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!