The end of summer is nearing and it's back to school for the little ones. Packing them healthy lunches and snacks to take to school offers many benefits and can be quite quick and simple to do. Creating healthy brown-bag meals can reduce fat, reduce calories, and lower sodium in our childs diets, improving overall health, improved activity and higher IQ's. Smart choices can help us maintain a healthy weight.
To move lunch and snack time into a healthful direction. Here are some ideas:
Choose foods with higher amounts of the nutrients we need: fiber, protein, calcium, and vitamin C.
Avoid foods loaded with things we need to eat less of: saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.
An easy way to accomplish both goals is to include more whole foods -- and less processed foods, junk food, and fast food at meals and snacks.
Here are some Quick Lunch and Snack Picks For The Kids:
Cold Cheese and Fruit Kit: Make your childs own “Lunchables” by filling a reusable container with assorted cheese slices, easy-to-eat fruit like apple slices and grapes, and whole wheat crackers. You can be as creative as you like and it also ends up being much cheaper.
Falafel Pita Pleaser: Purchase ready-to-bake falafels in the vegetarian refrigerator section of some supermarkets. (Trader Joe's sells bite sized frozen falafel) Bake them up ahead of time, then insert them in a whole wheat pita pocket spread with some hummus (homemade or store-bought) and top with grated carrots and a creamy cucmber dressing.
Sushi with Veggies: Pick up a tray of premade vegetable sushi at your supermarket or favorite Japanese restaurant. It makes a great grab-and-go lunch the next day. Because it features veggies and avocado. Kids love "grab n go" foods and sushi is something kids find popular and trendy. Kids like trendy! It makes them feel grown-up!
Wrap It Up: Make your sandwich wrap the night before, using a whole grain flour tortilla and spreads like green or sun-dried tomato pesto, olive tapenade, or honey mustard. Layer it with slices of lean meat or cheese, assorted vegetables, tomato, and lettuce. Because it’s whole grain, the tortilla won’t get soggy overnight. You can also cut the wrap into sushi like slices. Fun for the kids to eat!
Fun-to-Eat Edamame: You’ll find bags of edamame (in pods) in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Keep a bag in the freezer, add some to your brown bag in the morning, and by lunch they will be thawed. Open up the pods and snack away at the high-protein, high-fiber green soybeans inside. You can also prepare the edamame seeds into a paste for a "Roasted Garlic and Edamame Hummus" (see recipe below) and serve with zip-lock baggies of celery, carrots and cucmber sticks.
Roasted Garlic and Edamame Hummus
1 1/2 c Edamame shells, cooked
2 tsp. Tahini paste
10 sm. Whole garlic pods, roasted
¼ c Edamame liquid
1 tsp. Lemon zest
½ Lemon, juiced
¾ tsp. Sea salt
½ tsp. Cumin, ground
¼ tsp. Coriander, ground
3 T EVO + ¼ c (for garlic roasting)
In a food processor combine the edamame, tahini, roasted garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin and coriander, begin blending and add the edamame liquid. After the edamame hummus is coarsely blended , gradually add the EVO and roasted garlic olive oil and sea salt with the motor running and blend until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350. In a small sautee pan add ¼ cup EVO and the garlic pods. Oven roast for 30 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown and the aromas are fragrant.
Mini Muffins: Homemade muffins can be a healthful alternative to processed snacks and junk food when made with mostly whole wheat flour, moderate amounts of canola oil and minimal added sugar. Just pop a serving of mini muffins in each zip-lock bag and store in the freezer. Pack them in the brown bag, and they’ll be soft and ready to eat by lunch or snack time.
Nuts or Trail Mix: Trail mix pumps up the carbohydrate calories by adding dried fruit to the nuts. Carob chips and/or yogurt chips added to your trail mix make a never ending "nibble" food for the little ones.
Cheese Sticks: Individually wrapped cheese sticks are available in part-skim mozzarella and 2% sharp cheddar, and even pepper jack. String Cheese sticks are fun to peel and eat even while sitting in the class room.
Kettle Korn Fun: For something a little sweet but crunchy, pop up some Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop Kettle Korn (or similar) and pack half of the 2.9-ounce bag of popcorn for a brown-bag treat or snack.
Yogurt and Fruit Cups: 8 ounce low-fat yogurt with fruit and naturally sweetened fruit cups make great brown bag additions for lunch or recess snacking.