Back To School
Back to school! Most kids start school here one week from today, including university students. It’s a busy time for sure. We wanted to take this opportunity to talk about back to school as it relates to one of our favorite topics – food! Making sure that your kids have a healthy, balanced lunch is SO important*. It’s equally important if you’re a university student, or even just a working adult. We’ll keep it honest here – even we, trained chefs with daily access to a fully stocked commercial kitchen, are guilty of grabbing a granola bar and a bag of chips and calling it “lunch”. We won’t name names, but we’ve even seen some of our staff drive over to Wendy’s on more than one occasion. It’s understandable – sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking, or you’re so busy that you have to rush out of the house without a plan. Being prepared in advance is the key.
First – Pick the right lunchbox.
Every kid is different, but in general look for sturdy, durable, compartmentalized lunch boxes that are easy to clean. Factor in things like your child’s age and appetite. This site has a really great chart that compares some popular options (and tons of cute photos of them in action, like the one above). Older kids are going to be way less receptive to a lunchbox of any kind, but encourage them to find a system that works for them.
Then – Choose a good variety of foods.
Again, it’s going to depend on your kid, but one of the great things about the compartmentalized lunchboxes is the opportunity to send them off with variety. They may be more likely to try a few things, but in the event that there’s any 1 item they don’t care for, there are still several other options. Foods that can be eaten cold or at room temperature are best for younger kids. Don’t forget to pack an ice pack though to keep things within a safe temperature range! Pack as much “real” food as you can (and less highly-processed/junk food). A mix of protein, vegetables, and fruit is perfect. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Veggie skewers or crudité, carrots with hummus, plantain chips, almonds, cashews, fruit, beef jerky, meat & cheese roll ups, tortilla chips with guacamole, hard boiled eggs (peeled) or deviled eggs, leftover chicken, turkey, or ham, healthier muffins, celery with peanut butter (check with your school first about peanuts), yogurt with a side of seed & nut granola, and chicken salad. There should probably be a little chocolate in there too for good measure 🙂
As far as us older folks, we’ve usually got access to a work fridge and microwave, so packing a salad or the previous night’s leftovers is usually pretty easy. College kids can have it a little tougher than anyone, especially when they’re starving with only 15 minutes or so to run completely across campus before their next class starts. It’s smart to keep some whole fruit and nuts with you to hold you over and keep you from overindulging at the nearest fast food place the second class is over. The same
thing goes for high school students. If you can convince them, though, have them prepare and pack a full lunch as well, rather than just buying a slice of pizza and a soda.
Finally – Put your kids to work!
Make them a part of the whole process. Ask them for their feedback. Let them help prepare their lunch box the night before. When kids are empowered in the kitchen they really do become more receptive to healthy choices and variety, plus it’s just a lot of fun.
*We understand that there are so many families and kids out there that just don’t have the same access to food that we’re so fortunate to have. Consider making an impact and committing to ending childhood hunger in America. There are a lot great organizations out there, but No Kid Hungry is a great place to start.