Say “Hello” to the New & Improved Lunch Break
Times are changing – the younger generation is more technologically savvy than ever; it’s hard to believe that many schools are now using technology such as Kindle and iPads to replace “old-fashioned” text books, and sending a text message opposed to passing a note during class time will get you into trouble. Like technology, lunchtime at school certainly isn’t what it used to be either. Gone are the days when kids hopped on the yellow school bus with a bologna sandwich in their lunch pail. It may be in large part thanks to Pinterest and the onslaught of inspiring food bloggers that we’ve now upped the ante for lunchtime standards.
Even school lunch in cafeterias throughout the country seems to be changing right in line with the nation’s increased focused on health and nutrition. The Active Learning Elementary School, a public school in the boroughs of New York, recently implemented an entirely vegetarian menu including items such as rice and kidney beans, black bean quesadillas, or tofu with Chinese noodles five days a week for their students. College foodservice has also stepped up its game. Some four-year institutions now even have their own campus farms, providing locally grown fruits, vegetables, and even eggs, meat and poultry to the student population.
Since school lunches are seemingly taking a turn for the better, in terms of both creativity and nutrition, it allows for a variety of nutritious foods, such as tomato products, to make their way into your child’s lunch bag. And who’s to say that home-packed lunches are intended for children only? Taking a brown bag lunch to work is an easy way to save money, while also doing your body good.
So, whether you’re a little kid (or a big kid!), try one of these simple ideas for packing your own delicious, nutritious, and creative brown bag lunches featuring tomato products.
- Go Meatless. Take a hint from the Active Learning Elementary School and make your entire lunch centered on nutrient-packed plant-foods such as in-season fruits and vegetables and tomato products. Tomato products are a staple component of numerous plant-based recipes such as these delicious Ratatouille Wraps featured by Meatless Monday. A tip? You can easily substitute fresh tomatoes for canned whenever needed.
- Take a walk on the wild side. A laundry list of ethnic cuisines around the globe use tomato products in their everyday cooking. Make an Italian-inspired lunch by simply packing your pizza in a pita. Add tomato paste, your choice of veggies and cheese for a perfectly portable and on-the go lunch. Go Mediterranean and spread a heaping serving of tomato paste on crusty bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. Take a hint from our Southern neighbors and pack a loaded taco salad in your favorite Tupperware with fresh romaine lettuce, black beans, avocado and lots of salsa.
- Eat breakfast for lunch. It always seems a little bit scandalous when we eat foods out of their designated time slot. Having breakfast for lunch is not only fun, it also can be incredibly easy to prepare. Package up a veggie breakfast burrito with eggs, sautéed vegetables, a little shredded cheese and a big scoop of salsa. Or, make this delicious quiche at the beginning of the week to have on hand when you need to pack a lunch in a cinch. Simply microwave for 30-60 seconds at work or school.
- Get creative. Say “good-bye” to boring and predictable lunches and “hello” to a whole new world of creative meal ideas. For example, take a spin on a classic sandwich. Spread some tomato sauce on a whole wheat tortilla, layer with veggies and grilled chicken and sprinkle with cheese for a delectable roll-up.
- Embrace leftovers. Don’t let your precious food go to waste. Transform last night’s “extras” into a mouthwatering lunch the next day. Prepare a big batch of your favorite soup or stew highlighting tomato products and take the rest in a thermos with you to work or school. Pizza, spaghetti and even tacos make for satisfying lunch a day or two after they were first prepared.