Are the kids sick of sandwiches and baby carrots in their school lunches? These healthy and resourceful ideas can spice up the lunch box and require minimal preparation time.
Cook up a batch of noodles the night before, store them in the refrigerator and you have the beginnings of a tasty cold salad for lunch. Fill half of a bowl-sized portable container with cold noodles. Add bite-sized cooked meats or fish, or throw in some beans or nuts. Chop a tomato, some mushrooms, peas, black olives, celery, carrots,… anything you have on hand (and the kids will eat). Grapes, raisins, strawberries and apples can be added, too. For more flavour, add cheese, herb blend, some light mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice, or your favourite dressing.
Rice is a healthful and filling grain. Choose brown rice to add the health benefits of whole grain to your meal. Line a tortilla, lettuce or cabbage leaf, or a sheet of nori (seaweed) with cold, cooked rice. Then add a favourite filling, such as tuna, cheese, nuts, sliced vegetables or citrus fruits. Add a sauce such as salsa, light sour cream or soy sauce. Roll up and slice into one-to two-inch sections.
Everyone loves dipping foods, so make lunch a festive dipping occasion! Pack foods that are long and thin: sliced peppers, carrots or celery; asparagus, beans or pea pods; pretzels, bread sticks or cheese strips; or apple, orange or pear slices. Peanut butter, light cream cheese, yogurt, soy sauce, salsa, tomato sauce and salad dressings make great dips and can quickly be put into a small container for lunch on the go. If you have more time, try your hand at crafting your own dips. Canned pumpkin can be blended with light cream cheese with a little maple syrup for a sweet dip. Chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini puréed together make a nice hummus base to which you can add spices for more flavour.
DON’T FORGET SAFETY!
Keep foods at a safe, cold temperature. Put a water bottle or juice box in the freezer the night before, and pack it close to the perishable foods in the lunch pack. That way an ice-cold drink can be enjoyed with lunch.
– Trina Barno is a health and nutrition educator with
University of Minnesota Extension.