by Laura Bashar
By now, everyone is back to school. And if you are like most families, you are never ready for the morning rush. Between brushing teeth and picking out clothes, there’s the shout, “Finish you breakfast!” and “Did you pack your homework?” Sometime during this buzz, you also have to consider what to pack for your child’s lunch/snack. And if you have more than one kid, that means more than one set of taste buds and peculiarities. Need help?
School cafeteria lunches, in some areas, are getting healthier. But, for the most part, by packing your child’s lunch you are insuring your child has a healthy and well-balanced meal. This is not to say that kids don’t swap with other kids or throw things away. But, pretty soon they will get hungry. And if that sack lunch is their only source of nourishment (and they don’t have cash on them!), then you can be sure that the lunch will get eaten.
So what are the choices?
Some kids are easy. PBJ, everyday.
Other kids are not. Most kids get bored with their lunches. So add some variety to the menu.
If you make sandwiches, try different cuts of meats paired with different types of cheeses. And, think outside of the square. Toast isn’t the only bread you can use for sandwiches. Roll it up in a slice of lavash (or flat bread) or try whole-wheat tortillas. Even better, put it in a pocket, a pita pocket, that is! Some stores even sell mini-sized pitas, which are fun for small fingers.
Got a kid that won’t eat bread?
Roll a piece of cucumber, carrot or some cream cheese in a slice of turkey, or any cut of meat. If they like cream cheese, try some of the flavored cheese spreads out there. Or offer your child a homemade lunchable: small cuts of meat, cheese and crackers.
Let’s go dipping!
If your student likes to dip offer whole-wheat pita or veggies with hummus, yogurt or a cheese dip. If your child likes sushi or rice, try doing fun rolls using chicken, cream cheese, or crab meat fillers. Even the pickiest child likes something healthy. Find it and exploit it! PBJ’s can be expanded to apples and peanut butter or a PBJ roll in a whole grain tortilla.
Many stores like Target and Wal-mart sell plastic lunch containers with different compartments. These work great for kids who don’t want their food to touch each other! You can also find hi-end bento containers that do the same thing, but are larger sized for bigger appetites.
Comfort food in a thermos.
As the weather cools off, consider thermoses of soup or warm mac & cheese. Many thermoses are insulated and will hold the heat for several hours (or at least until lunch time!). If your school offers a microwave for your kids to warm up their foods, even better.
For great snack choices pack something with protein and whole grains that will keep your child’s energy up and mind alert. Try fruits, nuts, granola, or any pre-packaged snack made with whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Don’t give them foods that spike their insulin up, only to lead them to a sugar crash and a groggy and slow afternoon. No one is saying not to add a special treat to your child’s lunch box. Just make sure they nutritious items, as well, to help them succeed during the school day.
By getting a little creative in the kitchen, you are teaching your kids that eating healthy is important and not a last-minute, forgotten chore. And by trying new ways of offering the same thing, you are teaching your kids to be adventurous. Don’t be surprised the next time you make a home-made dinner to find even your pickiest eater loving it. It has been known to happen.