Too Cool for School (Lunch)
Part Two: The New and Improved Brown Bag Bonanza.
Packing school lunches with a powerful punch of both fun and high nutrition is now easier than ever. With a wholesome and healthy wave of awareness on nutritious and healthy foods on the rise, brown bag lunches are more nutritious and en vogue than ever before. The concept of a packed lunch is nothing new, but the rebirth of the healthy ingredients within the bag, is. The resurgence of interest in the packed lunch proves that we are listening and are making better choices.
Modeling positive balanced eating habits begins at home. Try to be sure every bite your child eats is as nutrient dense as possible. Choose whole grain products (breads, pastas, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal) rather than refined grain products. Limit access to ‘junk’ foods while simultaneously providing alternative sweet options, model good nutritious choices, provide a wide range of healthy snacks and teach children that physical activity is the best route for weight loss.
Building the Ideal Lunchbox; there is no need to wait in long cafeteria lines. Health conscious parents prefer children eat healthy, organic, homemade foods, however preparing school lunches after a long day at the office, is less than appealing. Take heed - help has arrived - as preparing quick budget-conscious lunches full of fiber, whole grains, protein, healthy fat, veggies and fruits are now easier than ever before. Step up your lunch box game with excellent Cookbooks and state of the art containers geared specifically for modern day portable lunches to go.
Lunch Box Cookbooks are not only creative but are packed with smart strategies for healthy great tasting and super-fun recipes and tips. ‘The Lunch Box’ cookbook, sold at William Sonoma, provides numerous recipes and tips for portable foods kids on the go will love – from playful sandwiches, salads and hot lunch favorites to sensational snacks. ‘Cooking with Trader Joes, Pack a Lunch’ cookbook, also offers delicious meals to make and take, along with photos and nutritional data for each recipe.
Whole Foods Market suggests ‘Ideas for spreading the lunch love’ tips:
- Involve your kids in the prep work and decision making of what goes in the bag. Give them something they can assemble themselves – kids love dipping, stacking and rolling their food into fun treats.
- Anything mini equals fun. Serve them things like mini whole grains bagels or rolls, pot stickers or cheese and meat cubes (skewered for even more fun).
- Make food into fun shapes. Colorful or interestingly shaped pasta, sandwiches cut into shapes, or fruit cut into triangles/circles/balls.
- Try to expose your children to at least one new flavor each week.
- Include a fun container, special note, napkin, cartoon or joke in the lunchbox. (Sandwich cutters are available at Pottery Barn Kids and Crate & Barrels Land of Nod. Many supermarkets also now carry fun shaped bread).
Cool Containers also abound in many local stores (Pottery Barn Kids, Crate & Barrel, Whole Foods Market and Target); making kids the envy of their lunch table. Character and fun shaped cold packs, lunch box love notes, lunch skins (alternative to plastic wrap) dual food compartment storage containers (in both plastic or stainless), lunch boxes, hot and cold vacuum insulated thermos’s and food jars, Klean Kanteens (100% PBA free) drink bottles and utensil cases each come in a wide array of bright colors, sizes, shapes and character themes. Many also boast matching back packs.
Rethink your containers by using earth friendly, plastic, waste, lead and chemical free options. Informative sites such as wastefreelunches.org provide you with facts including this one; in a recent study daily trash for each student totaled 65-67 pounds per year. For fashionable and functional waste free, dishwasher safe lunch kits try kidskonserve.com (or wastefreelunches.org).
Energy packed cool lunch suggestions may include; whole wheat tortilla wraps, hummus and spinach wraps with cherry tomatoes, string cheese and/or yogurt. Whole wheat noodles with peanut sauce, sugar snap peas, a pear, almonds and a fortune cookie, Panini grilled sandwiches, cut out cheese/meat/cucumber shapes with whole wheat crackers for stacking, crostini toasted bread slices with roasted turkey and sliced hardboiled egg, smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumbers on mini bagels, tuna salad with shredded carrots and/or cheese in a pita pocket and fruit kabobs made from assorted colors and shapes of fruits on a bamboo skewer, served with yogurt for dipping (its hip to dip), cold antipasti including tortellini, meats, cheeses and green beans. Homemade soups, chili and macaroni and cheese stay warm in thermoses.
”You have peanut butter and jelly that’s kind of passé’ but believe it or not it’s quite healthy if you make a few tweaks to it. I suggest adding apple slices or banana slices to it on nice grainy bread. And also – I recently noticed some of the new containers have the sandwich spot on the bottom and then also have four little sections on the top. You can put hummus in one and veggies in the others or you can bring a Greek yogurt and bring granola and some fruit and make your own little parfait,” said Nancy Murphy, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator in Fairfield County. “The Omega rich fish options are also great – like salmon, tuna and sardines. I’d like to get our children to like them and embrace them because they’re so healthy.”
Chef Michel Nischan, award winning cookbook author of Fairfield, restaurant owner and CEO of the Wholesome Wave, has been sending his “five kids to school with lunch for a long time. It’s pretty simple and straight forward. We roast our own meats which are easy to turn into a great sandwich. Oven roasted vegetable lasagna, pasta, multigrain salads and seasonal fruits are good as well. Baking your own crackers is kind of cool and fun and you can add any type of nuts to them and serve them with some of your sliced roasted meats or flaked fish. I find that if kids bake them (or whole grain rolls) they have a greater tendency to eat them while developing their culinary skills and love for good foods at the same time.”
Trish Pavoni, a Fairfield mother of four, told us “my kids never buy hot lunch; they don’t like the food at school. They take a lot of leftovers in (like pesto pasta, veggie pasta) and Mexican foods – like grilled chicken and salsa with shredded carrots and scoop chips, which are a favorite and are fun to assemble. I also make a lot of really good sandwiches on Billy’s Bakery fresh breads.”
The author (who has five children) recommends a tip: freeze your juice boxes the night before. They thaw throughout the morning and are cold at lunch time and double as a cold pack in the lunch box!