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Open Sesame


Published: 06/26/2012

by Roslyn Ralph

Let’s face it; making lunches every day is not always easy. This is particularly true when kids are fussy eaters or schools have

restrictions on certain foods. In fact, most elementary schools have two new lunch policies in place: peanut-free and litterless.

Some schools have extended the peanutfree rule to include most packaged snacks, like granola bars, as the companies that

make these products cannot guarantee there is no mixing of nut oils in their process. Making interesting lunches can be even

more daunting when it comes to teens. Not only do you have to contend with lunch box boredom, but also taking a

healthy lunch to school can be very uncool. Yet cafeteria lunches and packaged treats and snacks are costly and may be

high in fat, salt and sugar. With a little creativity, you can put some punch into those brown bags while saving money and

providing healthier selections.

The sandwich is the mainstay of the packed lunch and is likely to remain so. Variations on tried and true family favourites can

 perk up the noon hour. Here are some to try. Breads As a change from white bead, try whole wheat or multigrain, rye,

pumpernickel, sourdough or cheese breads. Sweet breads such as raisin, date or banana are nice lightly toasted

with a savoury filling. Pitas, plain or whole wheat, and wraps in plain, whole wheat, tomato, spinach and herbed

varieties, are easy to make and a welcome change.


The stuff within the bread can also be given a boost by trying some different combinations of familiar favourites. When making

egg salad, try adding a dash of curry or chili powder to perk up the taste. Toss in some minced ham, chopped olives, chives or

even some chopped salad shrimp. Cream cheese is great by itself but try adding some chopped, dried cherries or

raisins, or perhaps chives, olives and minced celery. Cream cheese can also be used in place of butter, so a thin layer can

be spread on bread and then sliced fresh vegetables piled on. Hummus makes another great spread. Leftover cooked chicken

or ham can be chopped and mixed with a little low-fat mayonnaise, some shredded carrot or maybe some chopped pineapple.

 Add a dash of curry powder for extra flavour.


A good vacuum bottle will keep food warm for cold-day lunches. A favourite The Litterless Lunch Solution Invest in a good

lunch bag. It should have multiple compartments to keep hot and cold foods separate. Look for ones that come

with insulated beverage bottles. Purchase resealable containers. A mid-sized vacuum bottle for soups, pastas and hot dogs is a

good investment. Include a sturdy plastic spoon, fork and freezer pack, and lunch has endless possibilities.

Don’t forget to put in a cloth napkin. soup, pasta, stew or even a cooked hot dog can be packed piping hot in the

morning and enjoyed at noon. Pack tomato, cucumber and lettuce separately so they can be added to a sandwich just

before eating. Make popcorn at home and repack it in small reuseable bags or containers. Homemade fruit salad or pudding is

more economical than store-bought cups.

Lunchtime Tacos in a Pita

Toss 1 pound of lean ground beef or chicken with 2 tablespoons of chili powder.

Cook until all pink is gone. Remove from heat, drain fat and add 1 cup of prepared

salsa. Return to the pan to blend flavours. Taco meat can be made in advance and frozen in individual portions.

Reheat when ready to use.

Place hot meat mixture in a vacuum bottle. Put toppings like tomatoes, lettuce, pre-shredded cheese, and sour cream in

small containers. Put half whole-wheat pita in container. To assemble, place meat in pita pocket, add toppings.


Claire Peters of Brampton, Ont., helped in the preparation of this column


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