This week’s blog is by Flora McKay, Wellness Liaison for Butter Beans and blogger for www.butterbeanskitchen.wordpress.com
Knee deep into the new school year, children are forging new friendships, connecting with their teachers, while learning and growing everyday. Their days, packed with back-to-back scheduling, are busy and invigorating. As 11am rolls around, their tummies are rumbling, and they are ready to eat.
Lunchtime is a crucial moment in a child’s day; a time to re-fuel for the afternoon ahead, while also having fun and making memories with their friends.
For some of you, part of the school routine includes whipping up healthy school lunches for your children on the fly, which isn’t always easy, especially while juggling four other things at once.
We at Butter Beans love making lunch and are here to help! Here are our top 5 suggestions to help you pack a healthy school lunch for your children:
1. Find a container that works for you. Choose what works best for your children from various options including:
- Builtny neoprene lunch bag: waterproof and insulated, and can be cleaned in the washer or by hand.
- Lunchbots: stainless steel containers, with leak proof and insulated options.
- Tiffins: stackable, washable, reliable – but not leak proof. They come with a handy insulated carrying case.
- Laptop Lunches: BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and we love their MyPlate version.
- Food jars: perfect for soup lovers, and great for other dishes like rice and beans, pastas, stir fry etc…
2. Create a balanced plate. Take a look at MyPlate for a guide to creating a balanced meal. When shopping, read your labels, and stick to buying foods with ingredients you recognize. Also, remember that while your child may not obtain all of their nutritional requirements at lunchtime, finding a balance over the course of the week is a good goal. Breakfast, snack and dinner count too! This list should help get you started in putting together a balanced and healthy school lunch!
- Proteins: edamame, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, hummus or bean dip, marinated tofu, grilled or sautéed chicken, nitrate + nitrite free cold cuts, meatballs, sardines, leftover roasted chicken, lentils, hardboiled eggs or frittatas.
- Whole grains: brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, pita, crackers, and pretzels.
- Vegetables: chopped cucumber rounds, carrot rounds or sticks, celery, peppers, grape tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce as a wrap, or snap peas. Steamed or sautéed broccoli, green beans, or steamed sweet potatoes, cauliflower, roasted potatoes or beets.
- Fruits: grapes, mandarin orange slices, and berries pack well. Dried fruit (sulfur free and no sugar added) are great dessert options; raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, mangos. If you have a leak free container, applesauce or plain yogurt with honey or chopped fruit are great options.
- Good fats: cheese cubes, olives, toasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and nuts (if your school allows) are great for growing bodies, and minds.
3. Get creative and resourceful. It’s easy to pack lunch the night before, just make extra dinner! Leftover pasta dishes, rice, stir-fry, chicken cutlets, or chili dishes, make for fantastic lunches. Soups are also great for lunch! From vegetable purees, to bean and broth based soups like minestrone, tomato, miso, chicken and rice. Soups warm the belly and spirit on cold days. Heat them up and store in a thermos to keep warm until lunchtime.
4. Drinks: juice vs. water. When offered juice, most children will go for it first, filling them up quickly and leaving less room for the food you send. The extra sugar content affects their mood (not to mention social graces) and their concentration in school, especially after lunch. Water is the best choice during lunchtime. If you must pack juice, water it down.
5. Include your child when you grocery shop. Let your child pick out something for their lunch, be it fruit, crackers, or their favorite cheese. If you are also packing a lunch for yourself or someone else at home, it is great for your child to see that the whole family is eating the same food while they are apart. Through out the week, check in with your child to see what they are enjoying at lunchtime.
Lunchtime is an anticipated moment in a child’s day; a time to re-fuel for the afternoon, while having fun and making memories with their friends. The food you pack for lunch becomes a part of their memory that over time teaches them about your family’s values, and how to balance their own plate.
For more inspiration and ideas on packing healthy school lunches, follow our blog at www.butterbeanskitchen.wordpress.com.
Share your best kids lunch ideas by leaving a comment!
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