Guest blogger: Laptop lunches

Improving School Lunches: It Takes a Village
By Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring

Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray, Chef Ann Cooper, Michelle Obama, these well-respected school lunch advocates are voicing what teachers like Mrs. Q have known for years: the majority of school lunch programs in the US are failing to provide healthy lunches for our kids.

We first became aware of the poor quality of school lunches back when our (now high school!) kids were little. While many parents, teachers, and other school lunch advocates were working to improve school lunch programs for the long haul, we decided to create a more immediate solution that would empower parents with the tools they needed to pack wholesome home-made lunches joyfully and with ease. That’s when we came up with the Laptop Lunches American bento concept.

Featuring 5 stay-fresh containers nestled inside a tray and a set of all-stainless utensils, our bento box allows endless healthy lunch creations from salads, to sushi, to wraps and more. Once packed with wholesome foods, the bento box can be placed inside an insulated mini-laptop case or sleeve, which will keep food fresh and intact until lunchtime.

Because we are strongly committed to providing inspiration and support, each bento set comes with a handy book of creative lunch ideas. And each week, we update our website with healthy lunch menus and photos that will keep your lunches fresh and stress-free. To help jump-start your back-to-school lunch prep, we’ve included a few of our kids’ favorite recipes here.

  
Egg Salad English Muffin: Add some pizzazz to your everyday egg salad.
  • Pile it atop a whole grain English muffin and add a lettuce leaf, some sprouts, or sliced tomatoes.
  • Oranges can be cut in many ways, and they look great when packed with dark green broccoli, red bell pepper, and yellow egg salad.
  • Your favorite dressing will jazz up the veggies as well.

Zucchini Sauté: This garden delight is one of our summer favorites. It’s best prepared when fresh zucchini, garlic, basil, and tomatoes are still in summer abundance. Be sure to try it before fall arrives in earnest.

  • Cook the wild rice per the instructions on the package.
  • Prepare the zucchini sauté.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet, then add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
  • Sauté 1 sliced zucchini, 2 medium diced tomatoes until tender (but not mushy).
  • Add ½ a can of cannellini beans and ¼ cup chopped basil.
  • Stir to heat thoroughly, then add salt and pepper to taste
  • Top with parmesan cheese and if you like it spicy, add dried, crushed hot peppers.
  • Serve with sliced cucumbers in one container a handful of cherry tomatoes and blackberries in the others.

Check out Laptop Lunches at http://www.laptoplunches.com/ for more great bento lunch box recipes!

***

Laptop lunches would like to giveaway a bento product to a lucky reader. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below and describe how you would use a laptop lunch bento if you won. I will pick randomly from the comments. If you already won a prize last week, please refrain from entering (thanks guys). The lucky reader will have a choice of any color of the Bento System (purple example below) or the new Bento kit (blue example below):
Bento System (above) and the new Bento Kit (below)
Note to readers: I want change to happen in school lunch served in schools, but I recognize that many parents want to pack to avoid having their student consume school lunch in its present form, to avoid exposure to food allergens, and to even save money.
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169 Responses to Guest blogger: Laptop lunches

  1. My Kids' Mom September 7, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    I'm trying to use a "menu" for my children so they can help choose a starch, a protein, a fruit or veggie and a treat. A bento styled lunchbox would be perfect to let them start preparing their own lunches. Age six is not too young!

  2. JennyLyn September 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    I wonder if I could get my husband to eat from one of those. Are they big enough for a man's appetite? He often has little or no time for lunch or can't leave and this would be great for him.

  3. Megan September 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Ohh, I've always wanted Laptop Lunch boxes! Sadly, I'm a student, so it's a little out of my budget at the moment. I'd use my box to take healthy lunches to uni, because the Mensa at my uni tends to offer meat-heavy dishes with overcooked veg – though it does have a salad bar!! I love to cook, and I love food, so this would let me bring better meals than sandwiches, as our weather here gets ever colder… :(

  4. Jenny K September 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    I would use it to pack my 2nd grade daughter's lunch, and may be inspired to buy a second set for myself or my younger daughter when she is ready for school.

