Friday, August 16, 2013

Packing Lunch?

Stumped about what to pack in those lunch boxes?

In my area, the new school year started in early August and I am already hearing from parents who are trying to figure out how to pack a variety of lunches that their kids will willingly eat in the school cafeteria while their hot-lunch eating peers devour pizza, 'oven fried' chicken/hot wings, 'baked' packaged chips, colorful 'yogurt,' and chocolate or strawberry sugary milk.

Bento boxes are a great place to start when searching for a colorful, organized, easy-to-use lunch box.

While the standard PB & J has been discouraged due to the rise in peanut allergies, sunflower, cashew or almond butter make fine substitutes, however the sandwich theme can still become booooorrrring. Curious about where to start for creating a variety of healthy meals that kids will want to eat? Check out my simple tips for packing lunch as a starting point here.

Other suggestions include wraps using large lettuce or collard leaves, and even seaweed or spring roll wrappers. Tasty, colorful Mexican themed entrees focused on beans and other vegetables can be fun and easy to eat for even the smallest scholars. Asian-themed lunches don't have to be spicy or full of exotic ingredients, but just by incorporating some ideas of portable vegetable-filled foods can inspire some interesting lunches using your own taste preferences.

Hummus is a great "glue" for wraps. Ezekel Bread makes a great easy-to-digest wrap (found in the freezer section of most grocery stores). One multiple-use food to consider incorporating into your lunch repretoire is quinoa (simple prep found here). Make a 2-cup batch on Sunday evening (2 cups dry will yield approx. 4 cups cooked) and store it in the refrigerator, using it in a variety of ways over the next several days. Add it to this salad for a gluten-free tabour, mix it with black beans and finely chopped carrots, sweet red peppers and cucumbers dressed with olive oil and lime juice for a simple savory salad, toss it with raisins, pumpkin seeds and shredded coconut or other dried fruit for a lunch box dessert.

For a serving of fruit and veggies, prep a smoothie in the morning and pour into a pre-chilled thermos (by filling with ice and water for a few minutes). This can be done in less than 5 minutes and gives the feel of an indulgent snack with lunch (these can potentially provide more nutrients than many entire school lunches do!). To make smoothie-prep even quicker in the AM, try my short-cut method (here).

Above all, don't give up! Packing lunch is almost ALWAYS a healthier option than purchasing from the cafeteria or vending area. Experiment and be sure to include the kids in the process. Kids (or any reluctant veggie eaters) are MUCH more likely to eat what they've had opportunity to create - even if it's simply choosing a new item in the produce section to include in this week's lunches.

Elly Haddad is a certified holistic health and wellness coach and founder of Elemental Fit, based in Nashville, TN. She helps individuals and groups understand the important influence that diet & lifestyle have on health, happiness, & overall wellbeing. Elly is also a writer and public speaker, conducting workshops and seminars throughout the US. She can be contacted directly via email here

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