School’s back in and making lunches is a PITA. (Pain. In. The. Ananas).
You’ve got the basics down pat:
last night’s leftovers
Sounds easy-peasy, but here you are staying up late and waking up early making cute apple slices and rubbing them with lemon-squeezy so they don’t turn brown. These turn brown anyway, the kids eat half, and come home ravenous regardless. You need ideas for healthy stuff the kids will actually eat and that will satiate their appetites for destruction.
Below are some tips that are working for us this week. They take a few more minutes, but you’ll feel good about it, so that’s something, right?
HOLD THEM LONGER. With snacks, not goodbye hugs.
Stop separating your #1 and #2 above. Try prepping snacks that combine a dairy and a fruit/veggie.
There’s a reason these are classics: the fat-carbohydrates duo keeps kids (and adults) fuller, longer.
Celery and cream cheese
Apples and cheddar
Fruit and/or Granola with yogurt (plain if you can get away with it)
Half a cream cheese & cucumber sandwich
Melon and cottage cheese
Yup, it means using a Tupperware, but most individually-wrapped stuff is crap anyway. And this way you avoid the packaging so you get to score environmental points, too. 🙂
Tips for Quickies
Stuck for a main? Here are some last-minute lunch ideas that fly in our house…
Falafel and hummus
Scrambled eggs in the Thermos (Ooooh, Thermos! Why do kids love it? Beats me but seems to be the same reason they love taking the school bus).
Ditch the ‘Wich
Sandwiches take AGES to prepare. Toast the bread, slice the cheese, wash two skimpy pieces of lettuce, dry lettuce, add mustard…. Mash a bunch of tuna, chicken or hard-boiled egg with your fork, chop celery, add dressing, mash some more… Ugh. Forget it. (My kid also happens to be saran-wrap-remedial, and half the time it all falls apart in the opening process).
Just toss whatever would’ve been in your sandwich into a container. Chicken chunks, half a can of tuna, a hard-boiled egg. Throw in a big hunk of cheese and a chunk of cucumber. Close and done. Frankly they weren’t getting much nutrition from the bread anyway so this gives them more of the good stuff, too.
Big, Fat PITAs
Actually this time I really do mean pitas. Use the THICK pita pockets (I get mine at Akhavan). They’re easy to shove stuff into and don’t fall apart on children who are challenged by unconnected layers of bread. Also easy to pop in the toaster oven with leftover tomato sauce and a slice of cheese for quickie pizza-pockets (Hint 1: marry an Italian. Hint 2: always make extra sauce).
Last Night’s Leftovers
It’s pretty amazing that kids these days have been exposed to so much food variety and are so worldly. When I was little, I’d be the kid with Tupperwares of tabouleh and moussaka and my friends were all like, “Ew, you’re weird. Moose-wha? Taboo-who? Your family dips bread in OIL??? GROSS! WHERE’S THE MIRACLE WHIP???
If your kids ate it last night, they can eat it tomorrow. I usually cook about 1.5 times more than I need to so that I have enough for kids’ lunches, and my own. And don’t stress so much about refrigeration (you know who you are). Nothing bad happens to their food in the brief stretch between 8am and 12pm. Billions of kids who wish they were in school all over the developing world can’t be wrong.
Switches for Healthier Options
Watch out for those sneaky little packaged yogurts. They are CHOCK-A-BLOCK with sugar (fact: 1 Activia Strawberry yogurt = 1 can of Coke).
If your kids have gotten wise to plain, buy 2 large tubs of yogurt — one plain, one flavoured — and combine them in a little container so they’ll get half-half. Sexy it up with raisins, berries, coconut flakes or–what the hell–chocolate chips.
DON’T choose cereal with dried fruit already in it. DO feel free to add your own dried fruit, but be aware when purchasing.
Check your labels… dried fruit is often rolled in hydrogenated oil and sugar. Look for ones that are plain and with no sulfates. (Tip: COSTCO often has large packages of organic dried fruit with no additives. Their organic apricots are literally the only fruit my 3 year old — a.k.a. Captain Beige — will eat.)
We usually get Nature’s Path Sierra Sunrise. It’s nut-free, gluten-free, tough enough to stay crunchy in milk and holds up in a ziplock or tupperware for snacks and approx. 5g of sugar/serving.
If you can get around to in on a Sunday, make a dozen muffins. Freeze and presto! One to toss in their lunch every day for two full weeks.
To make muffins healthier:
Replace 1/3 (or more) of the flour in your recipe for buckwheat. Kinda tastes like sand so don’t go more than half.
Cut the sugar by ½ (or more). DO just leave it out. DON’T replace it with maple syrup, agave, stevia etc… it will taste fine, I promise.
Use butter or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or canola
Add anything that contains fibre (zucchini, carrots, oats, bran, flax, hemp)
Whew! Hope this post has given you a couple of new ideas.
Do you have more suggestions to share? Questions?
I’d love to hear your feedback. And stay tuned for tips on GROWN-UP lunches, coming soon!!!