Winning Back-to-School Lunches
Posted by: NITA SHARDA, REGISTERED DIETITIAN, CARROTS AND CAKE
Alas, September is here! This is the only month of the year that is synonymous with back-to-school mayhem including endless shopping trips and the return of the dreaded school lunches.
Since you’re probably overwhelmed with having to attend parent-teacher meetings, organize school supplies and shop for new clothing we want to do our part in helping to make sure that packing school lunches is a breeze – or in the very least, slightly less painful or frustrating.
I put some feelers out to family, friends and other dietitians for tips and tricks that they may want to share for packing school lunches. Here are four killer tips that will help you ROCK lunches this school year.
1. Plan ahead! Organize your lunches before the week begins for smooth sailing up until that Friday school bell rings. Being prepared with an army of snacks and lunches will decrease the amount of time spent in the kitchen and hey, it makes CENTS. That’s right – planning for any meal can help keep you on budget and reduce food waste. Win win.
If you want to get your hands on a free meal planning printables, click here.
2. Get the kids involved. My friend Susan Watson says that keeping a bin at home with healthy, non-perishable snacks is key to successfully packing lunches that her children will enjoy. Add unsweetened fruit sauce, cookies, granola bars and raisins in the bin. Your kids can have access to this bin and pick the items that they want to have for school. You can even take things one step further by storing perishable snacks in the fridge. Include items such as yogurt, cheese, hummus cups, muffins and fruit.
When kids are involved in making their lunches, they are more likely to eat it! Additionally, this is a great way to instill fundamental food skills that your growing children can count on as they approach adulthood.
3. Make use of leftovers. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking outside the box when it comes to using existing meals
• Got roast chicken? Chop it and layer between a whole wheat bun with a slice of cheddar cheese.
• Got roast beef or pork? Cut your meat into thin slices and use toothpicks to make a deconstructed sandwich with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, whole wheat bun and cucumbers
• Got scrambled tofu? Place it in a whole wheat wrap along with your child’s favorite cheese and some lettuce.
• Got tex-mex flavored ground meat or lentils? Layer it with all the fixings to make a delicious fajita style salad in jar.
4. Include variety. When it comes to packing healthy school lunches and snacks it’s important to offer a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat. This is why my general rule of thumb is to include all four food groups at meal time. At snack time, include two to three food groups. In doing so, you are giving your child an array of vitamins, minerals and fiber for healthy growth and development.
Follow these steps to make packing lunches easier, and perhaps more fun for the entire family. Not only are you increasing the odds that your kids will eat their lunches, but teachers will be grateful that they are eating more nutritious options.