Tag Archives: Healthy lunches

How to Pack Safe Lunches

Food Safety
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Knowing  how to pack safe lunches should be at the top of every parent’s list. This can be done if you know a few basic rules and pay attention to the foods you choose and how you pack them.

The following storage and cooling ideas will help you maintain the safety of your children’s packed lunches.

Using a thermos is one of the easiest ways to keep food safe.

To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in hot foods preheat the thermos with very hot water before adding the hot food. Pre-cool the thermos with ice water before filling with cold food. With a good thermos you can send frozen fruit sorbet and be confident it will still be frozen when your child is ready to eat it for lunch.

You can use also ice packs in an insulated container to keep food cool. Another option is to add frozen bottles of water or juice boxes to the lunch container. They will keep the food cool and be ready to drink by lunch time. (Be sure to remove a little of the water before freezing or the bottle may burst in the freezer.) Using frozen water or juice rather than ice packs leaves more room for other healthy options.

There are many versions (all shapes and sizes) of the insulated lunch boxes or bags that can be purchased for nominal amounts of money at outlets such as Big Lots. They come with built-in gel packs that keep food at the proper temperature. You can also buy gel-pack blankets in various sizes that can fit into your child’s favorite lunch container.

Another smart idea is to pre-freeze canned fruit (mandarin oranges for example) in small plastic containers and allow it to thaw in your child’s lunch. These containers will keep the lunchbox cool the same as frozen drinks.

Be very careful with mayonnaise and dairy products. In order to guarantee safety, they must be kept at 40° or colder, which can be tricky unless there is a refrigerator available.

In very warm weather peeled and sliced fruits and vegetables may tend to spoil more easily than unpeeled; so, be careful when packing these items. Cherry tomatoes, grapes, bananas and other whole fruit are better choices for warmer weather.

When you pack chips or crackers such as baked chips or whole wheat crackers, they can break easily. To avoid this, you may want to use small plastic containers to keep them whole and make them more appealing to your child.

The basic rule to follow for safety is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Make it a practice to provide healthy, nutritious foods for lunches. It is a good idea to let you child help you choose items for his/her lunch (but give him several healthy choices to pick from).

 

Why You Should Pack Your Child’s Lunch

Image by klenova
Image by klenova

There are two major reasons why you should pack your child’s lunch rather than have him/her eat lunches provided by the school.

– It is easier on your budget.

– It provides much better nutrition for young, growing bodies.

Yes, you are absolute correct, it is not as easy as simply handing the child money or buying lunch tickets. It does take time and planning, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

By packing lunches you can meet the specific nourishment needs of your child (children) and also ensure that they have lunch choices of foods that they actually like. In other words, they can be customized to fit the individual child.

Below are a few ideas you may want to try:

Early Grades (The Little Ones)

Elementary-school-age children have different dietary needs, likes, and dislikes than teenagers or adults. Younger children eat smaller quantities of food and the lunches should be playful to hold their interest. Since they typically do not eat a lot at once, it is smart to pack more finger foods that can be saved and eaten at different breaks during the day.

Use baked dinner rolls cut in half to make tiny buns just right for little hands. Fill with sliced meatballs, ham and cheese, egg or chicken salad. Add a little container of dipping sauce or their favorite condiment. Throw in a snack-sized bag of whole grain chips, corn chips, mini-pretzels, baby carrots, or small pieces of celery with dressing and a 100% juice boxed drink. Have them help you make a home-made trail mix that you can pack in small baggies for the week – adding a little extra to share with a friend.

Look for small bananas, “Cuties” California Clementines, apricots, sliced apples, or grapes. Most children like mandarin oranges so pack a few in a small container with little or no juice.

Make your child’s favorite pasta the night before and toss lightly with olive oil. In the morning add small cheese chunks, snap peas, bell pepper slices, tiny pieces of chopped broccoli, diced tomato, or whatever vegetable your child likes.

Spread mini-bagels with hummus or peanut butter and pair with string cheese.

Just for fun, hide a special note (just for him/her) somewhere in the lunch. This let’s them know how much they are loved and that you are thinking about them, even when you are not with them. As the years pass, they will have no idea the special thought and preparation you put into their lunches, but they will remember the notes. And. . . you will be building healthy eating habits that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Middle School Children

Their bodies are changing rapidly along with their appetites. Boys are always hungry and eat more of everything. Then, there are the girls, who often need to be encouraged to eat. They tend to become self-conscious about their bodies and worry about gaining weight. Sometimes, they skip lunch all together. Rather than using the ploy that their brain needs the proper fuel to function properly, you may have greater success if you tell them how the food they eat helps their bodies look they way they want them to look.

