How to Pack A Healthy Lunch for Kids
Jamie Pfister is an application developer by trade but her knack for "healthy food street smarts" has captured her friends interests including my own. Every day she strives to make a healthy creative fun lunch for her son and you'll be amazed at her creations. Here's a great video tutorial with her advice on how you can make a healthy lunch with a fun twist.
DT: Parents are busy, what's the fastest easiest way to pack a lunch with a healthy punch?
JP: Set some ground rules for the contents. For example, we try to pack one entree with lean protein, one vegetable, one fruit, one whole grain, and one treat in each box. Choose 2-3 individual items in each category, then put them in different combinations throughout the week. Store everything in the same area of the fridge or pantry, ideally at a level where a child can reach them. Let them make choices each day. Keep track of what works for each child. Try new items on weekends and holidays, to get the hang of prepping them and to ensure they will work for your child, so that packing goes smoothly during the week. The goal is to eventually having kids pack their own healthy lunches.
DT: When should parents meal prep?
JP: Grocery shop once a week. Ideally, all fruit and vegetables should be washed and cut and all dry goods pre-portioned on the weekend. Lunches should be assembled the night before and stored in the fridge. Sometimes, I pack 2-3 lunches at once, meaning I only need to prep lunches 2-3 times per week. We have extra lunch boxes for this purpose.
DT: I know you like to make the lunches fun, what's some ideas to make the lunch fun and tasteful?
JP: Make it individualized for the child. For example, my son loved finding raw green beans, which he calls "crunchy beans," in his lunch because they remind him of our trip to the summer farmer's market with his best friend. He loves robots, so I have assembled his sandwich into a robot shape. I put leftovers from food we enjoy making together: cinnamon popcorn, brownies, zucchini bread, skewers he strung with veggies, meat and cheese.
Use lots of color. Plain ol' carrots take a whole new spin when offered in purple and yellow. ("Rainbow carrots" can be found at the People's Food Co-op and Natural Grocers.) Bright fresh produce can be more appealing--and healthier--than dried fruits and veggies. Add colorful and flavorful dips in little round containers. There are many pre-made guacamole, salsa, hummus, Greek yogurt, bean and ranch dips in the produce section of many markets. Or make your own! Keep produce that tends to turn brown colorful longer with a dash of lime or lemon juice, both of which can be purchased in bottles in the juice aisle.
Use cookie cutters or sandwich cutters to cut food into fun shapes or letters. Or try your hand at free-form. Sandwiches, cheese slices, fruit leather are some items that are easy to shape. Search Pinterest for "fun lunch ideas" -- especially around holidays.
DT: For the parents that are used to cutting corners and just giving processed easy tasteful food, whats a work around to do the same healthy wise?
JP: It is easier now than ever to cut corners while serving relatively unprocessed food. In the produce aisles of many groceries are healthy foods pre-washed and cut, just ready to throw together. There are even healthy, pre-packed, ready-to-go full lunch containers, which tend to be a little more expensive, but are still a good value. Many healthier options are now offered packaged in individual serving-sizes, making putting together a healthy lunchbox even more of a snap. Examples include fresh veggie sticks and fruit slices. There are many great-tasting fruit and veggie smoothie pouches to be found near the applesauce. They are not just for baby food anymore!
Shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store first, where the freshest food is to be found, before you are tempted by the processed food in the inner aisles. Take your children to the grocery; let them try samples and make choices.
Try to make a little more at each dinner, then save the leftovers, which make super-easy lunches. Save a part of wonderful restaurant dinner and surprise your child with it the next day!
DT: What's your inspiration for making these healthy lunches for your child?
JP: My primary inspiration is the goal of showing my love for my child by making him individualized lunches. I also aim to teach him healthy eating habits and the important life skill of being able to prepare good food for oneself and others.