With the school year starting again soon, it’s time to start thinking about packing healthy, creative lunches your kids can take on the go. We asked Katie Morford, registered dietitian and author of the new cookbook “Best Lunch Box Ever,” for handy tips on how to make lunch preparation as easy as possible. Here’s what this mother of three shared with us!
1. Fill your arsenal. Keep your pantry stocked with a variety of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nut and seed butters, beans, cheeses and deli meats, yogurt, and a few different types of bread. Plus, don’t forget wholesome snacks like popcorn or whole-grain pretzels – and mix it up from week to week to keep things interesting.
2. Get the right gear. Dedicate a kitchen cupboard to storing reusable lunch containers. Keep a variety of sizes on hand – from tiny containers for dips and small sweets to those big enough to hold a sandwich or salad. Also, don’t forget a good water bottle. Fill it and freeze it overnight – it will double as an ice pack in their lunch box the next day, and the water will stay cold until it’s time to eat.
3. Do some prep. Take advantage of the weekend to make the week go smoothly. Hard-boil some eggs, wash and cut crunchy vegetables, or make a batch of granola bars (with the kids’ help!) to tuck into their lunches throughout the week.
4. Plan for leftovers. When it comes to packing lunches, leftovers are a dream come true. Give last night’s dinner a quick twist in the morning – if you made brown rice, for example, turn it into a healthy stir-fry by adding a scrambled egg, a dash of soy sauce, and any vegetables you have on hand. Instant lunch!
5. Remember good nutrition. Kids should get a significant percentage of their daily nutrients at lunch, so make it count. Include at least one fruit and one vegetable, as well as protein-rich foods, whole grains and a source of calcium.
6. Try it on Tuesdays. This fun trick will help you avoid the rut of packing the same foods day in and day out. Every Tuesday, include a new food in their lunch. It can be simple – replace standard baby carrots with spears of crunchy jicama, or wrap sandwiches in whole-wheat tortillas instead of sliced bread. This will make the lunch-packing process more creative for you while encouraging your child to try something new.
What are some of your favorite lunch-box tips?