A foodie dad battles school lunch fatigue

     (Nat Hamilton/for NewsWorks, file)

    (Nat Hamilton/for NewsWorks, file)

    Promises you make to yourself tend to be the easiest promises to break. So it goes with my quiet annual pledge to only fall back on the classic peanut butter and jelly on white bread once a week for my kids’ school lunches.

    Just about two months into school year, this foodie dad is averaging the reverse: just one non-PB&J lunch a week. While I’m not the kind of school lunch artist who will ever go viral on Pinterest, I am far better than this. I’ve got a serious case of school lunch fatigue right now. I’m battling every single day to find something fresh and exciting to pack into our pair of colorful cooler bags.

    In “Bread and Jam for Frances,” one of our all-time favorite children’s books, the title character is a young raccoon in grade school who refuses to eat anything her mother makes for breakfast, dinner, or her school lunch. She only wants her favorite food, a combination of bread and jam. In a classic case of be-careful-what-you-wish-for, Frances eventually grows tired of her bread and jam before finally breaking down and pleading for something — anything — else to eat.

    By no fault of their own, my two daughters have reached a similar point. You know you’re serving it too often when kids begin to revolt over PB&J on white bread.

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    To break out of my rut, I spent October trying new recipes and new ways of presenting old favorites, even PB&J. One of my daughters is vegetarian, so I’m always looking to add some extra protein to her lunches. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far for my two kids.

    Barilla protein pasta with red sauce in a thermos
    Sliced hard boiled egg and tomato with a pesto spread on ciabatta
    BBQ chicken tender wraps
    Fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, tomato and balsamic vinegar on Flatout ProteinUP Red Pepper Hummus Flatbread
    Make your own PB&J with whole grain crackers and a variety of jellies in tiny reusable containers
    Hummus and pita with a crudité of fresh cut veggies

    This is only the start of shaking myself out of my culinary funk. I know that I’ll need a stronger and more expansive breadth of lunchtime meal options that can be made quickly and that will be enjoyed by my girls if I have any hopes of avoiding the PB&J on white bread trap again.

    What are your tricks for keeping school lunches exciting? Do your kids have a favorite lunchtime meal?

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