Ah, back to school time! The air will be getting crisp and the leaves will crunch beneath our feet. School clothes neatly laid out the night before but, wait, what am I going to pack for my kids’ lunch every day? Read on for some expert solutions to please any palate.
Sending your children in with lunch is tough because you want to make sure that they really eat it. There is nothing worse than wasted food coming home in a slimy lunch box! I have worked out a few strategies for school lunches that my kids love. I send nutritious, calorie dense foods that they have fun eating.
I tend to favor warm lunches, like pasta with vegetables and place them in a thermos will can hold it hot for a long time. There are some great thermos products out there. In addition there are a lot of great bento box lunch carriers out there that separate the meals into components.
Meals that I like to send my children with are balanced and are composed of foods that I know that they will eat. For smaller children, it might be harder to eat with a spoon so it’s always good to have a few finger foods in there. Sometimes in order to open our ideas to what lunch can be, it’s helpful to look to other cultures to see what they eat. I always include a starch (like pasta or cous cous) and honestly try to stay away from dessert. I also think it’s a great thing to get kids eating beans. They are so nutritious and have a ton of fiber, vitamins, protein and minerals. Beans appeal to all financial brackets, they’re cheap even when organic and they are delicious –and you can flavor them with anything. The sweetest thing I like to send is fruit in season or a good muffin that isn’t laden with sugar.
I like to send things like:
Breakfast for lunch: Fresh fruit, hard-cooked eggs, carrot apple muffin, cheddar cheese and you are good to go.
Asian: Stir fry. My older son asks for stir fry often. It’s a great way to use up leftovers too. Make a big batch at the beginning of the week and use throughout the week. It’s so easy too, because there are a lot of great frozen brown rices on the market – you don’t need to think twice about cooking rice. It’s already parboiled, organic, frozen – just defrost and toss in with some leftover bits of meat (if using), diced veggies (you can use frozen organic for this too- carrots, peas, string beans and broccoli are some favorites) and then the rice. Stir fry quickly with a little oil and there you go.
Italian: “antipasti lunch” Parmigiano cheese (keeps well at room temperature), grapes, apples, carrrots, cucumber, good quality salami, and pasta and/or a slice of buttered good bread. My kids love this and always eat it.
Mexican: Taco “bowl” – seasoned cooked ground turkey or grass fed beef, some cheese, black beans with a little guacamole and diced tomatoes, lightly salted tortilla chips on the side. (works well in a bento box)
Middle Eastern: couscous and vegetables, hummus and carrots. The pearled cous cous is simple to cook, kind of like pasta. Add vegetables.
I like to send things like:
What was great is that these are really lunchtime solutions for everyone. When my Aunt read my recent article about school lunches in the Asbury Park Press, she emailed me to tell me that she would try these menus out too, because she is cooking for herself and needed some new ideas. This made my day!
I wish everyone a smooth transition into the new school year!