J.M. and Parker, 9, sometimes collaborate on lunch (like the pizza sushi here.) "I was born to cook," Parker says.
"Parker likes the fun of eating real sushi," J.M. says, "so I decided to get creative and figure out what else I could turn into sushi-style rolls. We can throw this together in no time."
Several years of lunch-box duty (and three years blogging about it) armed J.M. with some smart strategies. Use them to make your kids' lunches better -- and your mornings easier!
Leftovers make packing lunch so much easier -- it just makes sense to build them into your dinner plans. Boiling extra pasta or roasting a larger chicken doesn't require additional effort.
When practical, the people eating the lunches should be involved in the shopping, prepping and packing. If they help make it, they're more likely to eat it.
Skip the Kid Food
It doesn't exist. Or rather, it shouldn't. "Kid food" is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Give kids real food with real flavor. They'll eat it, especially if you do, too.
Pick Your Battles
When your children say they don't like something you packed for them, trust them and thank them for trying it. Save the green bean battles for dinner, when you're there to model good eating habits.
Take the High Road
Don't get sucked into the "But Hulga Mae gets to bring cotton candy and Big Macs for lunch!" fights. Just say, "Every family makes different choices." It may not lessen the whining, but it's the truth.
"Almost any meal can become kid-friendly by making it bite-size," J.M. says. These tiny quiches are one of Parker's favorite lunches- and his classmates like them, too. "Kids ask to swap food with me all the time," he says.
How To: Mini Meaty Cheesy Quiches
Thaw mini phyllo pastry cups (find them in the freezer section), then add a little shredded cheese and sliced ham to each cup. Fill with beaten egg seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until the egg is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
How To: Waffle Stacks
Who needs bread when you can use waffles instead?
Spread peanut butter (or any nut butter) on a whole-grain waffle, then drizzle with honey. Top with banana slices and another waffle.
How To: Cucumber Subs
Make a hoagie healthier by stuffing a cuke with your favorite sandwich fixings.
Cut thin-skinned cucumbers in half lengthwise, then scrape out the seeds. Layer with filings, like deli turkey and cream cheese mixed with a little pepper.
Beating the Lunch Box Blues
Check out the first title from Rach's new imprint, Rachael Ray books! Recipes and tips adapted from Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch. Copyright 2013 by Jason M. Hirsch. Reprinted by permission of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.