Because I am a mother, grandmother, and teacher/educator (and always consider myself a student of life), September signifies the beginning of a new school year and a time when lunches often move from being made and eaten at home to being packed and eaten elsewhere. And because I believe that food choices can be powerful and far-reaching, I want to pack lunches that are healthy and give me (and anyone that I am packing for) more energy to continue the day.
When I was a child growing up in the 50’s my lunch consisted of a bologna sandwich on white bread, potato chips, a cupcake or cookie, and milk. How did I survive? In spite of this, I was rarely ill–I guess it was all the fresh air, loving family, and exercise that helped me to thrive!
The type of lunch I had as a kid would never work for me or anyone in my family today. As a health coach I of course love finding ways to incorporate more veggies in any meal. However, plain raw veggies like carrot sticks or celery without dip feels too much like a diet plan to me and I am not a fan of diets. I loved Melissa Clark’s recent New York Times piece on dips, and will share her recipes below. These dips work equally well for lunches eaten at home as those that are packed.
Here are four tips to get the most nutritional bang for your buck when making dips:
Vary the veggies. Besides raw carrots and celery, try watermelon radish (it’s not as spicy as a regular radish and is beautiful), or lightly steamed green beans, sugar peas, broccoli, cauliflower, or any type of squash.
- Don’t be raw. Try roasting sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash, beets or other root veggies and then making a dip for them.
- Remember the fruit! One grandson likes dipping his strawberries and peaches in whipped cream! His mom buys organic whipping cream and whips it herself with a little honey or maple syrup and vanilla. Not that strawberries or peaches need whip cream, but it feels like a special dessert without the added sugar of ice cream.
- Go nuts. I love apples or raw peppers dipped in almond butter or peanut butter. Experiment and see what your child enjoys.
Here are Melissa Clark’s dips. All three are delicious!
Cheddar Scallion Dip
- 4 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature), cubed
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
- Black pepper to taste (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice as needed
- ½ cup sharp raw milk cheddar cheese finely grated
- 1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste (optional)
- Hot sauce to taste (optional)
- Place the cream cheese, mayonnaise , scallion, salt, and pepper (if using) and paprika in a bowl and mix and mash well with a fork or spatula until smooth.
- Mix in orange juice until smooth, then mix in the cheddar. If dip seems too thick, add a little juice. Taste for seasoning. Add garlic paste and hot sauce (or both) if desired. You can also mix in a food processor.
- ½ cup shelled edamame, defrosted if frozen
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil, more to taste
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce, more to taste
- ½ of a 14-ounc block firm tofu (7 ounces) patted dry and cubed
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.
- Place edamame, ginger, and scallion in the bowl of a food processor and process until everything is finely chopped, about 30 seconds.
- Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary. Taste and add a few more drops of soy sauce or sesame oil, or both if needed.
Basil Avocado Dip
- 1 7-ounce container of Greek yogurt (I use 1 cup of organic full fat yogurt)
- 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
- ½ teaspoon honey, or to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons lime juice, or to taste
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pinch of fine sea salt, more to taste
- Place all ingredients in bowl of a food processor.
- Process until smooth, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Taste for seasoning.