There will be days when you won’t have time to make lunch for the kids. You might also think about having your youngsters take some responsibility for their lunches. A way to plan ahead is to have a variety of ingredients in the pantry or in the fridge so that pulling together a lunch is as easy as ABC. Registered dietician Sarah Calamita has put together some lunch ideas and meal planning tips. She recommends including all the food groups for a balanced meal so they provide sustained energy, not quick bursts. She also suggests using bento boxes (originally a Japanese way of making a packaged meal) to separate the items for each day’s lunch. They are fun, less messy and the children will find them easy to use. Calamita also favors the idea of having children help prepare their meals because they are more likely to eat and enjoy them. She suggests upping the fun level by using cookie cutters for sandwiches and some fruits and veggies. There are several bento boxes on the market so she says to look for those that are food safe, BPA free and also phthalate free and wont leak such as the Yum Box.
(Photo by Terry Disney/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Terry Disney/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sarah Calamita
East Bank Club
500 N. Kingsbury St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 527-5800

Sarah Calamita, a licensed and board certified sports dietitian works at the East Bank Club, a highly regarded health, fitness and sports center. She is also certificated in Adult Weight Management. Before coming to the East Bank Club, she did nutrition counseling regarding diabetes, cardiovascular disease and wellness at Milwaukee, WI’s St. Joseph Hospital. She also has presented workshops on healthy cooking, weight management and other health related topics in Wisconsin and Illinois. Calamita, a marathon runner, partners with the Chicago Area Runners Association and does sports nutrition counseling for athletes in such programs as Nike Chicago Marathon Training. Calamita suggested the meal choices. The preparations were taken from a variety of food channels.

Bento Assortment

What to get from the store: organic string cheese, nitrate free sausage, fresh peapods, whole wheat crackers and fresh raspberries. Youngsters can cube the sausage to fit in one compartment and cut the string cheese, if necessary, to fit in another compartment. Then, all that is left is deciding how many peapods to put into another section, how many crackers to take and the amount of raspberries to put in a different section. Bento boxes fit on top of each other so two smaller boxes would also work and fit into a backpack.

Pasta Meal

Pick up a whole wheat pasta salad already prepared such as penne, jar of pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes. Pasta can be made at home, but children often don’t handle boiling pots well so if there’s no time for an adult to make pasta, most delis have already made cold pasta.  Add sauce to taste, (a teaspoon might be enough) and cut cherry tomatoes into half and add. Accompany it in other sections with grapes (can be frozen), roasted nuts (if not allergic) and low sugar yogurt tubes (ex: Siggis). If the youngster is old enough to use a regular oven or toaster oven the nuts can be roasted at home, single layered on a greased cooking sheet for about 10 minutes at about 350 degrees or 325 for 15-20 minutes. Don’t forget to use an oven mitt or pad.


What to get from the store: Nitrate free turkey slices, cheddar cheese, 100 percent whole wheat tortillas, guacamole, orange, cucumber, blueberries and small dark chocolate bar. Blueberries can be covered in dark chocolate (available in some grocery stores) or put into the bento box in separate sections. Lightly spread tortilla with the guacamole, add a slice of cheddar cheese, a couple of turkey slices and roll into a pin wheel. Cut the orange into sections and slice the cucumber then add as much as wanted into other areas of the box.

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What to get from the store: natural peanut butter that only is made with peanuts and salt, strawberries, 100 percent whole wheat bread, rainbow carrots, hummus, organic Gold Fish crackers, edamame, mozzarella cheese cubes. This is a deconstructed PBJ, so mash the strawberries, spread on one slice of bread and spread the peanut butter on the other slice. Edamame is young soy beans, usually sold in their pods. Shell the edamame and add as much as wanted to a section of the box. Put the Gold Fish in another section and place the mozzarella cheese cubes in a different section. Mozzarella can be bought cubed or get a block of the cheese and cut it. Hummus is a healthy snack that can be dipped into by the crackers and or carrots.

Breakfast For Lunch

What to get from the store: Yogurt, honey, oatmeal, milk, flaxseeds, cinnamon, celery, apple, Justin’s almond butter packet. Cook oatmeal with the milk, flaxseeds and cinnamon, cool and spoon into a section. Drizzle honey onto the yogurt. Wash celery and pull out a stick to cut for another section. Cut apple into slices. Justin’s almond butter is good on apple slices (if no nut allergy).

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Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on