Sunday, August 5, 2012
Healthy School Lunches: They Can Be Easy
I can't believe that summer vacation is already over and school is already here. School starts tomorrow (Monday) for my son. Here in the desert, the summer vacations are short and we don't seem to mind so much because summers are spent indoors here because of the heat. However, it still seems to surprise me each year when school starts in the beginning of August. And for a lot of us, this marks the beginning of the school lunch dilemma. I'd like to share what I've done and some inspiration.
It's important to me that my son eats a healthy lunch that will help him get through the day and not "crash" in the afternoon. I want his lunches to have at least one serving of vegetables, a serving of protein, and a serving of fruit. I think as parents, we all want our kids to eat a healthy lunch, but attaining that goal while juggling everything else, especially on busy weeknights can be difficult. With my son going into 7th grade, I feel as if I've honed my lunch-making skills and manage to quickly prepare healthy school lunches. Perfect? Nope, but better than peanut putter sandwiches on white bread with potato chips, fruit snacks, and soda. If you think I'm exaggerating on the unhealthy lunch, take a look at the lunchboxes at school sometime.
For the first day of school this year, I spent a couple more minutes to make it special, but total time to make was 15 minutes. I started with a couple leaves of green leaf lettuce to make it pretty. I don't pretend that he eats these, I just like how they improve the presentation. And don't we first eat with our eyes? I put a small pot of water on the stove to boil for the veggies and the "octopus". The primary protein in this lunch is a leftover chicken leg with the bottom wrapped in foil as an easy handle. I cut out "2012" from nitrate-free salami as a decoration. As an added treat, I made a octopus out of a nitrate-free beef hot dog by simply cutting a 4in piece and cutting tentacles. Placed it in the boiling water for a minute, and the tentacles curl right up. For a great tutorial with pictures, look here. I then added a cute meringue eyeball I got at a craft store in the baking section.
Then I blanched the veggies. I find that my son prefers blanched veggies to raw ones. He'll eat the raw ones, but will eat more if they're blanched. It only takes a minute and the nutrients are maintained in the veggies since they are only in the boiling water for a moment , so I don't mind blanching them for him. Today, I used yellow and red peppers and some green beans from my farm basket.
For a sweet element, I added some Sunshine Bread and made a little monster out of it with a couple apple seeds and a mouth of apple peel with apple "teeth" stuck on with cream cheese. Cream cheese makes such a great "glue" when making cute little designs.
Finally, for fruit, I made an apple flower by cutting "v" shapes out of the quarter of an apple.
Don't be intimidated to try something creative or new with your kids' lunch, it's not about perfection, it's about fun. And don't feel limited by sandwiches and cookies. Put your dinner leftovers in there. Whole wheat spiral noodles and meatballs are totally yummy cold and easy to eat. Chicken is always delicious cold.
Here are links to my healthy school lunches of last year:
Healthy School Lunches - Spring Edition
Adventures in Bento
More Bento Adventures
Lunchboxes Filled With Love: Tuesday
Lunchboxes Filled With Love: Wednesday
Fun Lunches Made With Love
And here's some inspiration of other school lunches:
Lunch In A Box
Adventures in Bentomaking
100 Days of Real Food
So go on, create your own adventures in school lunches. It's easier (and quicker) than you think!
What do you do to create healthy school lunches for your kids?
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