Sandwiches are a staple in many school lunches. Day in and day out, kids are chowing down on this star of the school lunch box!
Especially since this is such a consistent part of our children’s nutrition, it would benefit them greatly if we could make the sandwich healthier, yes?
Too often, the usual sandwich ingredients consist of preserved, toxic meats, processed cheeses, processed refined loaves of bread, and condiments loaded with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial colors, and polyunsaturated oils and trans fats. Ick.
Let’s talk about bread.
It was the introduction of baker’s yeast that propelled the modern sandwich to its current level of popularity. As compared to “old style” bread-like sourdough and slow-rise that are generally pretty hard for sandwiches, the baker’s yeast make bread softer, the way we’ve grown accustomed to.
We’d have a lot of broken teeth otherwise!
As usual, there’s a blessing and a curse with our so-called ‘advances’ in nutrition. The baker’s yeast allows for a quick-rise bread that’s ready faster. That’s nice. But, this quickness results in the phytates in the whole grains not being neutralized properly. That’s the inherent problem with conventionally prepared grains in the first place, whether we’re talking about whole grains or refined grains and flour.
Then, add to that, the other toxic ingredients in conventional bread – preservatives, dough conditioners, artificial ingredients, sugars, high fructose corn syrup. Trouble’s brewin’.
The good news is that some alternative bread choices are healthier. Most are still made with brewer’s yeast, but at least the grains are first allowed to sprout. You can usually find these in the freezer section of grocery stores. Real sourdough bread is another good option.
We also like to use sprouted wraps even more so than bread. It’s not just a “lunch thing”, either. We use them for breakfast wraps and at dinner time. I even bake them once in a while for homemade “tortilla chips”.
Pita bread is an acceptable option since it isn’t made with yeast. But, the dough hasn’t been allowed to sour, so it’s not the choice for those with grain sensitivities.
Now, how about those sandwich fillings and all the extras?
Are your kids “meat people” at lunchtime? If so, a great choice is to use fresh meats and meat that has been roasted, baked, braised, or slow-cooked… perhaps even leftovers from dinner. If your kids love their deli meats, definitely consider upgrading to “clean” meats from free-range or grass-fed livestock that lack the hormones, antibiotics, nitrates/nitrites, and other preservatives. Many of these are known carcinogens.
You’ve also got some meat ‘salad’ selections like chicken or turkey salad, and tuna salad (though tuna tends to bioaccumulate mercury far more than deep, cold-water fish, like wild salmon). Go for homemade mayonnaise or maybe a brand created with real, clean components.
Have you ever tried spreading the bread with mashed avocado? Equally as yummy! Add some sprouts… great!
Fundamental Homemade Mayonnaise:
To make 1 and 1/2 cups…
1 entire egg at room temperature
1 egg yolk at area temperature
1 tsp Dijon or other favorite mustard
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (or sunflower oil, in case you think the olive oil taste is as well robust)
a generous pinch of sea salt
In your food processor or Vitamix, place the egg, egg yolk, mustard salt, and lemon juice – method until nicely blended (approx. 30 seconds). Add the oil drop by drop with the motor running. Taste and check seasoning. You might choose to add more salt or lemon juice.
For variations on your mayo, you could add fresh herbs or onions or cayenne pepper, or whatever floats your mayo boat!
The meatloaf sandwich is another fun option for those meat-eating kids. It certainly adds a home-cooked feel to the lunch box!
Do not feel like you constantly have to pack meat within the sandwich. You can also use healthy organic nut jars of butter, like almond or cashew butter with naturally sweetened jam, apricot butter, or raw honey. Or, skip the sweets altogether and just use something like bananas. One of our kids’ favorites is banana “tacos”. I just spread some almond butter on a sprouted wrap, add some bananas sliced lengthwise, and roll them up. They’re a hit with our kids… and with me when I’m in a rush to make lunch!
Another idea is to make veggie sandwiches with whatever fresh (or roasted) vegetables your kids like – add some homemade cream cheese and, voila! Yummy and a nice change. Don’t forget to add fresh sprouts for a heaping dose of health. Raw cheese sandwiches are a good solution every so typically, as well. Spread your healthy bread selection with genuine butter or your homemade mayonnaise and a few raw cheddars or Monterey Jack cheese.
Moving beyond bread, you’ve got much more possibilities to add selection: wraps, roll-ups, pita sandwiches… oh my!
1 that may make heads turn within your kids’ classroom is the pita bread falafel sandwich: falafel with tahini sauce and thinly sliced cucumber and tomato.
Don’t forget about all the choices for spreads, preferably your healthier homemade versions: guacamole/avocado spread, cream cheese, and mayo varieties, and regular condiments that lack higher fructose corn syrup and artificial components.
Serve up those sandwiches with fresh veggies and maybe some fruit. Have to have a lot more? Homemade trail mix, homemade ‘health’ bars, and even the occasional homemade cookies are healthier selections than packaged, processed lunch foods, snacks, and desserts.