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New back-to-school lunches for students

August 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's time to go back to school, and that often means new backpacks, school supplies, and hopefully, some new ideas for lunch.The W Hotel in Westwood is certainly sophisticated and chic, but that doesn't mean their Executive Chef, Monique King, can't create a brown bag lunch that kids of all ages would enjoy.

"I'm a mother of three. I'm packing lunches everyday and it gets a little monotonous," King said.

So she thinks outside the box and tries to mix it up a bit.

"They like things to be fun, they do. There's a reason that Lunchables is such a hit, because it's more than the content. It's the fun factor, the do-it-yourself factor," King said.

Get out the mini Tupperware and fill them with buffet of components. Luncheon meat and cheese, the tried and true, then try spread, like hummus, olive tapenade or cream cheese. Cucumber, pickle, even dried cherries are fun to top leftover toast, whole wheat crackers or bagel chips.

"The whole notion is you just put all the components separate and the kids stack it up themselves," King said.

One of her biggest tips is to play off last night's dinner.

"Taco night would be the perfect transition to the next morning because when you're packing up the leftovers from the stove, you can just break some of it down," King said.

King adds shredded cheese, last night's salad lettuce, and either Tostito Scoops, perfect for dipping, or Trader Joes veggie flax tortilla chips, which has fancy colors that appeal to kids.

Use leftover chicken and lettuce for a Chinese chicken salad. Add Mandarin oranges and bottled dressing. It's fun in a container with chop sticks.

A bit of left over steak makes for an easy-to-assemble Teriyaki bowl, using microwaveable brown rice, broccoli and shredded raw carrot, with low-sodium sauce.

"If it's their lunch and they're hungry, and we know it's healthy and we know they do eat it on other occasions, then were in good form," King said.

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Ideas for brown bags:

First, arm yourself with all sizes of Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers to re-use time and time again.

Home- made "lunchables"

  • Use whole grain crackers, bagel chips, whole wheat crackers or make homemade crostinis (toast bread with a little olive oil and cut into fours)
  • Pack lunch with spreads ranging from hummus, low-fat cream cheese, olive tapenade to mustard
  • Lunch meats - turkey roast beef, cheeses like Cheddar or Swiss
  • Other toppings such as pickles, cucumber circles, dried cherries or cranberries

Make your own tacos

  • Shredded chicken or ground turkey (taco meat from night before)
  • Shredded cheese, lettuce, some mild salsa
  • Kids do-it-themselves
  • Pack lunch with whole grain tortillas
  • Or instead of tortillas, pack Tortilla chips (healthy ones like flaxseed chips from Trader Joes) and make the taco components separately in individual containers so the kids dip a spoon into individual components and stack on top of chips

Chinese Chicken Salad

  • Lettuce and/or julienned cabbage, mandarin oranges, other optional veggies like cucumbers, scallions, etc
  • At her kids' school they include chow mein noodles (the canned ones you can buy)
  • White chicken breast
  • Dressing on side in small Tupperware container

Teriyaki Bowls (in Tupperware)

  • Take leftover chicken or steak from dinner the night before
  • Top over brown rice (Trader Joe's sells a microwave brown rice that takes 3 minutes)
  • Add veggies that kids like, i.e. shredded carrots
  • Teriyaki / sesame seeds on side

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