We all want to make sure our kids have a healthy lunch, but packing food they will eat and packing food safely can be a challenge! To keep food safe it should be either hot or cold. A sandwich with lunchmeat and mayo sitting in a hot classroom for hours can be a breeding ground for bacteria. To prevent food borne illnesses, start out with a clean, insulated lunch bag, add a frozen milk or juice box, or water bottle; this will keep the lunch cold and thaw by lunch time. Yogurt is also available in slender freeze pop packages and can be used in the same way. For hot foods use an insulated thermos. Preheat the container with boiling water, pour it out and the container will be ready to keep soup, chili, or even mac ‘n cheese hot until lunchtime. Kids have their favorites, but the same thing every day can get boring. Try to present food in ways that make it more fun and appealing. Check out these tips:

 

Lunch Box Ideas

  • Make fruit kabobs by stringing grapes, berries, and cut up fruit on short bamboo skewers.
  • Use tiny cookie cutters to cut fruit, cheese or veggies into fun shapes.
  • Make your own trail mix with banana chips, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cheerios etc.
  • Use a tortilla to roll up lunchmeat, cheese, and spinach, slice and serve like sushi.
  • Make everything into finger food, and pack in small containers.
  • Make your own “lunchables” by cutting lunchmeat and cheese into cracker size pieces.
  • Use snack portion baggies to make custom snack bags; try gold fish crackers, raisins and sunflower seeds or whatever your kids like.
  • Loose the bread, try using mini bagels, english muffins, rice cakes, apple rounds, pancakes, waffles or tortillas to make a sandwich instead.
  • Bake veggies like carrots, zucchini and sweet potatoes into muffins for a healthy treat.
  • Bake mini quiches (keesh) in muffin tins, easy to add cheese, veggies, or ham to an egg mixture, they travel well and freeze well too.
  • You can get mustard, mayo, pickle relish, and ketchup in single serve packets at Gordon Food Service.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a good protein and come int their own package, send along a packet of mayo and pickle relish, and kids can make their own deviled egg, you can do the same with a small can of tuna.

Things NOT to Pack

  • Pre-packaged lunch cakes and treats may have been popular back when you went to school, but if you read the labels you will discover these kinds of treats have a high sugar and fat content. Kids may love them, but they are not a healthy choice.
  • Check the labels of juice drinks aimed at children, you will find most of them are basically sugar water with a very small percentage of real fruit juice. Even 100% real fruit juice has a high sugar content and you may want to dilute them a little. Milk and water are the best choices.
  • Potato chips, cheese puffs, and Doritos all have a high fat and salt content
  • Jelly beans, skittles, and candy bars have a high sugar and / or fat content; candy also tends to stick to their teeth so it’s not the best choice to end the meal with.

Tips for the “Lunch Packer”

  • Packing lunches ahead of time cuts down on the morning chaos, but you can make things even easier by making a weeks worth of sandwiches and freezing them. Just pack one each morning and it will thaw by lunch time.
  • Stock up on several sizes of tupperware, glad containers, zip lock bags, and plastic wrap.
  • Most parents find that packing lunches while also making dinner is a real time saver.
  • Use different breads to keep lunches interesting; wheat bread freezes especially well.
  • Meats, cheeses, and most dinner time left overs freeze well, chances are if your kids liked it for dinner, they’ll like it for lunch; a square of left over lasagne for lunch…. mmmm!
  • Lettuce & tomato slices do not freeze well, you can keep them in a baggie in the fridge and toss them in separately.
  • To keep lunch meat sandwiches from making the bread soggy, put the meat or cheese next to the bread and the mayo in the middle, or send along a packet of mayo & mustard.
  • Another trick to keep bread from getting soggy is to put a very thin layer of butter on each slice of bread before putting on the mayo.
  • When making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to freeze, put peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) on one slice in the normal fashion, on the other slice put a very thin layer of smooth peanut butter, then spread the jelly on top of that. This prevents the jelly from soaking through the bread.
  • If sealed in a zip lock baggie, most sandwiches do not get soggy as they thaw.

Don’t forget…

  • Hand sanitizer so they can wash their hands before they eat.
  • A few paper towels or napkins so they can use one as a placemat and the others to wipe their mouth or clean up spills.
  • Sturdy plastic cutlery that won’t break easily, so they can spoon yogurt or eat with a fork.
  • A silly note or small drawing from you to let them know you’re always thinking of them.
  • Make sure they can open containers, their thermos, put straws in juice boxes, and open pre-packaged items; they can’t eat it if they can’t get it opened!
  • Some children don’t like sticky hands or the textures of certain foods, if your child is very young, pack a typical lunch and have a trial run at home to see what issues may come up.