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A School-Lunch Solution

Wow. School lunches are no longer simple. When I was a kid, school lunches in the cafeteria consisted of a scoop of something we couldn’t quite define: canned vegetables and fruit, a piece of bread and some sort of main dish, often macaroni and cheese or goulash. (I seem to remember a lot of goulash in my youth. Does anyone eat goulash anymore?) Today we hear about pink slime and fatty processed foods. And the first lady is tackling childhood obesity, starting with our kids’ school lunches.

Still, my grandkids tell me they have pizza as a choice every day in their school cafeterias, and my grandson says that’s what he eats—nearly every single day! Between the pizza and the news reports, it’s no wonder so many parents want to pack their kids’ lunches. It’s about control. Packing your child’s lunch gives you options and them a healthy meal to get them through their afternoon of studying. Plus, it’s often more economical.

I think that’s why my folks started packing my lunches. At first, lunch was sent in a paper sack. Later I moved up to a lunch box. Mine often had a thermos in it. Sometimes it was holding a hot dog in hot water that I was to put on a bun wrapped in wax paper. Often it was full of goulash (there it is again). At least twice a week I opened my sack to find the sandwich: crunchy peanut butter with homemade grape jelly on Wonder Bread. And because no meal was complete without dessert, my jelly sandwich came with a couple of homemade cookies. It’s no wonder I was a fat kid—nothing but starches and sugar!

Believe it or not, I still pack my lunch for school. These days, though, I’m the teacher and the lunch is much healthier. Salads make it in my bag, along with nuts and a yogurt. Boy, have things changed. Still, packing salad for most kids isn’t going to cut it. But filling their sacks with convenience foods isn’t the answer. The “lunch-able” items our kids clamor for in the grocery are “fun” but they’re filled with sodium and fat. One deep-dish pizza has 28 grams of sugar and nearly 40 percent of your child’s daily allowance for saturated fat and sodium!

Yet, we can easily give our kids the same experience in a much healthier form. By changing the lunch-able format from deep dish to a wrap, we can shave sugars, fat and sodium. A whole wheat tortilla is the base for this pizza treat. Because of how slippery sauce is, I layer my cheese first on the tortilla and then top with sauce, spinach and pepperoni. Be careful if using pepperoni. Both the low-fat (turkey version) and the traditional are filled with sodium. For protein, what about a few pieces of turkey sausage?

Heat this up in the morning to melt the cheese. Roll and slice. Coupled with air-popped popcorn, cucumber slices with low-fat dressing and fruit, this “lunch-able” meal will fill your student’s belly without bursting their seams.

Click to view recipe.

Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.

Photo above: Chris Xaver Photo


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