School lunch. Two words that raise many emotions across the country. In a perfect world, childhood nutrition would be a budget priority. All our kids would have access to healthful, tasty meals in their own school cafeterias. The good news is change is brewing. Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution just won an Emmy for outstanding reality television series. The First Lady is at work on her Chefs Move to the Schools campaign. While their efforts are commendable, it will take time to see any far-reaching changes at your local school, but take heart that all hope isn’t lost until then. Here are some time-tested tips for packing a healthy lunch your kids will actually eat.
Stuck in a Rut
Well, that all depends on the person eating lunch. Sure your kid has asked for PB&J everyday for the last two years. Provided they’re eating it, why rock the boat? There are plenty of all-natural peanut butters available, free of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). In fact making your own is as easy as pureeing some nuts and a pinch of salt in a food processor. It’s also a great way to get the kids involved and experiment with new tastes, making nut butters from almonds and cashews too. While you’re at it try swapping in strawberry jam. You just might be surprised at how interesting their lunchtime time favorite becomes.
Move Over Ham & Cheese
Hot lunches are comforting, especially as the weather gets cooler. What better way to pack hugs and kisses than with a bowlful of soup or some pasta and meatballs? Thermos’ Foogoo brand has stood the test of time in our house—my daughter, now in second grade is still using the one we bought in pre-k. The possibilities are endless, including grilled cheese “soldiers” cut into sticks, empanadas, and homemade mac n’ cheese. Ham and cheese may soon be on the endangered sandwiches list.
Not every kid is ready to sit down to a traditional meal come lunchtime. For many, it’s also their chance to see friends from other classes. What really matters is that the meal you pack is balanced and nutritious. A container of lowfat yogurt, handful of grapes or apple slices and cheddar cheese with whole grain crackers fit the bill, is fun to eat and great for “grazers”.