  5. Blended September 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    I have just started making "bento" lunches. Today was his first day of school! I made one with the "fit & freash" container but would love to get one of these in my house!

  6. Leekbecker September 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I have been looking for a fun healthier option for my daughter's lunches and this would be PERFECT>

  7. Hope September 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    I would use one to pack healthy lunches for my 3-year-old so we won't have her on the endless rotation of fast food that passes for lunch service in her private preschool.

  8. MankyCat September 7, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Since my son may have an issue with gluten, I'd have to pack a meal without the standard "sandwich" many people rely on. Parts of the meal would be leftovers and parts wouldn't, but that's not too uncommon with bentos (especially mine).

    I would probably pack a thick (mild) vegetable curry with brown rice in one of the sealable containers. Next to that, in an unsealed small container, I would pack chicken nuggets (probably homemade), sliced in half (butterflied essentially), with a dab of sauce inbetween the halve to hold them together (and to flavor them with my son's favorite dip). In the larger unsealed container, I'd have crunchy veggie sticks (like carrots, sugar snap peas, and celery) with a dipping sauce in the tiny sealed container. In the last small sealed dish, I would pack a fruit salad or a pudding (tapioca, rice, or vanilla), with bits of fruit (dried or fresh). In the beverage container, I'd pack homemade lemonade that my husband makes (which tends to be light on sugar, but my son loves it) or cold roasted corn tea (which my son also loves).

    All food groups would be present, a decent amount of calories/fat and fiber to keep him full, and a variety to keep him from getting bored. We eat so many different types of food, I can see switching out parts for sauted tofu with spicy bokkeum (korean stir fry) or make a mini bibimbap (a korean rice dish) with a hard boiled egg. Tamago (japanese sweet omlette) slices with vegetable sushi rolls or stuffed onigiri. Homemade gluten free cornbread with chili topped rice. There's just so many possibilities. :-)

  9. Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Since all my little ones are grown, I would give this to my youngest daughter, she is starting her first year as a teacher and I am just bursting with pride, she has worked so hard to become a teacher!! Love your blog,it is something long overdue,even though we have known for years that nutrition plays such a big role in learning.

    Evelynjane

  10. snippity1 September 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    I've been reading about these 'bento' boxes for a while now. I am packing lunch for 3 kids (1st, 3rd and 9th grade) and a husband this school year. It would be nice to try one of these kits. If it worked well for us, I would probably have to buy a few more! It looks like these would be convenient, as they would all fit neatly in one box. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  11. Breezy September 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    I would love to win this. I try to make my own laptop lunches with ziploc containers but it's just not as pretty.

  12. Kate September 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Every day, I take at least 4 containers of food to work – I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. So, having an all in one would be great!

  13. Ima Baglady September 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    My husband teaches high school and always packs a lunch. Our two kids are both in day school – no half days anymore! And I work outside the home every day. We pack most of the the time and I would love the opportunity to try a laptop lunch system for free!

    Love this blog and I've learned a lot from both the photos and guest bloggers.

  14. Traci September 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    I work for a Japanese company and have been pining over their Bento boxes for years now. My kindergarten age child is beginning to notice the difference between her homemade lunches and the school lunch. She tells me their lunch is the same color every day and her's is a rainbow!

  15. Asher September 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi! I'm a graduate student and a teacher, and while I'm not on the usual end of your school lunch spectrum, it's still interesting to me.
    I attend/teach at a "party" school, and as a result, my undergraduate students are constantly either living on vast quantities of pizza and beer, or are on crazy starvation diets in order to achieve whatever the current body image ideal is. I often see the same focus/concentration problems that you have mentioned seeing in your students, particularly when I have ladies living on Starbucks lattes and diet food bars. I'm interested in how much of this behavior is determined by their early nutrition "education," as seen in the often-sketchy lunches you show us.

    On the other side of the divide, as a student, I do indeed pack a lunch everyday. As a (mostly) vegetarian on a campus surrounded by fast food places, it's impossible to find something nutritionally sound to eat anywhere within walking distance, with the brief exception of the unrealistically expensive dining hall. This seems like an unfeasible atmosphere for achieving quality studying time. A Starbucks in every library, but no quality food? It seems like food/education problems are a constant, from K-PhD!

