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Pack Your Bags: Great School Lunches

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Pack Your Bags: Great School Lunches

The ABC's of Packing Lunches

The trick to a great lunch? Find winning combinations that are healthful and fun, tasty and tempting. It's worth the effort. Eating well affects your kids' energy level, brainpower and ability to fend off illness.

Turkey, Bacon and Guacamole Wraps (recipe on left)

The ABCs of Packing Lunches

A is for Appetite

  • Pack small servings.  Think snack-sizes, especially for younger kids.  Too much food is overwhelming and can squelch hunger.  Try 3 or 4 small servings of different foods, such as a sandwich cut in half, 8 to 10 wedges of mandarin oranges and a 4-ounce container of yogurt.

  • Include protein to extend energy.  It stays in the stomach longer than carbohydrates.  That can help slow digestion and keep kids from getting too hungry or tired before they come home to refuel.  Pack a little protein, such as meat, cheese, turkey, yogurt or peanut butter, into every lunch.

  • Consider looks - they matter.  The color and texture (crisp, crunchy, juicy, etc.) of foods make lunches more interesting.  Put together enticing combos, such as smooth yogurt with crunchy apple slices or a biscuit and cheese with crispy carrots. Stickers, colored plastic wrap and decorative napkins add to the fun.


B is for Beverages

Beverages separate great lunches from not-so-great ones.  Make yours tops by selecting drinks that do something good for the body:

  • Water
  • Milk (white or chocolate)*
  • 100% juice (especially those fortified with calcium)

*For food safety, purchase milk at school, buy shelf-stable milk or use a freezer pack to keep milk cold.


C is for Commitment to Food Safety

Lunches left at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours are a prime target for food poisoning.  Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.  The right tools help make that happen.

  • Use and insulated lunch container instead of a paper bag.

  • Include a small freezer pack with the meal.

  • Freeze foods, such as noncarbonated drinks, sandwich bread and Go-Gurt™ yogurt.  They will thaw by lunchtime and help keep other foods cold.

  • Get a small thermos for hot foods.  Test it to make sure it keeps hot foods hot (at least 140 degrees) for up to 4 hours.

  • Toss in hand sanitizer so kids can clean their hands before eating.


Four Foods for Every Lunch Box

Packing a healthful lunch is easy with a blueprint.  Select at least one food from each of these categories.

  • Grains: They contain carbohydrates for energy, B vitamins to help the body use the energy and fiber to keep foods moving through the intestines.  Try to use whole grains: whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, etc.

  • Calcium-Rich Foods: To build better bones and strong, healthy teeth.

  • Protein:  It's needed for growth, for muscles and for bones - in short, for every cell in the body.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: They contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals that keep the body strong and able to fight off illness.

Possible Pickings

Grains

Calcium-Rich

Protein

Fruits & Veggies 

Bread or bagel 

Yogurt dips for fruit 

Dairy (cottage cheese,
yogurt, etc.) 

Berries, melon,
pineapple 

Tortillas or pita pockets 

Dill Yogurt dip
for veggies
 

 Turkey, ham, roast beef
or chicken

 Carrots, sweet peppers,
jicima

Crackers or pretzels 

Cheese 

 Nuts or peanut butter

Apple wedges (dip in OJ
to keep fresh) 

Biscuit or muffin 

Snack-size pudding
or yogurt 

 Salads (turkey, ham, chicken,
tuna)

 Cherry tomatoes or
sweet pea pods

Pasta  

Milk or calcium-
fortified juices 

 Egg

 Dried fruit (apricots,
apples, etc.)


Quick Tips for Quick Lunches

  • Have your kids help pack. You supervise; they make the meal. Pride in ownership.

  • Keep a wish list on the refrigerator.  Have your crew jot down lunch items they would like from the store.

  • Stock convenience foods. Some days are more harried than others. Keep a stash of single-serving fruit cups, puddings, vegetable dips, raisins and more.

  • Pack the night before.  It eases the morning rush hour and gives foods time to fully chill before they sit in a classroom or locker.

  • Look to leftovers.  Rolls, muffins, soups, casseroles, fruit and pasta salads are a quick remedy for the sandwich slump.

Five Simple Sample Lunches

Lunch Idea One:

Turkey, Bacon and Guacamole Wraps
Mandarin orange segments
Go-Gurt™ yogurt
Water

Lunch Idea Two:

Chicken Noodle Soup
Breadsticks
Cottage cheese and baby carrots
Fruit Roll-Ups®
Calcium-fortified orange juice

Lunch Idea Three:

Italian Tortellini-Vegetable Salad
Cherry tomatoes
Oatmeal-raisin cookie
Low-fat milk

Lunch Idea Four:

Salami, Cheese and Pickle Kabobs
Leftover crescent or dinner roll
Chocolate chip cookie
Low-fat milk

Lunch Idea Five:

Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps
Celery sticks
Chocolate pudding
Calcium-fortified juice

 

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