School Lunch: Healthy How-to’s
Don't send kids to the bus stop empty-handed: Cookbook author Nancy Mehagian shares her top 10 tips for packing healthy lunches.
When my daughter was in elementary school I packed her lunches. I’d usually cook a few dishes on Sunday afternoon so I’d have some choices during the week. Her friends were always curious about what she had in her lunchbox and usually tried to trade some of their own not nearly as appetizing packaged food for her fresh fare. She knew better than to trade though she’d often share a few bites.
As a single, working mom it wasn’t always easy to pack a daily lunch but my daughter’s health and well being were important to me so I made the effort. It was certainly better than having to take time off to care for a sick child.
I highly recommend getting an insulated lunch bag or using freezer packs for perishable foods. A thermos is always good for keeping soup, stew or chili warm during winter months. Variety is an important factor in preparing lunch. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the same thing everyday, would you?
Take kids shopping so they can choose things they like. They will be more likely to eat what you’ve packed for them. Even better, allow them to help out in the kitchen. It will give them a sense of pride that they have actually helped prepare their own meal. Here are ten tips I hope will help with packing your child’s lunch:
- Every lunch needs to contain some quality protein like sliced turkey, sliced or cubed cheese or individually wrapped string cheese or even hard-boiled eggs. (Don’t forget the salt.)
- Sandwiches should be made with whole grain bread, whole grain bagels or whole wheat pita and wraps can be made with whole wheat tortillas for variety. Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into different designs or prepare small tea sandwiches.
- Fruit smoothies can have all kinds of healthy additions like frozen fruits, yogurt, soy milk and nut butters. Kept in a thermos, they are wonderful on warm days.
- Add different types of small veggies each day—carrots, celery, jicama, sugar snap peas, edamame and tear drop tomatoes for example with hummus or any of the other wonderful bean dips to go along with them.
- Include whole fruit or a chunky fruit salad with some Greek yogurt or peanut butter for dipping.
- Kids like to graze throughout the day so pack some energy pick-me-ups, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, raisins or dried cranberries or a nice trail mix.
- Don’t forget to use yesterday’s leftovers. You can even change them up with a skewer and make a kabob. If it’s chicken, cut up the pieces and add such items as cheese cubes or veggies.
- Bean and cheese burritos are easy to make at home with healthy tortillas and refried beans and can be eaten hot or cold.
- Pasta salads are also excellent choices made with whole grain, fresh vegetables and a protein.
- Seal the lunch with love. Kids, no matter what age, love a personal note as a surprise in the middle of the day.
— By Nancy Mehagian, author of The Supernatural Kids Cookbook
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