Last week I was at Costco for my weekly grocery shopping trip. Just as I was wrestling the last of my items - a ginormous honeydew melon - onto the conveyer belt for checkout, I heard the cashier question my purchases, “is all of that stuff for a birthday party?” I looked up to find that he wasn’t actually talking to me. The lady behind me had a cart full of convenience foods: Rice Krispy Treats, juice boxes and enough sugary fruit snacks to send a bear into hyperglycemic shock.
“No,” she answered, “I’m stocking up for back to school lunches.”
Truth be told, my kids probably wish I was more like that lady. Their lunches are suspiciously crunchy by comparison; I learned well from Dr. Oz the avoidance of enriched flours, salt, and high fructose anything. Granted, packing healthy school lunches doesn’t exactly come naturally, especially when so many quick, transportable options are readily available in Costco’s aisles. The lunches my kids take to school, however, offer them fuel to keep their ever-absorbing brains functioning throughout the day. Today, I’m passing along some helpful tips for packing mindful lunches that your kids won’t grumble about.
• Pack protein. Every balanced lunch should begin with a good source of protein. I like to lean on boiled eggs, turkey and cheese roll-ups, or celery sticks filled with peanut butter. Being creative with your presentation earns you extra points!
• Balance with veggies. Cucumber slices, carrot sticks and strips of red pepper offer more than just vitamins and fiber; they add a colorful punch, or eye candy, if you will. If your kids have an aversion to all things green, including ranch dressing or hummus for dipping will work wonders.
• Sweeten naturally. Forget those food byproduct fruit snacks and go for the real thing. A halved apricot, a handful of strawberries or a silicone baking cup full of blueberries will serve as a nutritious and delicious sweet treat.
• Hydrate. The very best drink you can send along for your son or daughter is water. Invest in a stainless steel water bottle and encourage steady consumption of liquids throughout the day.
• Don’t forget the snack. Most elementary-aged kids will be given a chance to eat a small snack each morning or afternoon. I make sure to pack a healthy snack in a small pouch separate from the lunchbox. Homemade granola bars, seedless grapes or whole grain Goldfish crackers all serve as good options.
That is how you pack a mom-approved lunch. One last tip for you: Amazon offers a decent selection of bento supplies that will add a bit of pizazz to any bagged/boxed lunch. Happy packing!