Family friendly recipes and real life adventures by a mom/nutritionist

Lunch Mate Makeover

No matter how good you have it, there will always be someone out there who has something that you don’t have – something that you want.  In this case its a six-year-old wanting Schneider’s Lunch Mates for lunch.  He knows it will never happen, but it can’t hurt to try right?  And I can’t fault him for giving an honest answer to the question “what was the yummiest looking lunch in your classroom today?”  (The answer was supposed to be “mine was!”)  But who can compete with neon orange cheese cut into perfect circles with matching round meat, crackers and of course the piece de resistance – the tiny chocolate bar?

I’ll tell you who:  I can, and so can you!  Before I go on, I’d like to state for the record that I am not attacking the parents who send these to school – I know you’re doing your best like the rest of us.  But I do think that the manufacturers of such products could do a much better job, especially when they are making and marketing food to children.

The claims of “source of fiber”, “source of calcium” and “source of iron” make it sound like something you might consider buying.  Oh and look, it says “whole wheat crackers” there at the bottom (I’m surprised that they can make that claim as the first ingredient in the crackers is actually “enriched wheat flour”).  But flip this box over and take a look at the Nutrition Facts (wow, 830 mg of sodium – that doesn’t leave much room for the breakfast, dinner and snacks does it?) and ingredients (if you can read them without a magnifying glass).

This groovy looking box contains such things as:  processed cheese food (yummy?), polyglycerol polyricinoleate (no, I didn’t make that word up), partially hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, sodiums diacetate, erythorbate and nitrite…etc.  Are you hungry yet?

The good news is, it doesn’t take much work to improve on this lunch!  From the packaging to the meat, cheese and crackers – there are so many better ways you can put this together yourself.

The version that Sam and I came up with contains: organic marble cheddar, 10 whole grain crackers, 1/2 an organic turkey sausage, slices of tomatoes and cucumber, fresh pineapple and (he doesn’t know it yet) two tiny fair trade, organic dark chocolates.

By my calculations, this version has less than half the sodium of the original version, none of the chemicals, hydrogenated anythings or corn syrup, and definitely no polyglycerol polyricinoleate (I must find out what that is!!!)  And ours has actual fruits and vegetables!

Change this up to suit your own family.

Don’t eat meat?  Then go for hard-boiled egg slices, marinated tofu or tempeh, some hummus.
Eat meat?  The first choice would be baked or roasted meat or even fish that you’ve cooked yourself – nothing added except seasonings.  If you don’t have time to cook your own, then look for something similar to what we bought – without chemicals, msg, fillers etc.

The fruit and vegetables options are endless.  Melon balls, strawberries on a stick, kiwi fruit, sliced mangoes, fruit salad – to name just a few.  You can also serve up carrot sticks, celery, bell peppers, zucchini ribbons, marinated mushrooms etc.

Crackers:  You are looking for whole grains, no preservatives, low sodium – these are so easy to find now days.   Switch it up with mini pitas or toasted whole grain bagel slices (just make sure they are actually made with whole grains and watch for preservatives) – go wherever your tastes and imagination take you.

Let me know what you come up with!  Oh, and if you know anyone that actually wants a “Schneider’s Lunch Mate”, I have one that I have no idea what to do with now!

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