Friday, September 1, 2006

Making The Most of Lunch

Brown bagging it is not just for school kids anymore. Even if you are heading to the office, you’ll certainly eat better if you pack it yourself. Right? For adults and kids alike, making an interesting, appetizing, and nutritious quick lunch can be a snap.
How can you make a lunchbox kid- appealing, parent- approved, and adult acceptable? Here are five tips to help you or your child get a nutritious lunch that is yummy, exciting, and easy to make.

  1. Pack a pallet of colors. Include colorful foods for eye appeal. A colorful meal indicates an abundance of vitamins (green jello doesn’t count). Try sweet red pepper slices, bright orange steamed yams and carrots, green broccoli trees and dark lettuce leaves, yellow apples, purple grapes and on and on.
  2. Variety is the spice of life. Pack a variety of foods. Most people don’t have trouble with the starch and fat part of lunch. Remembering the fruits and vegetables turns a boring turkey on bread into a snazzy fiber packed turkey, avocado, sprouts, and red onion eye appealing meal.Try choosing at least one food from each category of Fruit, Vegetable, Whole Grain, and Protein. Include non meat sources of protein like beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, organic eggs and cheese. Varying your choices will make lunch more interesting.
  3. Plan Ahead. 7:02 am Monday morning is not the best time for culinary inspiration, and often that means pb&j for the kids or pizza on the go for you. The time and stress saved by planning will really make a difference. Make a weekly lunch plan, like a school lunch calendar, and have your child help in the decision process. Make lists of lunch choices in the food categories listed above, and have your child choose what to eat on each day. Compromise. You pick the grain, she picks the fruit. Maybe you pick 3 lunches and he picks 2. Make an agreement with your child that the lunch gets tasted or eaten, and not traded or trashed. Having your child help make his lunch will teach them about good nutrition and simple cooking skills that will be valuable for a lifetime.
  4. Be creative. If you or your child hates apples, oranges, and bananas, try some kiwi, berries, or Asian pears. Make fruit easy to eat- peel a tangerine. Pack sliced pineapple and cantaloupe with toothpicks for easy eating. Save up some small yogurt size plastic containers and fill one with sweet pepper hummus and pack colorful and crunchy veggies for dipping. Include hand eaten foods for youngsters. Eating with our hands is fun. Make it a wrap! Fill a tortilla with veggies or beans, rice, leftover salad and salsa, and roll it up. Expand your lunch options and buy an insulated lunch box or thermos to keep foods hot or cold.
  5. Drinks. Try to focus on water. Kids get enough sodas and sugar drinks without adults giving it to them directly. And for adults, who needs those extra “empty” calories that soda provides? Beverages such as dairy, soy and rice milks can be nutritious too. Try herbal iced teas and flavored waters for variety.

A few other helpful suggestions...

Wraps are a quick and ideal way to transform a boring sandwich into a veggie packed hand held epicurean delight. Wraps can be high calorie traps, so reading labels and choosing specific brands at home can make a big difference. La Tortilla Factory has debuted a line of heart healthy, low carb, whole wheat, and organic wraps in delicious flavors such as rosemary olive oil and basil. These wraps, unlike others that deliver a whopping 330 calories, range from 50-100 calories for a single wrap. Sounds like a winner for tomorrow’s lunch. You can pick them up at Westerly Health Foods or Good and Plenty To Go in Manhattan.

Lunch Box Treats: Give an old favorite new life- spread peanut butter between two apple slices. Add raisins for fun. Freeze some grapes, and watch them turn into wonderful tiny ice-pop treats. Scoop some granola into a baggie, add a small handful of chocolate chips. Drop in a heavenly Lara or Nectar snack bar. Ingredients? Nuts, fruit, spices and nothing else!

Don’t Forget Breakfast!

We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you know that what our kids eat for breakfast can have an effect on school performance? Research shows that having eggs for breakfast can enhance memory function. Choline, rich in eggs and nuts, is a nutrient important in memory cell production during childhood. So, scramble up an egg or hard boil one for the road, even if breakfast has to be quick, it can still be nutritious.