It’s that time of year again: back-to-school season. Amidst the jam-packed schedule of a child’s school day, it’s nice to know there is one area where parents make a difference — lunchtime.
The mission is to create a nutritious lunch that your hungry kids will look forward to eating. To help, here are five creative tips to selecting healthier options.
Color, color, color: Kids love color so make it a point to pick a different color for each day/week (or better yet, let them pick) and add it to your child’s lunch in fun ways. For example, on a purple day pack a small plum or handful of grapes. Red is fun if you pair raspberries and strawberry yogurt for dipping, and peaches or baby carrots make delicious orange options. It’s not only a fun way to get them excited about lunch, it helps introduce new fruits and vegetables they may not have tried.
Portion control: Finding pre-portioned snacks can help save both time and calories. Instead of reaching for bags of chips that can be higher in fat, try low-fat pretzels or 100-calorie snacks instead. Single serving snacks are perfect for on-the-go parents who appreciate the simplicity of putting a bag in a lunch box.
Fun surprises: Yes, some kids are content with the same lunch day after day after day, but for the ones who need variety, make it fun. Change it up and do something unexpected. For example, ever thought of making breakfast for lunch? Why not? Pack two or three small whole-grain pancakes with fruit and yogurt for toppings. To replace sugary juice, pack homemade fruit-flavored water in a reusable bottle. Jazz up a typical sandwich by cutting it with a cookie cutter, and wrapping it in wax paper tied with a bow. A knock-knock joke or little stickers can add even more fun.
Choose a theme: For example, create a picnic theme with turkey tortilla roll-ups and fruit kabobs. For a tea party theme, make miniature sandwiches and include sliced cucumbers with fruity-tea. The possibilities are endless, so get your kids involved and asked them what fun lunch themes they would enjoy.
Plan ahead and save: While packing lunches might seem too time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. Make Sunday a preparation day for the week ahead and get the whole family involved to help out. Pick colors (see tip No. 1) you might include or prepare little note cards with jokes. By planning ahead, you’re less tempted to give in to packing more expensive, quicker options and instead you can save money by looking for deals and using coupons.
Fresh and tasty school lunches
Finding school lunch ideas that stay fresh can be challenging. But with a few simple solutions, you can provide your kids delicious and tasty sandwiches.
• The Bread — Be sure to choose the right bread for your sandwich. Keep in mind that the more moisture in the fillings, the drier and denser the bread should be. Breads with thick crusts work perfectly, or swap your regular bread for flour tortillas, bagels, English muffins or pitas. Grill or toast the bread to add crunch and flavor. Keep wet ingredients from making your sandwiches soggy by adding a light layer of butter to the bread. Get creative with cookie cutters for fun sandwich shapes!
• The Ingredients — To keep sandwiches crispy and delicious, experts suggest placing a single layer of lunchmeat on each slice of bread, and then spreading the condiments on those. The meat creates a barrier between the bread and the rest of the ingredients. Cheese also works nicely as a barrier. One rule of thumb is to never place tomatoes directly on the cheese — the juice from the tomatoes will make the cheese soft and cause the bread to become soggy. Instead, place tomatoes in between lettuce slices. Cucumbers are also great alternatives for lettuce.
• The Storage — Another good defense against sogginess is to pack the separates and let the kids make the sandwiches at school. Bread goes in one bag or container, meat and vegetables in another, and throw in little restaurant packets of mayo or mustard. Insulated lunch bags as the best choice for school lunches. Some insulated lunch bags are equipped with freezer packs. If not, try freezing juice boxes or reusable bottled waters instead of adding freezer packs. The boxes or bottles will thaw to provide a refreshing beverage and keep the sandwich fresh.
The Back to School Bagelwich
Yield: 1 sandwich
4 to 6 slices thin deli hone ham (Hillshire Farm or similar)
2 teaspoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon honey mustard
1 thin slice beefsteak tomato
6 thin cucumber slices
Split bagel, spread each cut half with 1 teaspoon cream cheese. On each half of bagel, layer half of each of the ingredients in this order: honey ham, honey mustard, tomato, and cucumber slices. Join the two halves together. Cut in half and wrap.
Source: Hillshire Farm
Add a little love to the lunchboxes with a treat.
When it’s time to start making school lunches again, include a special homemade treat as a way to say, “I love you.” It’s a tradition the kids will remember for years to come.
You can’t go wrong with the Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies — they’re a classic lunchbox treat and always a favorite! For a tasty no-bake recipe, try these Butterscotch Snack Bites — you can make them in three fun ways — in muffin cups, as snackable bars or in mini muffin cups. The mini versions are the perfect size for an after-lunch treat. Along with a delicious dessert, include a hand-written note with words of encouragement for the day.
For more ways to bake some love for your family, visit www.VeryBestBaking.com.
No-Bake Butterscotch Snack Bites
Yields: 2 dozen snack bites
3 cups toasted rice cereal
1 cup quick oats
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans and/or almonds
1-2/3 cups (11-ounce package) Nestlé Toll House Butterscotch Flavored Morsels, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Place cupcake papers in or lightly grease 24 muffin cups.
Combine cereal, oats, nuts, 1/2 cup morsels and salt in large mixing bowl.
Melt remaining morsels and corn syrup in uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 1 minute; STIR. Morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted.
Drizzle melted morsel mixture over cereal mixture; stir until combined. Working quickly, press 1/4 cup of mixture into each prepared cup. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes or until firm. Store in tightly covered container(s) at room temperature.
From Family Features