The return to school is just around the corner, no doubt you will be heading down to the grocery store to get your kitchen restocked for the daily drag, that is, preparing lunch for the children to take to school. It is a tricky cycle really, most of the time what’s on offer at school isn’t all that great and highly unlikely to be appealing to children! Yet, we don’t necessarily have the time to think much outside the typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chocolate bar and juice box thrown into the lunch sack. A recent study showed that a crazy 13.9% of high school students were obese and 16% overweight*, so maybe the time has come to give the classic American packed lunch a shake up!
As you already know, we’re really into our food at NetCost Market and we have been thinking up easy ways to make your child’s lunch delicious as well as nutritious… AND even better, it’s all simple to make! In the true NetCost style we’re going to add a little European edge to make lunch interesting again.
Ditch the juice for water. Juice is full of hidden sugars, so dropping this from your children’s lunch is an easy way to reduce unnecessary calories and helps prevent sugar highs and lows. Water is the best option, to make it more interesting you can always add some slices of fruit or opt for a sparkling water.
Improve boring sandwiches. If you find yourself wanting to stick to sandwiches for speed, then all it takes is a few simple improvements. Firstly, choose some delicious fresh bread! Next, mayo isn’t your only option – experiment by using pesto, hummus or even natural yogurt for a lighter option. Sandwiches are a great way to slowly introduce new vegetables to children! You can even cut them into your child’s favourite shape or get character cutters if you want to go that extra mile.
Keep it light with crackers and toppings. Everyone enjoys a little self-assemble meal, it’s fun! Crackers, oatcakes and rice cakes are all tasty replacements for bread at lunch time. Include a selection of salami, ham and cheese for a tasty, filling lunch that you’ll want to keep for yourself.
Fill them up with a good source of protein. Children seem to always be hungry! To keep your child going through the school day make sure to add a healthy source of protein to their meal. Food such as chicken breast can be easily oven baked the evening before and left to cool, ready for the morning. Chop the chicken and add to a quick leafy green salad with fresh bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, chunks of feta and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. That’ll keep them concentrating throughout the afternoon!
Explore other sources of energy filled carbs. Bread isn’t the only carbohydrate suitable for packed lunches. Rice, pasta, wraps and couscous can really add variety to lunch whilst keeping things healthy. Sundried tomato or pesto pasta is delicious, as too is a wrap filled to bursting with fresh spinach, ricotta and tomatoes. You could even use wraps to create mini cheese quesadillas or how about a delicious English muffin turned into a mini pizza! These are simple to create and fun, so you can get the children involved too!
Make better snacking choices. Avoid those high sugar, processed snacks! Instead always add some tasty, fresh fruit. For the little ones you can make fruit more interesting by creating fruit kebabs (another great way to introduce new foods) or a fruit salad. Keep it simple with bananas, they’re a classic and they’re a great source of energy. Keep your eye out for seasonal fruits and mix it up to keep lunch time healthy and interesting.
*According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)