School lunches. It brings back memories of brown bags and waxed paper wrapped sandwiches. But times have changed. You want to keep costs down and still create safe and healthy kid friendly lunches for your child. But where do you start? Learn how to prepare healthy lunches that your kids will love to eat with these helpful tips.
You Can Make Safe + Healthy Lunches for Kids
We’ve all heard the stories about food poisoning and contamination from plastics used in the manufacturing of lunch boxes.
While this might turn off a number of parents wanting to provide their child with safe and healthy kid-friendly lunches, it really shouldn’t.
The trick is to know what kind of product you are buying and making sure that you purchase the correct one.
Pack Healthy Lunch Tips
It’s easy to get sucked in by character designs or pretty graphics. But the mark of a great lunch box or bag is if it is well-made and good looking. Not the other way around.
Here’s what else you will want to consider:
1. Try to avoid using plastic wrap whenever possible. It is a fact that some brands still manufacture their products with phthalates. If you have to package your child’s lunch in plastic make sure it is BPA and phthalate-free.
2. Keep the hot foods away from the cold to avoid spoilage.
3. Use BPA and phthalates-free ice packs.
4. Make it homemade and make it healthy. There are so many quick and easy products that you can purchase for lunches today, but the best rule of thumb is to make it at home. Many times the packaging or even the fast-food may contain chemicals to keep and preserve them longer. If you go with freshly made food, you can’t go wrong.
5. Go Bento. Never heard of this? You are missing out. Bento boxes have been used for centuries and keep food safely separated. Bentos come in both bags and boxes for easy carrying. Just make sure that if you choose one with plastic containers, it is BPA and phthalates-free.
6. Choose a lunchbox that will keep your child’s hot or cold appropriately. Wonder which one is best for your child? Check out this handy article: Kid-Friendly Lunch Boxes and Bags.
7. Use whole fruit versus cut fruit. That way, you avoid browning and possible contamination.
8. Think smaller amounts. The larger the portions the greater chance for spoilage. Keep in mind that the cold packs can only penetrate minimally into packaged food, so if you create sandwiches, break the sandwich up into its separate ingredients and allowing your child to assemble their sandwich at lunch time. You can also bypass this by freezing your child’s sandwich the night before. Optimally, the sandwich will keep colder longer by including a cold pack.
9. Think outside the box. Wraps, pinwheels, salads and more are perfect for small hands and kid-friendly lunches. You can create your own sausage and cheese and cracker lunch without having to buy commercially. Most hard cheeses can be eaten without refrigeration. So don’t be afraid to investigate other food items that might be delicious and healthy for your child’s meals.
10. Think raw. Raw veggies and fruit are some of the best items for lunch. Throw in a hummus dip and you have a healthy alternative to the sandwich. You certainly can add crackers or bread sticks for dipping. But again, make your meals inviting by not making them too complex. The simpler the ingredients the better and safer will your kid’s lunches be.
More Reasons to Pack Safe Lunches
While researching this article, I stumbled upon these two articles for your additional reading. The heart of this topic is safety and being proactive when creating one’s child’s lunch. That is why the more you know and understand about this topic the better you are prepared to making right choices when packing lunches.
• Check out this informative article from the Food Network’s Blog, Healthy Eats. They offer their take on lunch safety: Pack a Safe Lunch.
• Here is a New York Times’ well-researched article that focuses on how the food you choose for your child’s lunch might cause them to get ill and the steps you can take to curb the effects of improperly cooked or packed meals: Smart Choices to Ensure Safety at Lunch
Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids
Here are five of my favorite healthy recipes for school lunches. Know that is is just a start. I bet you can come up with more. If you do, please add your ideas in the comment section.
1. PBJ. (Peanut Butter and Jelly) sandwiches.
Two slices of bread, apply 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter to one slice and 1 Tablespoon of jelly on the other. Place filling sides together and wrap sandwich in wax paper or place in Bento Box. Pack on ice to keep cool.
2. Ants on a Log.
1 stalk of celery, 1 Tablespoon peanut butter, handful raisins. In the “trough” of the celery smooth in the peanut butter. Top with raisins.
3. Pasta Salad.
1 cup Penne pasta, cheddar cubes, cut and quartered salami pieces, whole grape tomatoes, chopped celery, carrots, broccoli heads, onions (optional), and red pepper. Drizzle on Newman’s Own Oil and Vinegar. Pack lunch with a cold pack.
4. Hummus Dip.
1 cup Chickpeas, onion, chopped garlic, salt (to taste). Place in a food processor and pulse until contents are smooth. Pack carrots, celery, red, green, or yellow pepper slices and crackers. Pack on ice to keep cool.
5. Banana Split.
Using your knife, slice a banana from the top to the bottom on the “inside curve” and make it deep enough to go one-half of the way into the fruit of the banana. Wrap tightly.
Now you can assemble the ingredients for the rest of the banana split: peanut butter, chocolate chips, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, etc.
If you can put these other ingredients into a Bento Box or wrapped separately, that would be fine.
At snack time, your child can “split” the banana open and add ingredients into the cavity and using a spoon scoop out the banana + additions from within the peel. Pack with a cold pack.
Recommended Resources to Help You Make Quick Healthy School Lunches
Create quick healthy school lunches and snacks with the help of these fine resources.
Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go! I cannot think of anything more fun than finding ways to create more appealing lunches for my family. This book offers so many different options from taking ho hum lunches into fun lunches. I love to mix and match ideas. How about you?
Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love Wouldn’t you want to have a book that gives you the how-to right at your finger tips? This is just that book. With plenty of photos, you too can make your child’s lunch the best ever!
Kids Value Lunch Container Set with Removable Ice Packs I wanted to share this container set with you because of its versatility. I’m all about utilitarian when it comes to buying so this product offers you so many ways to create your child’s lunch. You can “bento” or not. But you make the choice. I like that!
Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches When I saw this bento cookbook I couldn’t resist sharing this with you. Sure it is a play on food, but who doesn’t love to throw in a funny frog, especially if it is a healthy alternative to store-bought junk food. Hint: You can use these great food decorating ideas for kids parties and other gatherings.
Question: What ways do you make your kids lunches interesting, healthy and safe? Let’s share!