Make Your Own Lunch – Tips For Olympia Parents + School Lunches



By Mary Ellen Psaltis

What’s for lunch? That’s the question as we head into the season of school lunches. We want lunch to be quick and easy to assemble, and it ought to taste good, too. Parents want their children to eat their lunch rather than have it mold inside their lockers and backpacks. I love lunch; it’s my favorite meal. I also love to eat food that helps me to feel energized and healthy.

Convenience tempts us to grab those brightly packaged boxes of so-called lunch-able meals; after all they are certainly handy and seem to be cheap. But wait… please. Read the labels, all of them, and you will find a lengthy list of chemicals, accompanied by a heaping dose of sodium plus a decent amount of sugar and undesirable fat. Don’t be fooled by the lure of ‘fruit’ or ‘natural.’ Be wary when your meal includes so-called cheese that legally cannot be called cheese. It’s cheese-food or cheese spread. Not only is this a nutritional nightmare (my opinion); it’s also ecologically harsh.

What Is The Alternative?

Make your own fun, fast, flavorful lunches. Yes, it will take a few extra minutes, but you will no longer be supporting obesity and poor eating habits while you will be creating greater well-being for all who are lucky enough to eat your lovingly packed meals.

The Goal: Fun, Quick Lunches Every Day

To Begin: Containers

Invest in a drawer full of containers – small boxes or rounds with tight fitting lids. Many have duel or multiple compartments, like a Bento box. This allows you to pack a number of items in small amounts. The smallest container (size zero) is perfect for a lunch box. Pack it with nuts or dry cereal. My favorite  ‘box’ was the size of a sandwich. Never again did one suffer from smashing.

It’s school supply time at retail outlets so you can find many lunch boxes (all styles) and containers – many with reusable ice packs. Most refillables, including water bottles, are often non-BPA which reduces chemical exposure. Remember to find a wide mouthed thermos so you can transport soup, homemade macaroni and cheese or stew. Finally, be sure to get a lunch carrier to use every day.

Second Stop: Olympia Farmers Market

Here you will find a supply of just-picked produce. The market is truly the place to select from the wide variety our local farmers provide. You will find carrots, berries, cheese curds, peppers, lettuce, spinach, apples, bread, honey, eggs, salsa and so much more. All these can make their way into your lunches.

Pantry List:

There are a few items to get elsewhere: Peanut butter (without added sugar or oil, like Adams), all-fruit jam, assorted nuts, grapes, tuna, chips (yes, you don’t have to eat the whole bag at once), and a few treats like a bag of miniature chocolates and/or mini-marshmallows.

The basic idea is to make a lunch that’s appealing – which means small amounts of color, texture and taste. Almost everything needs to be bite-sized or at least finger food. Think appetizers. For children, this is simply a fun way to eat. And for adults – think of how appealing it is to go to a party and dine on multiple appetizers.

The foundation of the lunch can still be a sandwich, but use grainy bread and cut it into triangles or squares. Snazz up your turkey sandwich with cranberry relish, if you have any, but you could also use a little strawberry jam or sprinkle in a few Craisins. Another way to save time on lunch preparations is to anchor your lunch with last night’s leftovers. A piece of salmon or a piece of pizza would be great. Other meat or vegetables can be rolled up into a tortilla.

Put chopped fruit (a few berries, apples or bananas) and mix with raisins with a squirt of lime juice. It’s refreshing and healthful. For extra protein, fill container with Greek yogurt. Avoid the fruit and sugar-laden varieties of yogurt. Nuts are another source of excellent body fuel.

What Else?

A few chips or a couple of crackers and a small piece of cheese, and a note that says, “have a nice lunch.” Your lunch does not have to be bereft of salt or sugar, just put in small doses. Make your lunches the night before – then you only need grab them from the fridge. It will make your mornings less stressful.

A Note About Breakfast:

Below is a recipe for baked oatmeal that is packed with extras and is surprisingly versatile. Of course, it’s for breakfast – great plain or with added milk. The leftovers go into the freezer. Cut them into bars and add one for a lunch treat. It will be thawed by the time it’s lunch.

All this talk of food makes me hungry. Let’s pack up our lunch and get together.

Eat Well – Be Well

Baked Oatmeal

From Selah Inn

Two-thirds cups sugar

One-third cup oil

2 beaten eggs

1.5 cups peeled, sliced apples

1 teaspoon salt

One-half cup dried cranberries or cherries

3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 cups buttermilk

Mix sugar, oil, and eggs until blended. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into individual greased ramekins (small ceramic dishes) or an 8×8 square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Makes 9-12 servings.

Hint:  You can substitute some fruit juice for the milk. You can also add raisins or nuts.

Getting children to eat with nutrition in mind can best be accomplished when you eat and cook together. Here are a couple of upcoming opportunities that will be taking place at the Bayview School of Cooking.

Saturday, September 22nd, 5:00-7:30pm, 
Top That! A Pizza Party for Parents and Kids. 
Linda Hunter, Instructor

Parents, grab your kids and head to this hands-on pizza-making class, where you both will learn how to create pizzas from scratch. Once you know the basics, you’ll be able to throw an impromptu pizza party or start a tradition of “Pizza Night”, a great way to share relaxed family time. First, you’ll learn how to make dough, and then you’ll prepare ingredients for a topping buffet and bake a pizza for two. Linda will demonstrate the versatility of the pizza idea and whip up a Vegetable Appetizer Pizza as well as a Cookie Dessert Pizza! 
Recommended for children 7 and older with a parent of any age! 
Parent and Child $60

Saturday, October 6th ~ 9-11:00 am 
A Spook-tacular Lunch! 
Instructor: Linda Hunter

Why should lunches be boring? Food that’s fun to look at is fun to eat and making your own shaped and decorated sandwiches is easy! Linda’s gang will show you how to put together scary Halloween lunches that are yummy to eat and that’ll make you smile. Try a Frankenwich, a Frankenstein-esque feast with a ham and cheese sandwich, complete with cheddar cheese features and olive-mozzarella eyes. His buggy neighboring friend is made with sliced kiwi and olives, and grapes (so like eyeballs!) and pretzel “bones” further balance out this the monstrously cool Halloween lunch! 
$30 ~ Call 754-1448 to register!

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