  16. Candy M September 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    I would love to use this for every member of my family! We all tend to be more "grazers" than full lunch eaters, so it would be perfect. :)

  17. Dana September 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    My son just started kindergarten and I would love to have a laptop lunch to simplify his lunches. Right now I'm using a variety of containers and it can be time consuming digging for just the right matches in the container drawer. We have been packing his lunch every day and so far he loves all of the fresh fruit and veggies he gets.

    Mr. Q- I love your website, it's so informative!

  18. d12brown September 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    My two youngest had couscous, hard boiled egg, raspberries, pudding, cheetos (don't shoot, the rest of the luch was healthy and junk free!), turkey pepperoni, water and pudding (homemade). I used little tupperware containers because I sadly do not have a bento box system. I would love one!

  19. k September 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    I would use a laptop lunch kit for my own lunches! One section for left-overs, one for fruit, one for a vegetable. I already pack my lunch every day, but a laptop lunch would be so much better than plastic bags!

  20. Kristen September 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    This is such a great idea! I'd love to give this a try…

  21. Anna September 7, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    I love this! I would use it for my daughter's lunches during the week – she's looking at the site with me, and loves them also!!

  22. Xochi Mama September 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Lunch should be fun. Eating should be fun. If we don't look forward to what we are eating, then what's the point? Far easier to buy pizza at school or even order take out for us adults. I am always on the look out for easy, convenient, and reusable lunch containers. I love the idea of the bento kit. It makes lunch more like a present to open than just your average PB & J. Plus, it's super fun to make all your co-workers jealous when they see the delicious lunch you brought!

  23. nancyM. September 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    With 3 kids in school I would have no trouble using one of these!! I think they would actually eat more if they had little bits of different foods – some veggies, fruits, dips, roll ups! Our town has been doing better with lunches – using a new company and even have "locavore days" but it still leaves alot to be desired! Thx!

  24. Maureen September 7, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    I would love a laptop bento! I'm always packing my lunch, and it's easy to get bored with the usual boring sandwich. I love the little containters for sides, how cute and fun! I can see myself putting veggies and hummus in there, or peaunut butter and crackers. mmmm! Getting excited thinking about it!

  25. Natalie September 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    My kids pack their lunches every day(except maybe when it's breakfast-for-lunch). We use lots of little tupperware containers, but they are round and of course lunchboxes are square. So I would LOVE to have a laptop lunch kit so I can pack more goodies with less plastic baggies. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  26. cynthiesmom September 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    This would be fantastic for us! My daughter takes her lunch every day to school and it is really hard to find a lunch box/bag that is big enough to pack everything in it without squashing everything. This looks as though it would be able to hold an entire meal without destroying the entire thing.

  27. Bebop September 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    I am a stay at home Army wife, striving for a self-sufficient life at our new post. My husband is very used to eating not very good food, especially since during his tours in Iraq consisted of eating somewhat balanced diet and fast food over there, unless I cook for him. Trying to save money in this economy has been pretty hard, especially since he usually eats out in the morning, lunchtime, and when he gets off work, unless he happens to come home to eat lunch, but the gas is killing us! I would definitely loved to use one of those, so I can send him to work with food and I can put a variety of food in it, rather than only one item, or if I have several containers, one might be forgotten.
    >^.^<

  28. Carli September 7, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    I would take this to work every day!! I work in retail, so the temptations of fast food are always there, but this would help me not only to avoid those temptations, but also to make sure i'm eating healthy and the right portions!!! I would LOVE THIS!!

  29. mrs.condo September 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    My son is starting PreK & I love the all in one laptop system. This will make making his lunch so much easier. I really want to start him out on the right foot with his school lunches from the start.

  30. Randi September 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Would definitely get lots of use out of this, I would use it everyday. The little portions are perfect and I love that there are endless combinations!!

  31. Melissa September 8, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    This would help either myself or my middleschooler to carry lunch easily. I have small boxes for the little kids but nothing to fit a good sized adult meal. Love these!

  32. Jackie September 8, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    I think these are amazing! I teach special education preschool and often eat with my class to model healthy eating habits. This would help me provide my class and their parents with new ideas to help pack healthy lunches!

