroughly impressed by it's balance of protein, fruits/veggies and carbs.  Add in a string cheese or a carton of milk and you've got dairy covered too.  However many kids (and parents) prefer the homemade lunch (by the way, when did brown lunch bags go out of style?) so here we go.

Step outside the sandwich box.  My own daughter "hates" sandwiches (gasp! I know...) SO....in order to keep her full and happy when she brings her lunch to school I have had to come up with some creative options that go beyond turkey on whole wheat.  One of my favorites (and hers too) is the snack pack lunch.  I pack various "snacks" that can be interchanged for either snack time at school OR her lunch, depending on what she wants to eat when.  We always start off with an individual pack of hummus.  You can purchase these in either the grocery store, or buy the big container and scoop into tiny containers that are very easy to pack.  We add a side of whole grain crackers, a string cheese, a piece of fruit or a squeezable apple sauce, some popcorn (read labels- many brands are relatively healthy!) and a bottle of water. 

Other variations of the snack pack lunch include a yogurt smoothie, sliced cheddar with crackers, a whole grain mini bagel with cream cheese, a healthy granola bar (labels!) and...ready for it?  Pizza!  Yes, I have been known to make my children an english muffin pizza in the toaster oven in the morning, wrap it up and send it in their ICarly or Star Wars insulated lunch totes!  It's healthy, filling, and as long as your kid likes pizza, you will get high fives after school!

The other option is what I refer to as ummm.....everything else. We are leaving tuna in the dust!  Make your child a wrap with bacon (turkey or soy work too!) lettuce and tomato.  A little dollop of low fat mayo and you're good to go!  Nothing says love like a little insulated thermos of pierogies (potato stuffed pasta shells) that can be pre-purchased, cooked and packed in as little as 5 minutes.  Grilled cheese lover? Make it fresh on whole grain bread in the morning and wrap that sucker in foil!  Add some tomto soup in a thermos and it's like Grandma's house in the lunch room.  Sun butter (made from sunflower seeds) is quite delicious and many people who try it end up liking it more then peanut butter.  Toast some bread, add a little sun butter, slice up a banana onto the bread and bam.  You've got fruit, protein, and carbs all in one sammie.  Your child only eats pasta?  Puree some fresh steamed veggies and add them into the tomato sauce (carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli work best) and see if they notice!  Add some veggie sauce to hot pasta, toss it around, sprinkle a little cheese on it, and voila!  You have a happy kid at lunch.

I would love to open this blog to any more lunch suggestions from our readers.  These are just a few of my favorites and I could go on and on and on (mac and cheese! cream cheese and olives! pannini's made with turkey!) but I'll spare you my opinions and am opening the floor to you the patch reader!

SO...what's for lunch?  My kids can't wait to find out.  Watch out, they may be asking you to make their lunch next!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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