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Some Real Tips for Healthy School Lunches

Some Real Tips for Healthy School Lunches

As I’ve written about on this blog before, I am a big fan of Eatocracy. So I was tremendously disappointed with a recent post they had that ostensibly was supposed to offer tips about how to make time for healthy school lunches.  And it turns out I wasn’t the only one. Many of those who commented on the post shared what I thought — there were no actual tips in the article. Well, there was one tip — and it’s one I already do: use dinner leftovers for school lunch. But I’ll go one better — when serving dinner, put out the thermos, bento box, or whatever container you will pack your child’s lunch in, out on the counter or table as well, and just fill it as if it were an additional plate. That will actually save time.  Another comment in the blog post made me wonder if the author actually has any children. He says it’s “better and cheaper” to pack kids a homemade lunch then let them buy cafeteria food. First, a cafeteria lunch in this country can typically be had for roughly $2, and that includes milk.  In some parts of the country you’ll blow 75% of that $2 budget just on the fruits and vegetables in the lunch — and that’s presuming you don’t go organic. But rather than just complain about an article I didn’t find helpful, I thought I’d try my best to offer tips to save time and pack a healthful school lunch. I welcome yours as well.

Preschool girl with lunch box

  • Pack frozen vegetables when fresh is not available. Frozen produce is often full of nutrients (as long as it’s not overcooked) because it’s typically picked at the height of ripeness. Put just the amount you want in a container and stash it in the fridge the night before to thaw. Zap it for a couple seconds in the microwave the morning of, if necessary.
  • Buy a variety of yogurts: smoothies, tubes, regular containers, to give the sense of variety while always ensuring that the calcium is there. Same goes for cheese sticks.
  • Use one of these thermoses that can go straight from the fridge to the microwave to the lunch bag. It’s a great time saver and keeps you from having to create a mess in the kitchen just to warm up leftovers first thing in the morning.
  • Don’t dismiss “dinner” foods as being unwelcome for lunch. Leftover steak, lean hamburgers, chicken, etc. take on a new life for many kids when served cold with a side of ketchup.
  • Pack apples, pears, berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, etc. that don’t require slicing or dicing.
  • If your child is over 3 years old, don’t bother hulling or slicing strawberries. They can eat around the leaves.
  • If pineapple (or cantaloupe or honeydew) is your kid’s favorite fruit, but you can’t deal with the peeling and coring and seeding, and your pocketbook allows, buy the pre-cored, pre-sliced containers in the produce section rather than the “packed in syrup” variety in the canned fruit section.
  • And one final tip: Trader Joe’s frozen foods. My condolences if you’re not fortunate enough to have a TJs nearby.

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