  33. The King Family September 8, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    My kids go to a non-traditional school called a homeschool co-op. It is part of the school district but operates outside the law, so to speak, and doesn't have to provide lunches, healthy or otherwise, to our students. My kid's only choice for lunch is to bring it from home or eat from a vending machine and its neighbor the pop machine. Needless to say, we always, always bring our lunches. This would be an awesome system to have and make bringing those lunches so much easier.

  34. Alyssa September 8, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    I love the laptop lunch boxes and would use it to bring my lunches to work more often.

  35. Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    I just started back to work (at a school) and although the school lunches are OK it's not easy for me to get to the cafe from my class so I'm packing! Bento box would be GREAT!!

    Jen from NH

  36. kandaceandjason September 8, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    I've been trying to lose weight for about 4 months, and doing a pretty good job of sticking to my calorie limits. One of the ways I've been able to do this is by packing a lunch (American bento style) from home so I don't get tempted to go out on my lunch break. And in the past two weeks, I guess my husband likes what he's seen because he's now joining me on this journey. I agree with the commenter(s) that said this would be a perfect box for my husband and his higher calorie needs. Plus, I've looked all over the place and can't seem to find a dip container small enough to fit in my Ziploc brand tri-compartment boxes.

  37. JenB September 8, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    I have been wishing for a laptop lunchbox set for my 3rd grade daughter. She is bringing her lunch to school this year at least 3 times a week. This would make her lunches more fun!

  38. Heidi A September 8, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Would love one of these, I think they're a great idea!

    Heidi
    h-angulo@hotmail.com

  39. Mrs. Q September 8, 2010 at 3:06 am #

    Thanks again to all that have commented! I love your ideas for laptop lunches! May the best man/woman win via random number generator (.org). I'll be announcing a winner on Sunday as well as another cool surprise!

  40. Amy H September 8, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    I would love to have this for either of my daughters – both are in school and taking their lunch. I made a point of buying reusable Tupperware-type containers, but they are nowhere near this compact. Maybe I'll just keep it for myself . . .

  41. Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I would use it for my own lunch!

  42. RebeccaM September 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I would use this for my son's lunches for school. I have a few bento boxes, but with the exception of one of them, he thinks they are too 'cute' for a guy and a teenager.

  43. becboo84 September 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    I look forward to using these with my daughter starts preschool next year!

  44. SL September 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    I've been really interested in these! I would use it to leave a lunch for my 1.5 year old son. He stays home with either grandpa or his auntie while my husband and I work. It's a challenge to leave something every day for him to eat (I don't want to burden the babysitters with having to make him lunch), so this would be a great, convenient thing for us.

  45. Anna September 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    My daughter just started pre-K and loves the lunches we pack together for her but having to juggle a half dozen mini containers is hard for her. having it all part of one would make it easier for her.

  46. Emily September 8, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    I would love to try one of these! My daughter is in kindergarten and it would be perfect for her.

  47. Naydene (Marnay) September 8, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    This is such a wonderful idea! Not only can you make lunch more healthy but make it fun and eye pleasing too! My older daughter would love to take this to school since it does not look babyish.

  48. Heather September 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    My son has many food allergies, so school lunch food is not a good option for us even if it were healthier. I would love to win this set so that I can pack an attractive appealing lunch for him that will make him feel special. His food allergies mean he won't get to eat standard kid lunch fare and I hope to present his food in a more attractive way to make it better than standard. Thanks for offering this giveaway!

  49. Lisa September 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    I really, really would love to have one of these for my daughter, who is in 1st grade. It would be awesome to win :)

  50. Dawn September 9, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    I would really love to use one to pack my fiance's lunches. He is overweight and is having a hard time telling himself what portions are correct – it has only gotten worse since he broke his leg six months ago. I'd rather be able to send him fresh veggies and creative sandwiches than him eating fast food or whatever is simple for him to toss in his lunch box each morning. The doctor even contributes the slow healing to the fact he doesn't eat nutritious lunches. I can prepare him good breakfasts and dinners – but would like to do the same for his lunch.

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