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Bye Bye Boring Lunches

If anyone has easy, healthy - and fun - ideas for lunchbox sandwiches, it’s Diane Stoffregen. She makes about 800 ‘grab and go’ sandwiches each week at a popular deli.

The shop averages 16 different types of sandwiches daily. She’s invented a few unique sandwiches herself. Stoffregen is also head teacher for the lunch bunch program at a local preschool, where she supervises preschoolers who bring their own lunch.

“It is really hard to beat the ‘PBJ’ (Peanut Butter and Jelly) classic,” she says. “On an average day, 10 out of 16 kids will bring PBJ.”

Stoffregen offers a couple of new twists on the classic PBJ. For starters, try to entice your child to eat a wholesome sandwich by giving it a crazy name. “It is hard to resist a ‘Jammin’ Banana Sandwich’,” she says. “That sounds better than a ‘Banana and Peanut Butter Sandwich’.”

To make a Jammin’ Banana Sandwich, spread peanut butter on whole wheat or other multi-grain bread. Stoffregen always recommends using whole grain breads as a healthy alternative to white bread. Next, top the peanut butter with sliced bananas; put a slice of bread over that, and it’s ready for the lunchbox.

Another great take on PBJ is the Super-Charged Jammin’ Banana. Prepare the peanut butter and banana sandwich with honey on whole wheat bread. “This is a high-energy sandwich that hikers make a lot,” Stoffregen says. “The body burns honey slowly so it stays with you longer.”

Think of your child beating that afternoon slump time at school, after eating a Super-Charged Jammin’ Banana sandwich.

Along with peanut butter, school-age kids enjoy turkey and ham. The Cool Cuke Turkey Sandwich is made on whole wheat bread, with mayonnaise, turkey and cucumbers. It can be made with or without cheese.

“A mom came into the co-op wanting to make her daughter a sandwich and did not know what to put on it,” she says. “I suggested cucumbers for the crunch, and they loved it. The mom told me now the whole family adds cucumbers to their sandwiches.”

With more children having wheat allergies, Stoffregen sees more sandwiches made with wheat-free wraps, such as lettuce leaves and tortillas.

One popular pick is the Leafy Ham Wrap. Use a large lettuce leaf and your choice of ham and cheese. Layer the ham and cheese on a piece of lettuce, and then roll the lettuce until the ham and cheese are enclosed. Close the wrap with a toothpick. Any type of vegetables can be added to this leafy wrap.

The Snuggly Meat and Cheese Wrap is made with a tortilla shell, butter or mayo, choice of meat, cheese and veggies. Butter the tortilla, layer the meat, cheese and veggies, and roll it up.

Stoffregen also offers ideas from a few of the co-op’s top sellers:

The Apple Tuna Sweetie is made on raisin bread. She recommends Rudy’s organic raisin bread. Top with tuna salad and sliced Granny Smith apples. This sandwich can also be made into an Apple Chicken Sweetie with chicken salad.

The Smokin’ Strawberry Sandwich is made on Rudy’s organic raisin bread. Top with smoked turkey, strawberry cream cheese and Granny Smith apples.

Along with adding unique ingredients, another step to making sandwiches fun is to cut them in unique shapes using cookie cutters of all shapes.

Stoffregen is even known to do funny dance and cheers for the preschool children when they eat their entire sandwich. Kids love seeing adults being silly - and it can motivate them to eat their school lunch!

Kim is a writer, mother of two daughters and enjoys trying new ideas for their lunches. Kids love to receive special notes tucked in their lunch boxes, too.


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