Thoughts On: Healthy Lunchbags

Picky Princess with her Lunch Bag

Back to school can be a tricky time for moms (and dads!). Particularly when you have kids that stay at school for lunch and need to bring a packed lunch. Wading through the rules and requirements about garbage/no garbage/no nuts/no allergens/healthy/no trans fats….tricky business. Picky Princess is in Preschool for the second year, so no lunch bag requirements, but attempting to take birthday treats to preschool with no: oats/corn syrup/nuts/red dye etc takes a fair bit of creativity. I’ve had a number of requests for some healthy ideas for packed lunches. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

1. Invest in good quality, small reusable containers. You could fill a lunch bag full of prepackaged food and a) if it can live for long in a package, it is probably not healthy, and b) this makes for a lot of wasted garbage, and c) it’s more expensive.

2. Think outside the sandwich/apple/pudding combo. Pack one container with fruit, get your kids involved in picking fruit that might be a bit out of the ordinary: pears, plums, nectarines, mangoes, berries, melons. Most kids like most fruits. Pack one container with vegetables. From my experience, if you make something mini, kids will like it better. Grape tomatoes, carrots cut into mini mini carrot sticks, broccoli florets made super mini. Let’s be honest. People like cute. Pack one container with protein: sliced cheese, almonds(if nuts are allowed), a hard boiled egg, diced leftover chicken. Pack one container with some kind of carbohydrate: crackers, rice cakes, puffed grains. Pack one container with some kind of treat.  The variety provided is a)healthy, b)helps kids stay away from eating the exact same thing every day and c) is garbage free!

3. Get creative with sandwiches. The next time you’re making pancakes…double it. Freeze the leftovers between parchment paper and then take them out, spread jam or almond butter on them and sandwich them together! This is a major hit in our house. You can also roll up tortillas with avocado, diced chicken and shredded cheese, or whatever your munchkins like to eat. Cut the rolls into sushi-sized pieces.

4. If your kids are particularly picky(listen up people, I’m experienced in this area), then get creative with how you bake. I try to buy as little packaged food as possible so I  bake banana bread, scones, muffins, cookies that are all healthy. Finding recipes that replace sugar with honey or maple syrup, or better yet, fruit sweetened, and that use things like yogurt instead of butter, will allow you to bake things that taste good to picky eaters but that are reasonably healthy. Protein from seeds and nuts, fibre, fruits and vegetables, are all easily added to baked goods. This is exactly what got me started on writing a cookbook, my desire to take recipes and modify them until they were healthy and still yummy. Keep checking back, and I’ll keep posting recipes. I’ll try to put some focus this month or recipes that could be lunch box friendly!

5. Finally, get your kids involved. If they are school aged, then they are old enough to help. Enlist them in helping choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. Get them to help you bake some healthy muffins, or at the very least, make it THEIR routine, not yours to pull out containers, put them in the dishwasher, and pull out new ones to fill every day. Then the convenience you may miss from not using prepackaged foods takes care of itself. Amazing how far a little ownership can go.

Happy Back to School!

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Christine
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 14:08:14

    Great ideas for adults too! Brown bagging every day can get boring. I’m enjoying canning in 1/2 cup jars for the same reason – grab and go!

    Reply

  2. Holly
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 16:11:03

    Two must haves for me are the Easy Find lid storage containers from Rubbermaid and a mini muffin baking pan. Couldn’t manage a year of packing lunches without them. I bought the Rubber maid storage container set on sale at Superstore last year and found it the perfect amount of containers of various sizes for a family of 4. Lots of small containers for kids lunches, a few adult meal sized ones for Dad’s lunch and a couple really good freezer storage containers for when I bake my mini muffins. And baking your own “treats” is the best thing! I do everything from 60% whole wheat mango-blueberry muffins to home made brownies in mini form. Mini is indeed the key. I totally agree! Here’s the website with reviews of the Easy Find Lid Rubbermaid containers…http://www.rubbermaid.com/Category/Pages/ProductDetail.aspx?Prod_ID=RP091258&CatName=FoodStorage

    Reply

  3. Amy
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 09:44:00

    Great ideas! I especially love your daughter’s style. Like my grandfather, my mother, and now I always say, “Every girl NEEDS a pair of red shoes”. 🙂

    Reply

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