Although buying a quick lunch at the corner store or the fast-food joint by your office might be a tempting option, packing a lunch for yourself and your children is likely better in the long run. Not only will packing your lunch probably save you money (that value meal isn’t so valuable when you consider the cost per ingredient), but it will also help your family make healthier choices. When you pack a lunch for your kids, you have complete control over what they’re eating. Here are four ways you can build healthy packed lunches for you and your family:
1. Snack Wisely
Many people think of “healthy” and “snacks” as incompatible words, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Snacks can do wonderful things for your overall health, provided the treats themselves are nutritious and appropriately sized. When people skip snacks, they often find themselves eating three large meals a day. This works fine for some people, and if you’re one of them you certainly don’t have to change.
“Healthy snacks throughout the day will give you more energy.”
For some, however, leaving long gaps between eating can mean hunger pangs and fatigue throughout the day, and may even lead to binging. If you fall into the latter camp, healthy snacks are the answer. Pack yourself a little something between meals and plan after-school snacks for the kids ahead of time to give everyone energy until dinnertime. The trick is to make sure your snack isn’t full of empty calories. Junk food like chips might satisfy a craving, but you’re not doing anything good for your body by eating them. Instead, pack healthy treats like fruits and veggies. Tools like an apple wedger can slice snacks into bite-size pieces, so they’re easier to snack on and take on-the-go.
2. Consider Healthy Alternatives
Unless you’re already a healthy lunch champion, the odds are good you’re not completely pleased with your old standbys. At least, that’s the case for me—my favorite things to pack for lunches are pastas, fast sandwiches, and maybe a snack bar or something thrown in if I remember. While these kinds of lunches aren’t necessarily bad for me, they’re full of simple carbs that aren’t exactly healthy, either. If you’re like me, there’s good news for both of us: even small substitutions for healthier versions can make a huge difference.
For example, instead of regular pasta, you can make veggie pasta with a spiralizer. Depending on the veggie you use, you can end up with the same look and feel as pasta, but you get an extra boost of flavor and nutrients from the produce. Other little changes work, too: swap out white bread for whole-wheat, or prepackaged cereal bars for homemade energy bites, and you’ll end up with a far healthier lunch.
3. For Kids: Focus on Fun
Any parent knows that kids love to play, and that extends to lunches as much as anything else. Think about the foods your kids are most drawn to—the odds are good there’s something quirky or off-beat about it that makes it feel like a departure from the norm. If you keep this in mind when packing your children’s lunches, they’re sure to love what they find inside.
One way you can do this is to make your kids little crustless sandwiches with the Cut-N-Seal. When you use this, the bread forms a little crust-free pocket with your kids’ favorite ingredients inside. Another option is to make them finger-friendly foods. Use the Core & More to pack your kids a bunch of little melon balls—the melon will give them plenty of vitamins and nutrients, and they’ll have so many tiny bits to enjoy that their lunch will feel like a feast!
4. Store Safely
The healthiest lunch in the world isn’t actually healthy if you end up with food poisoning. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re storing foods properly. This is particularly true if anything needs to stay cool. If you don’t have an insulated lunch box and some kind of ice pack, a half an hour in the car or on the bus is enough to let icky bacteria get to work in your mayonnaise.
“Food can go bad in 30 minutes at room temperature.”
If your drive is longer than 30 minutes, or if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, make sure you’re keeping everything cool. You can grab an ice pack, or you can use items like the Cool & Serve trays, which keep foods well-organized and at a safe temperature for hours.