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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 8 years ago

Packing lunch with Whole Foods

by: John Ewing

Sarah Felder is a vegan mom with a passion for fresh local food and healthy living. She shares beautiful, creative and kid-approved lunchbox ideas on her blog, bentoriffic.

I admit that I have turned into a bit of a foodie over the past couple of years. Maybe not the type who reads tons of restaurant reviews and gets out to lots of new restaurants. Nope, I'm the kind who has a giant cookbook collection, reads a ton of cooking magazines and barely makes the same meal twice at home. I guess you could say I'm an armchair foodie.

My husband and I decided l to permanently give up meat and dairy for the New Year last year and to take our two preschool daughters on our plant-based journey. For the past year we've eaten more new foods than I ever imagined, broadened our palates and gotten healthier than we've ever been.

Our local Sarasota Whole Foods has been a great resource for my family. Not only can we find foods that are tough to locate, but the store offers free nutrition and cooking classes, coupons, specially-ordered products and tons of great recipe ideas each month. My favorite part about our store is that they do a pretty good job of carrying things that are local. Many of them have an organic option, and even Whole Foods' own brand, "365" is usually far more affordable than the brand names. Don't get me wrong, they carry some exotic things there too, but I can get fruits and vegetables there that came from our local area rather than traveling from South America to get here. They support some locally-owned food products and are willing to bring in products to try. They also donate bag credits back to a different local charity in our community that changes each month.

So ... welcome to 2013. In the spirit of full disclosure, Whole Foods did not compensate me in any way for this post. Any opinions or dietary recommendations are entirely mine. The majority the food in these lunches was purchased by me at the Sarasota Whole Foods location unless I picked it locally.

My blog, bentoriffic, began as a creative way to present foods to my toddler children in order to get them to eat healthier. I make food visually fun for them. Above is a lunch from earlier this week to celebrate the new year and my kids going back to school. I buy Rudi's Organic brand breads almost exclusively since they use organic, non-genetically modified ingredients. I used a large-sized set of number cookie cutters for the sandwiches and filled them with almond butter and strawberry jam. I stuck a grape tomato in the zero for color.  Below the sandwiches I alternated raspberries and blueberries on some festive food picks I found at a local party store. In the top left compartment of the Easy Lunchboxes container are dried apricots and a small Crimson Gold apple. In the top right section are local strawberries.

Before you start thinking I'm crazy, this lunch took me about 10 minutes to make, start to finish, for my four-year-old's preschool lunch. I had some leftover pasta and tofu from dinner the night before. The garden pagoda shaped pasta is made by the Quinoa Corp and can be found in the dry pasta aisle. Their pasta is made with the ancient grain quinoa, an excellent protein source, and corn. I have a small butterfly cookie cutter I used to make the carrot shapes, tofu shapes and the cutout from the apple.  The carrots and tofu were cooked in an island teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds, then poured over the leftover pasta.  To make the lunch look extra fun, I cut six grape tomatoes at an angle and stuck some cocktail picks through them to hold them together in a heart shape.  In the top left are persimmon fruit pieces, the apple butterfly cut from the larger apple and a small silicone butterfly cup with a raw vegan snowball (almonds, raisins, dates, walnuts and coconut) treat made by Glaser Organic Farms in Miami, which can be found near the refrigerated produce at Whole Foods.  At the top right is half of an organic apple with a butterfly cutout.  I soak the apple in citrus water for about 10 minutes while putting lunches together to prevent it from browning.

On days when she stays later at school, I also pack an afternoon snack for my daughter. I often use silicone baking cups to provide color and minimize foods leaking into one another. From the top left are Go Raw brand Pizza Flax Snax. They're mini-crackers made from flax, sunflower and sesame seeds with tomatoes and spices---and they're seriously delicious. I found them in the bulk nuts and fruits section. Next to the Flax Snax are whole cashews. In the top right compartment are kiwi slices with a small monkey food pick; in the bottom right blue cup are pre-cut cantaloupe pieces; and in the bottom left are starfruit (also known as carambola) slices with a green puppy food pick packed in her LunchBots brand stainless container.

My husband's lunch is the adult version of the same pasta and tofu lunch. He has the Quinoa Corp pasta in curl shapes, flower carrots and island teriyaki tofu cubes on food picks. In the top left of his Easy Lunchboxes container are grape tomatoes and in the top right is a mixture of sautéed leeks and romanesco (Roman broccoli).

I am happy to answer questions by email at [email protected]. Please visit my blog at for more lunchbox ideas.  Happy Lunch Packing!

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