No matter how you slice it, sandwiches everyday becomes boring pretty fast. School and workplace lunches don’t have to be dull or unhealthy. They also don’t have to be expensive or overly creative. A healthy lunch just needs to be nutritious and varied.
With food allergies and child obesity a concern for some families, knowing what foods to pack can be a challenge. Mix together the need for healthy foods and busy schedules, and you have a recipe for frustration over what to pack for your kid’s school lunch, not to mention, what you’ll be eating at work.
And with many kids also attending day camps during the summer months, packing lunches can be a year round can be a chore.
The question I get most often from the subscribers of my ‘School Lunch Ideas’ newsletter is “How to make healthy lunches fun and interesting without much effort or expense?”
While most of us would like to scale back on processed over packaged foods, many simply don’t have the time to make all our food from scratch, test out a variety of different recipes, and package in individual serving sized containers.
Convenient foods are a must for most of us. When I say convenient, I’m not referring to the overly processed and packaged varieties, I simply mean foods that are quick and easy to put together and pack as a healthy lunch. Also recipes with a limited number of ingredients take only a very few steps to prepare. Homemade hummus and guacamole are two perfect examples.
Picky eaters and food allergies can also negate otherwise healthy lunch ideas. While not all foods will work in all lunch boxes, there are some basic ideas that will work for any family members who need a lunch to go.
One of the main ingredients to a healthy and varied school or work lunch is a good food container(s). You can’t beat a quality insulated food jar that doesn’t leak and keeps food cold or hot for an extended period of time. Imagine the appeal of a meatball sub (turkey meatballs on a whole grain bun), vegetarian chili or crisp salads and chilled soups on warm days.
Need insulated food jars but don’t know which ones are best suited to the requirements of your family? Shop around – compare features and prices before making a buying decision. Whether shopping locally or online, I frequently visit sites like Amazon.com to read customer reviews before making a buying decision. When it comes to food jars, go with brands like Thermos and Mr. Bento which generally have good ratings and lots of testimonials from happy customers.
As for what to pack, take your kids grocery shopping and explore the aisles. Start a discussion about what foods and what combinations of foods appeal most.
If you’d like your kids to be more adventurous in the food arena, set an example by trying out some new foods as a family. You may be surprised at how well a new food goes over. Aim to try a new food each week e.g. avocados – add them to salads, sandwiches or use them as a healthy dip for baked tortilla crisps or wholegrain crackers.
Encourage young kids to try different foods by making a game of it. Select a new food each week based on a different color of the rainbow of a different letter of the alphabet.
When it comes to the convenience of snack foods, think beyond the typical bag of chips and explore other crispy and satisfying snacks like brown rice or lentil crisps and things like wholegrain pretzels, or cereals you package as a breakfast to go.
Boost the nutritional value of everyday foods by incorporating a new ingredient like flaxseed to smoothies, muffins, breads, salads, yogurt and cereal. Whole flaxseed is a good source of fibre (it stays crispy in milk and yogurt) and when ground (grind whole flaxseed using a coffee grinder, blender or food processor) has omega-3 benefits.
For nut-free environments like daycares and schools experiment with alternative protein sources like Quinoa (keen-wah). This protein rich super grain contains a healthy balance of essential amino acids. It is gluten free, a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus, is easy to digest and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa can be served warm as a breakfast cereal or served cold as a salad.
For flaxseed and Quinoa recipe ideas please visit http://school-lunch-ideas.net