September is time for school buses, school supplies, new school shoes and school lunch.
To pack an appealing, healthy and safe school lunch for your kids takes a little planning. After a summer of ice cream, here are some ideas to get you back-to-school and back on track for healthy kids who are ready to learn:
- An insulated bag is ideal and juice boxes or even milk boxes can be frozen to do double duty as cold packs inside it.
- Freeze individual yogurt, fruit or applesauce packs too, which will also defrost in time for the cafeteria.
- Freeze sandwiches as well but pack the lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes separately. You should avoid mayonnaise-based fillings, such as tuna, egg or chicken salad. Cold cuts aren’t the best choice either now, at least until the weather cools off.
- Stick to nut (Check school allergy policies) or fruit butters, bean or cheese-based spreads or other fillings, with oil-based dressings, packed in a small thermos. You can then pack a roll for a do-it-yourself sandwich instead.
- A small thermos is also handy to hold a portion of cole slaw (but not dressed with mayo), grain salads or fruit salad. To send off a hot lunch, prep the thermos with a rinse of hot water and pack it with mac ‘n’ cheese or pasta and red sauce. Even soup, leftovers or rice and beans travel well this way. Don’t forget a fork or spoon and a reminder to bring it home daily.
- Most kids enjoy durable mini-cheeses or cheese sticks for school lunch. Bread sticks and spreadable cheese, humuus or nut butters are fun, sturdy and good-for-you packables as well. You can accompany those items with baggies or re-useable tubs of baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, melon cubes, cherries, blueberries or seedless grapes.
- Choose harder fresh fruits for the lunch bag, such as apples or small oranges, that can survive a sling into a locker.
- If you want to pack goodies or extras, freeze brownies or muffins that will thaw in time or tuck in small, plain cookies, such as ginger snaps or graham crackers, which won’t smear and aren’t too sugar-y. A bag of home-popped, plain popcorn or a few healthy crackers are better choices than packaged chips.
Don’t forget at least one napkin or a foil-packed towelette. It may be a bit of extra laundry, but with a focus on sustainability in local schools, packing a cloth napkin sets a nice example for children about reducing waste.
Remind your child to wash up if possible or use hand sanitizer before digging into his lunch.