See how making a few upgrades can completely revive your child’s favorite lunchbox sandwich in this month’s Recipe ReDux post.
Stuck in a lunchbox rut? By this time of year who isn’t? Even us creative, over-zealous lunch packers are burned out on ideas and energy and so the lunchbox contents seem to be on a steady repeat.
You know you need some new inspiration, but most of those Pinterest ideas seem very over ambitious, and, perhaps not even something your child would try. It’s true, many kids have a limited palate of lunch box favorites. They know what they like, and even if they are bored with it, they may not be ready to totally change it up. So how do you spice up their lunch box contents?
It’s all about the details! Stick with your go-to’s, but take it up a notch.
In my 4th grader’s case, all it took was switching out the usual whole wheat sandwich bread for toasted artisan sourdough bread. I also switched out the usual turkey for ham, which I otherwise buy only now and then. He came home and raved about how delicious his sandwich was. And a friend commented to his mom that he wanted “a panini sandwich” like my son’s.
Now it wasn’t even a panini sandwich (although I do love using the panini press for sandwiches too), but between the fancy bread and the toaster marks, it looked very panini-like.
I asked my son what we could do to make it even more “exciting”, for instance, might there be some veggies he would like on it???
“Well,” he said. “I like carrot sticks, but maybe instead I could have grated carrots on my sandwich. And lettuce.”
“And what about some avocado?” I inquired. “You like it in tacos.”
“Ok, I guess I could try it.” He replied.
And so the upgraded sandwich was born. My son was excited. I was excited. New energy. And a more colorful (and healthier) sandwich! Here are the changes we made:
OLD —-> UPGRADE
- regular whole wheat sandwich bread —-> artisan sourdough (sometimes whole wheat, sometimes white)
- untoasted bread —-> toasted bread (adds that toasted flavor and makes the sandwich less soggy)
- butter spread —-> avocado
- roasted turkey and sometimes ham —-> thinly sliced ham, Canadian bacon, smoked turkey, or roasted turkey or chicken with a slice of bacon
- lettuce —-> grated carrots and lettuce
While ham, Canadian bacon, and smoked turkey are all very tasty, it’s good to switch it up with healthier alternatives such as roasted turkey or chicken once in a while. Because roasted chicken and turkey are less salty they can taste a bit plain, so to get around this we decided to come up with some flavor add-ons. My son’s favorite is a strip of bacon, but other options include pesto, cranberry sauce, pickles, hummus, and cheese.
As for the bread, we switch it up. So sometimes it’s white sourdough bread, but just as often, whole wheat sourdough or multigrain. It’s a bit of splurge to buy artisan bread all the time, but it feels good to be supporting local bakeries and to know that the bread is made with just a handful of natural ingredients.
So you see, it wasn’t a 180-of a lunchbox change. But several little changes added up to a better and more exciting sandwich. And it was nice to get my son’s input in the design!
- 2 slices of sourdough bread (whole wheat or white)
- 1-2 tablespoons avocado
- ½ carrot, peeled and shredded
- 2 ounces ham, Canadian bacon, smoked turkey, roasted turkey, or chicken
- 1 lettuce leaf, washed and dried
- To add flavor to roasted chicken or turkey, try one of the following add-ons: bacon, pesto, cranberry sauce, pickles, or cheese.
- Toast the bread.
- After bread cools a bit, spread a thin layer of avocado on each slice. (If your child is avocado shy, try spreading just a small amount on 1 slice to start with - they probably won't even taste it.)
- Add grated carrots and press down slightly so they stick to the avocado. Top with meat, lettuce, and any optional flavor add-ons.
- Close sandwich and slice in half. Wrap in parchment or pack in a reusable container.
Some kids may find it easier to eat the sandwich with the crust cut off.
And, of course, don’t forget about the sides:
- Include some fruit, whether it’s in the form of organic berries or a classic, organic red apple.
- Add something crunchy and a little salty to go with that sandwich, like homemade popcorn, roasted chickpeas, whole grain tortilla chips, nuts, or roasted sunflower seeds.
- Add something sweet, like a homemade cookie a couple of days per week, but not every day.
- Round it out with some milk or low-sugar yogurt and always pack water.
Next up, pickled herring, chive, and sour cream crispbread perhaps? (OK, maybe not for the kids, but mom was just telling me about her current go-to lunch sandwich that went something like that…and I am intrigued…)