Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dishing up healthier lunches

School started up in our city today, and it’s little surprise that what’s on sale in the stores are scores of prepackaged bags of single-serving everything.

There’s the potential for a lot of waste – from tossed, unwanted food items to the packaging that wraps each and every item.

I admit that it’s tough to make time to do meal planning for myself, and I have the luxury of a fridge and a microwave in the office. I can certainly see the challenge in creating meals that need to stay fresh until noon or avoid things like peanuts, which are banned in our school district.

You could buy a hot lunch at school, but there’s the impact of tossable trays, plastic silverware and unwanted food, as well as the uncertainty as to whether your child is eating pizza and cookies or healthier fare. Worse, many school districts are lacking in terms of healthy options for lunchtime fare.

So how do you make the most of your children’s school lunches? Here are just a few tips:

  • Invest in an insulated lunch box, thermoses and refreezable ice packs to keep foods at safe temperatures.
  • Get your kids involved. Have them help choose snacks to include, such as pretzels, dried fruit, pudding or string cheese. Even better, help them prepare their lunches ahead of time!
  • Makeover your dinner leftovers for lunch. Make wraps or sandwiches out of leftover chicken, or pack pastas.
  • Include things that don’t need any preparation, such a whole piece of fruit or baby carrots
  • Mix it up. Kick up your sandwiches using different breads, such as pita, focaccia, even rice cakes.
  • Finally, don’t overpack. By packing too much food in your child’s school lunch, you’re setting them up to overeat or to toss the rest, both of which have negative consequences.

Starting school? Here are some resources to get you started on lunchtime meal planning:

6 comments:

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

Boy this is one area that doesn't often come up- the problems with overpacking lunch. You end up with waste or kids eating too much!

Thanks!

Diane MacEachern said...

One problem I had was getting the kids to bring their lunch boxes home at the end of the day. Finally, I created an incentive: they would get "points" when they remembered their lunch boxes (or their reusable water bottles), which we would redeem for some activity they loved to do (visit the local pet shelter or the nearby horse stables, stay up a little later on the weekend, etc.). Worked like a charm.

Rjs said...

Diane - that is a fabulous idea. I will have to remember that when the time comes!

Not quite crunchy - I agree. I think obesity and some of our environmental problems are definitely related, and we could tackle both concerns with some simple steps.

Mindful Momma said...

I'm always trying to find the right balance between too much food and too little. It can be so hard to figure out! My son is growing like a weed but he also talks constantly so he has a hard time getting the food into his hungry mouth!

Nikki said...

Thanks for sharing such a great post. I struggle with healthy lunch ideas. Please join me today for Tasty Traditions, a recipe meme. Have a great day!

Aubrey West @ Healthy Lunch Ideas said...

Indeed, preparing a healthy lunch is quite difficult. Thanks for the ideas.