To celebrate kids returning to school, registered dietitian Elana Natker gives expert advice on making the best sandwiches that are not only delicious but packed full of vitamins and nutrients to support your child’s learning.
According to HistoryTM, the sandwich we know and love today was created in 1762 by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it he was on a 24-hour gambling streak and ordered his cook to make him something he could eat while gambling. His cooks decided to try putting meat between two slices of toast, so he could eat it with one hand and no utensils, to not interrupt his game.
Some 260 years later, sandwiches have become the iconic entrée for your child’s lunchbox because they are a tasty, handy, and versatile way to provide nutrient-packed fuel to help keep your child focused for the rest of their school day.
As a parent, spending time and effort in preparing food that your children won´t eat or even touch can be very frustrating. But because sandwiches are so versatile, they can become a kid´s favorite meal and provides the opportunity to introduce new foods, textures, and flavors; especially when it comes to meats, legumes, and veggies that they otherwise wouldn´t eat on their own. Colorful fillings like bright green lettuce leaves or ripe red tomato rounds inside sandwiches can be used to draw their attention in an easy and appealing way.
Sandwiches are easy to prepare and can be made in advance, even the night before. Plus, they are a convenient platform to supply energy, fiber, calcium, iron, protein, and B vitamins to your child’s diet. The whole grains found in bread are a source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and amino acids – the building blocks of protein. That means that two simple slices of bread can become a complete meal with the right filling.
One of the best parts of sandwiches is that no matter if your child is a picky eater or one that will try anything, there is a sandwich for their taste! Sandwiches come in many forms, from the standard two-bread bookends to pita pockets to pinwheels to those cut into playful fun shapes using cookie cutters! Plus, sandwiches can be enjoyed anywhere without the need to reheat or even use utensils. This makes sandwiches even more appealing because finger foods encourage the development of fine motor skills and provide a positive sensorial experience even during lunchtime.
When it comes to nutrients, sandwiches pack a big punch and can supply school-aged children with many of the nutrients they need to stay fuller longer, concentrate and overall flourish throughout their day. Ideally, a balanced meal should contain a grain, protein source and a fruit and/or vegetable.
You can do all this with a sandwich:
- Bread is a grain that supplies energy for the brain, as well as dietary fiber, B vitamins and minerals. Good quality proteins can be from animal sources like chicken, tuna, eggs, lean roast beef or cheeses. Beans and other legumes can be great plant-based protein fillings; consider refried beans, nut butters and hummus (a chickpea dip).
- For vegetables, add in whatever your kids like! It could be a handful of green leaves, cucumber slices, grated carrot for crunch, or creamy avocado as a stand-in for a spread. Some sandwiches are great with fruit, like one made with turkey, brie cheese and apple slices.
Finally, when it comes to bread, your choices are endless! You can choose many types like rye, whole grain gluten-free, spelt or simply white enriched grain bread. It could be a tortilla, bun, English muffin, bagel, pita, or naan…the list could go on and on. Assemble your sandwich with bread straight from the bag or toast it up for some added crunch.
Let’s get this school year started with delicious and nutritious sandwiches!