Provide roasted or grilled vegetables dressed with vinegar and olive oil, raw vegetables with hummus or dip, a small salad with dressing on the side, or a dish of their favorite fruit. Add a few cheese squares and whole wheat crackers and lunch is complete.

Wrap up a piece of leftover chicken, a container of coleslaw or potato salad and a roll.

Wrap pieces of turkey around a couple of cheese sticks and include a condiment for dipping. Place some whole grain pretzels in a small baggie and add a small piece of fruit.

Alternate cooked chicken with raw vegetables on a skewer. Lay on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with honey mustard and wrap tightly. Include some sunflower seeds or nuts and a bottle of water.

Add some grated carrots to your next BBQ and send the sauce in a container along with a hot dog bun and a bag of chips and a sliced apple for dessert.

Let them create a mini-hoagie by stacking meat and cheese topped with sautéed peppers and onions. Send a container with olive oil and vinegar to pour on just before eating so the bun doesn’t get soggy. Add a container of fruit cocktail for dessert and their favorite soft drink.

Even though you don’t need to tell them, it is important for get them to eat nourishing food at every meal in order for their brains to continue to develop and work properly. That helps ensure that they can learn as much as possible and be prepared for whatever life has to offer.

Eating at school on occasion is not a problem; but, for in order to sustain good health in their developmental years, packed school lunches for your children is the best way to go.

 

Healthy and Easy-to-Prepare Lunches

Planning and smart grocery shopping are essential for feeding your family healthy, nutritious meals. The process can take a great deal of time and effort. To make it even more complicated, gone are the days of hour-long lunch breaks. They are typically only 30 minutes, which means lunches must be simple. They must be prepared and eaten within the 30-minute time frame. This posting offers a few healthy lunch ideas that may be just what you are looking for.

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Remember to include your child in the planning when it comes to making healthy and easy-to-prepare lunches. Whether lunch is for school or to be eaten at home, prepare food you know they will enjoy. When you have their input, you are much more likely to prepare help something they will eat. SO . . .  if your child does not like tortillas, do not prepare wraps for his packed lunch. There is a high probability that he will not eat it.

Be sure to include fresh fruit that he likes. A small bunch of grapes, a cut up apple, banana or other fruit will help with the desire for something sweet and is a much healthier choice than a sugary dessert such as cookies or candy. Get in the habit of cutting fruit into small pieces and placing it in snack size plastic bags as soon as you come home from the grocery store. This works well on almost every fruit except apples, which should be cut as you are preparing lunch. Then, all you have to do is grab a bag of fruit and drop it in the lunch bag.

Pack whole wheat crackers, small pieces of roasted chicken or roast beef and low-fat cheese for your child to make their own “Lunchables” style meal. This provides healthy alternatives for lunch and gives them more control over their meal. The pre-packaged choices really ARE NOT healthy! They are filled with fat and additives – mostly empty calories that are not good for them. However, foods packaged at home in a similar manner, can be very good for them.

Sandwiches are one of the easiest choices when it comes to preparation. To provide healthier sandwiches, use hearty whole grain bread rather than white. This will allow you to give them sandwiches they like, but on healthier bread. You can even pack the ingredients separately so they have the choice of making a sandwich or eating the ingredients on their own.

Make tuna salad sandwiches, wrap them individually, and freeze overnight. When you take them out to put in your child’s lunchbox, they will thaw and be ready to eat when lunch time comes. This also works well with homemade chicken salad sandwiches (made from the leftovers of Sunday’s roasted chicken dinner).

Make up a healthy snack mix with dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, or raisins), unsalted nuts, carob chips and pretzels. If you make these once a week in single-size servings, they will be ready when you need them.

Freeze juice boxes if are sending juice to school with your child for lunch. The juice will thaw in the hours before lunch and it will keep your child’s food cool. You can also use the same idea with other beverages. Personally, I am not a fan of juice boxes since they are primarily sugar water, but if you feel you must, this is one way to do it.

Start with things you know your children will like. Ask them what they prefer and you may be surprised at the answers. Remember to offer foods from each food group as your guide.  Remember to choose natural, whole foods without the additives, minimal sugar, and low salt as often as possible.