There are a few tedious chores a parent or caregiver has on a day to day basis and making lunches and snacks for kids is one of them. You spend time making something you think will be a home run and you find it there at the end of the day when you clean out their lunchbox. You don’t want your kids to go through the day hungry but you don’t want to waste food either.
Finding balance between what your child will eat, in the time they have allotted for lunch, and what will stay fresh in the lunchbox is a challenge.
Packed lunches are typically seen as the healthier option, but this is often wishful thinking.
Lunch for Two…
A packed lunch can consist of a jelly sandwich, chips, sweet treat and a sugary juice box. How is that better than what they can get at school? Truth be told, school lunches have come a long way. Jamie Oliver, cover your ears!
Now, I’m not saying that I would chose that if that were one of my dining options, but I think schools in this area are doing the best they can. Can you imagine what you would order and prepare for 600-800 students every day? I don’t even know where I would begin. I think I would try to hit every food group. This line of thinking needs to translate to the lunchbox.
Kids are all different, but what they usually want is a quick and tasty meal. A balanced lunchbox should include proteins, complex carbohydrates, and calcium to keep them full, alert and focused for the afternoon. Lunch is also typically 1/3 of your childs nutritional intake for the day. Make it count!
Good habits in food choices are formed in childhood. Having said all of this I know from firsthand experience that it can be a real drag to make separate lunches for your kids and yourself if you also take your own lunch to work.
I rely on wraps, soups and rice or pasta salads to do double duty for our mid day meals. If you invest in a thermal container you can pack almost anything! From leftovers to a warm soup from home on a cold day a little something made in the comfort of your own gives kids a little hug in the middle of the day. Find the Chicken and Rice Salad recipe HERE
Nutrition is important but lets face it- it is the parents who are concerned about nutrition, not the kids. However healthy the food is, your child wont eat it unless they find it appealing. If kids know there are a few things in the refrigerator that they can make a snack out of, then they may be more apt to do that than graze on chips and soda until you get home.
First, we need to teach them a few safe snacks they can make on their own. We can’t always be there to act as the voice of reason, guiding them to make quick and healthy snack instead of grazing on chips and soda.A few simple treats can be made using tortillas or flat breads, peanut butter, bananas and honey or preserves. Alternately, you can make a nice wrap out of hummus, shredded carrots and chopped cucumber.
My kids favorite and a safe treat to make is the smoothie. Keeping the ingredients simple, they can experiment with flavors and combinations they like.
1 cup of milk, a banana, a yogurt cup and a handful of fresh or frozen fruit and you have a smoothie. Add a TB of milled flax seed and you have given the smoothie a protein boost!
A blender is a fairly safe kitchen appliance.
I try to have a healthy treat item ,along with fresh fruit, out where my family can see it. Whether it is a trail mix or a ripe apple, it busts their excuse that there is nothing in the house to eat. Most recently I have been making an energy bar that includes just a few ingredients you may already have and takes just minutes to prepare. I feel a lot better about having those out to snack on than a box of sugary treats with little to no nutritional value. Find the recipe HERE
Dinner in a Snap…
When you work, have a busy family and evening activities, the last thing you want to do is come home and spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That’s time you can spend doing something else. Home cooks these days are also taking advantage of the crock-pot. You can make almost anything in one of those. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about using one either. Who could deny the ease of just tossing five or six ingredients in a slow cooker and coming home to a meal that is complete?
It helps to have a few, quick recipes under your belt that keep you eating at home, and even better- eating together! You don’t have to get in the chicken rut. Think of what you like to eat when you eat out and try to make that dish your own. I don’t use a lot of packaged foods, but I do use a few shortcut items from time to time like biscuit mixes, frozen vegetables and good quality jarred sauces. I also try to keep at least one pantry meal on hand at all times. You just never know what life will bring, it helps to be prepared.
Finding a healthy balance is the key. You don’t want too many empty fillers, rather you want a good proportion of fruits/vegetables-whole grains/starch-proteins. One quick and healthy meal my family loves is a simple stir-fry. Use veggies that have been cut to the same size for even,quick cooking. Thinly slice your meat and use a low-sodium sauce.You can even make one yourself!
Serve this over white or brown rice for a complete meal.
Here are a few of my favorites that my kids will eat and I will too. Lunches and snacks don’t have to be hard. Just think nutrient packed meal in a smaller portion than you would have at dinner.
September is National Chicken Month! Despite what you may hear, no artificial or added hormones are used in the production of any poultry in the United States. Regulations of the Food & Drug Administration prohibit the use of such hormones. Any brand of chicken can be labeled “Raised without hormones”. However, any package of chicken with that type of label must also have a statement that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry. Learn more about Indiana’s Farmers HERE.