Pack a Lunch with Punch!
You are into the school year, and things are starting to set into the routine. But are you still thinking, "OK, what am I gong to pack in their lunch today?" Whether you are talking about preschool or high school, the question of what to send to school for kids always comes up. Fear not! Helping busy kids eat healthy at school is easier than you think.
Have you ever thought about what is really going in your kid's lunch? In recent years, we have come to rely more on convenience foods and pre-packaged meals than ever before. But these packaged foods are often high in salt, sugar, calories, and low in vitamins and minerals. Consider this…..
- children typically eat 5-10 times more sodium than they need
- packaged oriental noodles with dry soup mix - are deep fried in palm oil, which contains saturated fat, high amounts of salt (sodium?), almost no fibre, vitamins or minerals
- bologna, pepperoni, and other fatty luncheon meats are also loaded with salt, fat, and have little protein, vitamins or minerals
- some juice boxes that are fruit "drinks", "punch", and "cocktail" may have no more than 10% real fruit juice and are loaded with sugar. Think of them as soft drinks disguised as juice.
- pre-packaged "make-your-own sandwich" packs get 2/3 of their calories from fat and sugar
Short on time?
Pulling lunch together in a hurry is often the biggest challenge. Try doing a weekly lunch menu. On Sunday night, plan school lunches for the next week with your child. Children tend to eat healthier if they have had a say in what is offered to them. This way, you avoid making last-minute, unhealthy food choices that are low in nutrients. Try packing lunch the night before to avoid the mad rush in the morning.
So what can you pack in a kid's school lunch?
- try building your own "make-your-own sandwich" pack - buy a re-usable foodsaver with compartments and pack it with vegetables, meat (i.e., sliced turkey, roast beef, or ham), cheese, and include some whole grain bread. Kids love the compartments and the idea of building their own lunch
- include at least one serving of fruit in each lunch
- sneak vegetables into sandwiches, such as spinach, green pepper, and tomato
- pack pretzels, dry cereal (i.e Cheerios, Shreddies, and Corn Flakes), or breadsticks into lunch instead of chips
- bagels, English muffins, and multigrain bread are great choices for sandwiches; or you can try soft tortilla shells to "wrap" a sandwich
- pasta salad and potato salad with added vegetables and cheese
- raw vegetable sticks with some salad dressing or fruit pieces with some yogurt for dip
- tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad sandwich - or if they prefer to dip crackers in the filling, that's OK too!
- fill a thermos with casseroles, soups, pasta or other hot dishes
- try putting previously rejected foods in interesting containers - colourful foodsavers or very small baggies - it may make it seem like a different food altogether
- don't forget an ice pack to keep cold foods cold, or a thermos to keep hot foods hot. Short on ice packs? Try an "edible ice pack" - freeze an orange and use it as the ice pack - by the time lunch rolls around, the orange will be thawed out and lunch will still be cold
What if my child will not eat what I pack for lunch?
Sometimes children will not eat an entire lunch packaged for them. Especially with younger children, a large lunch may seem like too much for them to handle. If you present lunch as a variety of snack foods (healthy ones of course!), then children may be more interested in eating smaller amounts of various foods. Experiment with foods smaller in size and smaller in quantity.