As spring break comes to a close our minds wander back to homework, after school activities and, of course, the endless battle of packed lunches.
I will be chatting with Keri Adams on CTV Morning Live Monday morning where we will discuss some alternatives to the traditional sandwich.
A summary of our chat is below or you can see it on: CTV Morning Live
Nutritionally, what should our children be eating for lunch?
It’s important to pack a healthy lunch box as kids are at school from 9:00-3:00, five days a week for about 9 months of the year. That’s a lot of food.
Aim to include a source from all food groups in their packed lunch: fruits and vegetables, protein, fibre-rich carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Packed lunches are not the time to experiment with a brand new meal or a previously rejected choice. Children are unlikely to touch anything foreign looking or even bother to taste a food they have told you a thousand times they don’t like. Do keep trying new foods and old rejects at family meals for dinner or on the weekend.
As soon as you start planning your dinner, think ahead to lunch the next day. Ask yourself what you can make extra servings of to recreate in tomorrow’s lunch. If the entire meal can’t be recreated, simply use one component and add some new veggies or a different protein like edamame or slices of hard-boiled egg. Extra chicken, quinoa, or baby potatoes are all great thermos options with peas and carrots. Extra taco filling is great on pasta.
Round out the meal with a container of fresh fruit and a couple slices of your child’s favourite cheese. Don’t forget the spork!
Option 2 – Quick & Easy Beans (and cheap!)
Beans and legumes should be every parents’ best friend. They are an ideal choice for packed lunches as they are extremely nutritious providing fibre, carbohydrates, protein and a host of vitamins and minerals including iron. They are also fast, easy inexpensive and extremely versatile. If you are using tins of beans, drain first and give them a good rinse to reduce the sodium (salt).
- Chickpea salad with cucumber, red peppers and feta
- Warmed black beans with corn niblets (from frozen), salsa and grated cheddar (add avocado chunks on top if you have them)
- Edamame in their pods or shelled and added to lightly cooked green beans
If your child has not embraced whole beans and legumes as part of their regular diet, try:
- Hummus or white bean dips with whole grain pita and raw veggies
- Lentil or minestrone soup
If you have a child that doesn’t tend to eat much at lunch, try packing a selection of their favourite fruits, veggies, and protein for them to choose from. Slices of roast chicken, grapes, Mary’s Gone Crackers and baby carrots will give them a smorgasbord of lunchtime options.
You can’t send nuts to school but you can send seeds! Seeds provide a good source of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, protein and some fibre. Pack a school-friendly trail mix with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins and chopped apricots. Trying different seed butters is another great way around the nut-ban. Sunflower seed and pumpkin seed butters are nutritious choices as they tend not to have added sugar.
What If Food Comes Home Uneaten?
Find out why. Did your child not like the options; did they run out of time or were they not particularly hungry at lunch? If they didn’t like the selection I would elicit their help in preparing their lunches. Allow them to choose a couple of elements of their lunch and, if age appropriate, ask them to prepare it themselves. Giving them some control over their food choices will increase the chances that they will eat it.
Sometimes kids are slow eaters and may not have enough time to finish all their food. If your child falls into this category, focus on packing calorie-dense snacks like cheese, seed butters, and 2% milk with a handy cool bag.
Other times, children simply want to get outside to play as the playground is much more exciting than eating. I know some schools allow the children to have playtime first and then come in for lunch towards the end of the hour before they go back to class. I think this is a great idea as the kids come in hungry and ready to eat after some active play time. You may wish to consider approaching your child’s school to suggest the switch and see if those lunch bags come home with just crumbs.
It is a savvy idea for parents alike to pack a lunch to take to work. Although it requires a little more prep time in the morning or night before, you end up saving on both money and calories. Restaurant or fast food meals tend to be higher in calories, salt and fat. Over time you will be making a significant difference to both your wallet and your waistline.
FAMILY DINNER TONIGHT & TOMORROW’S LUNCH:
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ¾ cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1 ½ cups frozen corn
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoon chili powder (more or less depending upon taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
S & P to taste
- grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- natural Greek yogurt – dollop per bowl
- chopped fresh cilantro
- hot sauce for the grown ups
In a large skillet, add the turkey, green pepper and onion and cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, tomato paste, all the spices and stir while cooking for 3 minutes. Add tin of tomatoes and stock. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. Add beans and corn and cook for 5 more minutes to heat through. Serve with any additional toppings.