Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - August 2007
Pack a Perfect School Lunch
|Trade this lunch? No way! How to pack in taste - and nutrition - any kid will love.
One of the first things to write on your child's back-to-school supply list should be "nutritious lunches."
Kids who eat well are more likely to head to class with the energy, stamina, and self-esteem needed to be successful students. Of course, even a nutritionally "perfect" lunch isn't ideal if the youngster doesn't eat it, notes Sandra Nissenberg, R.D., author of Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won't Trade.
To keep your brown bagger's lunch out of the trash, be sure it's made with his or her preferences in mind. "Get your kids involved in choosing what goes into the lunch and in helping to make it," Nissenberg says. Ask what shape to make a sandwich (try using large cookie cutters) or involve your child in making banana bread for the next day.
If your little one is stuck on peanut butter or some other type of sandwich, don't fight it. Instead, serve it on different types of bread - whole wheat bagels, English muffins, or pita bread. Add an extra ingredient, such as banana slices or shredded carrots with peanut butter, or sliced tomatoes with cheese.
Keep both the type of food and the portion size in mind when packing lunches. "Most parents think kids need the same amount of food an adult needs," says Nissenberg. "But too much food is a turn-off for a kid."
Most grade-school children can fill up on a half sandwich (with one to three ounces of cheese, deli meat, or peanut butter), a third to a half cup of vegetables, a half or a small piece of fruit, ¾ to 1 cup of milk, and a small cookie or two. Remember that most kids want to eat their lunch as quickly as possible and head to the playground, so you're better off offering small amounts of a variety of foods.
|Also, pay attention to the colors, textures, and flavors in the lunch box. A colorful selection - carrot sticks and green grapes - can make the lunch more appetizing. Fresh vegetables or popcorn, whole wheat pretzels, and whole wheat crackers add crunch appeal. Packing foods with flavors that complement each other - apples and cheese, for instance - also helps make lunch more palatable.
Lunch packers should also be sensitive to developmental stages that can affect food preferences, advises Nissenberg. Consider that a child with a loose tooth may not want to bite into an apple, and a child with braces probably won't go for popcorn.
Finally, don't forget the follow-up. Ask your child whether he enjoyed the lunch you packed together. Even if you don't always get a straight answer, it's a good way to start a conversation aimed at discovering your child's lunchtime "sweet spot" and packing a school lunch he wouldn't dream of trading.
Brown Bagging 101
To add to lunch appeal, Sandra Nissenberg, R.D., recommends the following:
- ASK YOUR CHILD WHAT SHE WANTS. If she helps shop for and prepare her own lunch, she'll be more likely to eat it.
- PACK THE NIGHT BEFORE. You never know what's going to come up in the morning. Use leftovers from dinner, such as pizza or whole wheat rolls, to add variety and save time.
- MAKE LUNCH A "HAPPY MEAL." Tuck in a surprise sticker, a love note, a small inexpensive toy, or a character napkin to put a smile on your child's face.
- CHILL IT. Freeze a 100% juice box or refrigerate a carton of Organic Valley's Low-Fat 1% Shelf-Stable Single-Serve Milk in regular or chocolate flavors. Add the beverage to your child's packed lunch to help keep it cool until lunchtime. You might want to wrap a napkin around a frozen drink so it won't get other food items wet; the damp napkin is a great way for your child to wipe sticky fingers.
- HEAT IT. Fill a thermos with organic soup or all-natural macaroni and cheese such as Annie's Homegrown.
- SANDWICH THE CONDIMENTS. Spread condiments (such as mayonnaise, mustard, or Publix GreenWise Market Organic Ketchup) between slices of meat or cheese to keep the bread from turning soggy.
- MIX IT UP WITH KEBABS. Skewer fruits, vegetables, cheeses, or meats on cocktail picks and wrap the kebabs in plastic wrap.
- SERVE BREAKFAST FOR LUNCH. Pack a small box of dry cereal, fruit, and a carton of organic milk; or try a bagel with cream cheese and fruit.