Labor Day is coming up and to be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the term isn’t the contributions and achievements of the millions of people in the American workforce, but instead when my wife was in labor each time with our six kids, and what a labor of love motherhood is!
So, this Labor Day in addition to honoring all the hard-working men and women who deserve a day of recognition, I’d like to honor the work that all mothers do, day in and day out, from the minute those first labor contractions begin until… well, we all know the ever-so-true saying, “A mother’s work is never done.”
To do so, I would like to offer those moms who still have young ones in school a few Ayurvedic and healthy lunchbox ideas to hopefully make their work a little easier as a new school year is upon us. I recruited a local expert – my wife – who has been feeding our six kids lunch for the past 26 years and still going strong feeding our last two middle schoolers. As kids commonly only have 20 minutes for lunch at school, here are a few easy-to-eat, no-mess, high-protein vegetarian recipes that are sure to be a hit. Please substitute your favorite gluten-free or dairy-free alternative if needed.
Although I am making a special reach to mothers, these ideas aren’t just for kids, they are also easy take-to-work lunch ideas!
Don’t forget that the entire process surrounding food is a labor of love. You should always prepare, cook and eat your food with love. Mother yourself! Infuse your food with a positive emotional charge. When you sit down to eat your food, make special effort to not sit at your desk or in your car, or be in any rush. It makes good sense to be present, relaxed and joyful when eating your meals. Read more on this Ayurvedic principle in my article, “Is Your Food Emotionally Charged?”.
Thank you, Ginger, for these amazing recipes!
Really Quick Lunch Ideas
1. Easy Japanese Delight
If you’re at a health food store the night before school, throw together Veggie Sushi!
- Any single or combo of cucumber, avocado, carrot, sprouts, etc. wrapped in seaweed paper
- Inari, a popular Japanese lunch treat of seasoned rice stuffed in a pocket made of bean curd (kids love ’em!)
- Edamame (Japanese soybeans cooked in the pod and salted)
2. Mediterranean Bento Box
Here is a healthful list of goodies to arrange in a covered plastic container with sections:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red pepper slices
- Tabouli Salad – homemade or market-prepared
- Stuffed grape leaves – available prepared at most markets or health food stores
- Hummus (available in sealed individual school-lunch-sizes), or homemade in a small sealed container
- Pita bread triangles or their favorite crackers
3. Yogurt parfait
- In a tall, clear plastic container with a lid, create layers of yogurt (flavored, or plain drizzled with raw honey) in between layers of granola, and nuts &/or seeds for a healthy lunch – a treat for the eyes as well!
4. Nut butter sandwiches – drizzled with raw honey. You can also use celery sticks as the “bread.”
5. Green Pea Pesto with Crackers and Veggie Stick Dip (Quicker than it looks)
- 1 cup freshly shelled peas or frozen peas, thawed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- Juice from one lemon
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup of water – to thin if necessary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crackers and/or raw veggies like, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, broccoli trees, snap peas
How to prepare:
Blend all ingredients except olive oil and water in a food processor or blender. Drizzle in the olive oil through the hole in the lid while blending on low speed. Drizzle in the water and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and pulse again. If you are using frozen peas, you will probably need less water, so add only a little at a time.
Quick and Easy Wraps
1. Veggie Wrap
- 1 tablespoon spreadable cream cheese (try different flavors!), or hummus
- 1 large flour tortilla, regular or flavored
- 2 tablespoons shredded carrot
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced red or yellow pepper
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
- 1/4 avocado mashed with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning
- 1/4 cup baby spinach leaves or romaine lettuce
- 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
- Salt and pepper to taste
How to prepare:
Spread cream cheese or hummus over the tortilla to 1/2″ of edge. Put all fillings in a row along the center one-third of the tortilla. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roll the tortilla up as tightly as possible, then cut in half and wrap both halves securely in plastic wrap.
2. Greek Wrap
On your favorite tortilla, spread basil pesto sauce within a 1/2″ from the edge and then place in the center 1/3 of the tortilla:
- Mozzarella, sliced
- Basil and romaine lettuce leaves – even spinach, if preferred
- Tomatoes, chopped
- Carrots, shredded
- Bell peppers and/or cucumbers, thinly sliced
- Optional: Sprinkle with pitted, chopped greek olives
Roll up securely, slice in half and wrap in plastic wrap.
Super Healthy Salads
1. Yummy Quinoa Salad
- Prepare cooked quinoa, then add any combination of the following ingredients:
- Chopped snow peas, celery, carrots, colorful bell peppers, tomato, cucumber, parsley, cilantro &/or basil.
- Roasted nuts like: walnuts, pecans or cashews, &/or seeds like hemp, sesame or sunflower.
- You can also add chopped scallions, fresh mint, olives or green onion if they like it.
- Squeeze lemon juice on top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
2. Playful, Colorful Pasta Salad
- Cooked Acini di pepe pasta, or any of your child’s favorite pastas, even spaghetti – you can break it up into smaller pieces before boiling.
- Add small mozzarella balls or chunked pieces of the larger ball of cheese.
- Cherry tomatoes, or chopped whole
- Green or black olives
- Bell pepper, chopped – red, yellow or green
- Cannellini or garbanzo beans
- Cucumber chunks, or par-boiled green beans, &/or spinach leaves
- Parsley, cilantro &/or basil, finely chopped
- Lightly toss ingredients with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or rice vinegar, or your favorite Italian dressing.
3. Couscous Consciousness Salad
Add any or all of the following ingredients you have on hand to prepared couscous (takes only the time to boil water!):
While the couscous sits to absorb the boiled water, put whichever of the following ingredients into a mixing bowl:
- Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, or cannellini beans
- Chopped, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, snap peas, green peas, corn, tomato, broccoli, carrots, green onion, basil, parsley, and/or cilantro
- Any roasted or raw chopped nuts and/or seeds to your liking: pine nuts, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almond, hemp, sunflower, sesame
After adding the couscous to your mixing bowl of chosen ingredients, gently toss the salad with extra virgin olive oil, and a dash of your favorite vinegar: apple cider, rice, balsamic, red wine &/or a dash of Braggs Liquid Aminos, tamari or soy sauce.
1. Veggie burger
- Lightly brown in butter, coconut oil or ghee (or heat in toaster oven) your favorite frozen veggie burger patty,
- And with a just bit (you don’t want it to get soggy) of Veganaise and ketchup or ranch dressing,
- Then place in between the burger bun halves (or even sandwich bread).
- Whatever container you use, ziplock or plastic box, it will keep just warm enough to enjoy at school.
- If you use a ziplock, be sure to seal it almost completely.
- Then suck out the extra air to create a vacuum-pack effect so the burger doesn’t slide around inside the baggie.
- Optional – melt a slice of their favorite cheese on top while cooking.
2. Simple Asian Tofu Sandwich
- Lightly brown thinly sliced tofu in a skillet in ghee (clarified butter) or oil/butter with a dash of Braggs Liquid Aminos, tamari or soy sauce, (or if you’re in a real rush you can buy to have on hand, pre-seasoned tofu at the market – teriyaki, Thai, Mexican, or Italian flavors to thinly slice).
- Between your favorite slices of sandwich bread, layer the tofu slices along with sliced tomato, cucumber, lettuce for a delicious and healthy vegetarian sandwich.
- Optional: spread Veganaise on the sandwich bread before layering.
Interesting Labor Day Facts
Americans worked 12-hour days and 7-day weeks in the late 1800s. Kids as young as 5-6 years old worked in factories. In 1916 the Adamson Act was passed, which established the 8-hour workday. This was the first federal law regulating hours of workers in private companies.