Brown Bagging: Packing Kids' Lunches

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There is no doubt that overall nutrition has been on the decline for some time in this country.Like so many other things, quality has yielded to convenience and, in many cases, cost.That may be tolerable in some cases, but it is not in terms of nutrition.

The ideal situation would be to send your child to school confidently knowing that he/she was going to enjoy a delicious, nutritious, brain-powering meal at lunchtime.There may be exceptions to this, but by and large this is not the case.Processed foods have taken the forefront in the daily menus at schools nationwide.

Some initiatives have begun to affect change, but they are sparse.Clearly, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has gotten the most attention lately largely due to his celebrity chef status.Ratings grabber or not… this show at least highlights a very real problem.

The alternative is to pack lunches.This can be more time consuming, but with proper planning is easy to accomplish.It can be made even easier if your kids are old enough to help.Not to mention, this could be a great teaching opportunity for you.

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Kids don’t get that much time to eat.Make sure that their lunch is easy to eat and they don’t have to fool with a lot of packaging.
  • Containers frequently go MIA.Package lunch items in wrappers that can be discarded or recycled.
  • Send small portions so that most, if not everything, gets eaten… well-balanced is the goal here.
  • Freeze juice boxes to keep the food cool until lunchtime.Things stay cold and the juice is thawed at just the right time.
  • Make lunch fun so they will look forward to it.Include a sticker or note.
  • Pack up the ingredients for the whole week on the weekend.This will save a tremendous amount of time on weekday mornings.If your kids are old enough they can help.
  • Have your kids pack their own lunches each morning using the packaged items from the weekend.

Here are some lunch items:

  • Small sacks of pretzels
  • Pinwheel sandwiches (assemble sandwich on tortilla, roll tightly, and cut sushi style)
  • Baby carrots
  • Apple slices (we usually soak ours in a little lemon water before packing to prevent browning)
  • Mini bagels
  • Mini bean & cheese tacos
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Peanuts, Raisins, etc.

While you will likely find this most useful for children, there is something to be said for adult brown-bagging.If you buy your lunch everyday you can do the math to determine how much you would save if you started packing.Of course, the benefits stretch far beyond monetary savings.The health benefits associated with choosing the right foods to eat in small portions several times a day are tremendous.

If your child attends a school that serves a quality “hot lunch” you are lucky.If not, you may consider assembling a worthwhile lunch at home.Try it yourself and reap the benefits.Please share your best practices and tips for a healthy brown bag.I look forward to reading your comments.

savour… plastic trays and hairnets.