By Linda Hersey
If you pack your kids' school lunch, it's easy to slip into a rut or routine that is more convenient than healthy.
So before you buckle under to kid pressure and grab a high-sodium School Lunchable, consider these five easy steps to a healthy school lunch that youngsters will love.
These tips come from local writer Judy Gray, who offered this back-to-school column on Patch: "Pack a Healthy & Fun School Lunch." Here's a quick summary of her ideas:
1.) Rainbow of Colors: Colorful and bite-size fresh fruit and veggies are not only fun to eat they are healthy – rich in anti-oxidants, nutrients and vitamins. Cut grapes, strawberries, kiwi and other fun fruit. Baby carrots and cucumbers are fun to dip in salad dressing.
2.) Opt for whole grain: Pack whole grain mini-bagels, pita pockets and tortillas for a healthy alternative to doughy white bread. Crunchy rice cakes also are kid-friendly.
3.) Protein packs a punch: Instead of processed lunch meat, consider peanut, almond and even sunflower butter for sandwiches. Think of yogurt, too, which can be used for dipping veggies or fruit. Check labels and avoid high fructose corn syrup.
4.) Nut allergies? No problem: Try tuna fish, beans for tacos or on tortillas or cheese, which kids love. There are many lunchbox-friendly cheeses out there, from cheese strings to wedges.
5.) What to drink?: Milk is a healthy choice. There also is tasty almond milk, cocoanut milk or cocoanut water, or water. A cool thermos of water will keep other lunch box ingredients chilled!
Here are some quick lunchbox fillers from Judy Gray:
- Chicken cubes paired with grapes, almonds slices, and Craisins.
- Whole grain rice paired with raisins, nuts, and diced celery.
- Cooked couscous (or steamed brown rice, orzo, or whole wheat corkscrew pasta). Set aside. Chop zucchini, cucumbers, green, red or yellow red peppers, baby carrots, and celery, and toss. Marinate the vegetables in a light salad dressing, or olive oil with fresh herbs and lemon juice. Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Drain the veggies well after marinating, and then mix into grains or pasta. Place in a colorful, reusable container. It’s a portable meal that is filling, tasty and rich in nutrients.