Back To School means…Reboot Your Lunchbox!
It’s back to school time which means busy schedules and the dreaded lunchbox – what to pack??? Despite the best efforts of school systems shifting toward healthier options there are plenty of parents, and even some kids, who prefer homemade meals because of their lower cost, healthier contents, anti-allergen ingredients or taste preferences. Getting in good quality, nutritious meals can make a big difference in academic performance, mental clarity, job focus and behavior in kids (and adults too!).
It can be quite the challenge to pack a healthy lunch in the midst of the morning rush to get everyone out the door on time. While you might make time to get the kids’ lunches in order, don’t forget about packing one for you, your spouse, partner and everyone at home.
Bringing your lunch from home isn’t just for kids. With 44 million Americans eating lunch out 5 days a week, packing your own can help save money and boost your health at any age.
Here are some hints for making it easier, tastier and healthier to bring lunch from home.
Too cool for school…
Get fun, vibrant containers you’ll look forward to toting around.
• Choose plastic that is BPA free
• Hot/cold thermos are perfect for an ice cold smoothie or warm soup
• Fun, stylish lunch bags are all the rage – hey that’s for you too, not just the kiddies
Why stop at lunch?
• Smoothies and fresh juice make a great breakfast on the go or a mid-morning snack all year round.
• Bring along healthy snacks to tide you over between meals and keep you away from the vending machine.
• Avoid that mid-afternoon crash with your plant-based treats like fresh juice, cut up veggies and hummus or fruit cup with nuts for a protein and phytonutrient boost.
• Bring your tea or coffee with you and save up to $500+ and 18,200 calories (if you skip the sugar and cream) each year! That’s 5 less unwanted pounds that can sneak onto your waistline under your radar.
Go Nuts! — Not your average PB&J
Here are a fun spins on this classic lunch box fare. Considering classroom allergens while also expanding the nutrient profile of lunch, trying different nut butters or non nut butters can be a welcome change. But the good ol’ classic is tasty too (on sprouted or whole grain bread) if nuts aren’t an issue. All nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and important vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin E and mono unsaturated fats in almonds, the antioxidant, selenium, in Brazil nuts and calcium and iron in sunflower seeds.
• Sunbutter and jelly (use a low sugar, all natural fruit spread or better yet make your own). Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds so it’s OK in most nut-free classrooms.
• Almond butter with banana slices and a sprinkle of cinnamon
• Any nut butter on cinnamon raisin or other sprouted bread
• Try smashing up blueberries or strawberries instead of jelly/jams
• Drizzle some organic, local honey over your favorite nut butter in place of jelly
• Try quinoa or oatmeal bread for a change of pace
• Top brown rice, other whole grain crackers or toasted pita with your favorite nut butter and fruit combo
• Use a twin gear juicer to make your own nut butter right at home!
• Try a new nut butter like cashew, walnut, pecan, hazelnut or pistachio.
Clean up while you pack up!
• Try this time saving tip – while you are clearing off the dinner table and putting leftovers away in the fridge — transfer them right into your to-go containers for a quick grab and go lunch the next day.
• Then, put everyone’s leftovers right into their lunch bags and store them in the fridge.
• Make an extra big salad at dinner so you can have extra to pack up for lunch the next day. If it’s a veggie salad toss in some beans, nuts, seeds, hummus, quinoa for more nutrient density, protein and fiber to keep you satisfied.
• “Leftover salad” is easy, fun and healthy. Take a big salad full of your favorite veggies and toss in just about any leftovers for a filling, nutritious lunch to-go that’s quick and healthy.
Easy on the arms
Since microwaving plastic is a no-no (it can leech toxins into your food) but glass is heavy to carry and potentially dangerous if you drop it on a crowded bus or subway, what’s the best way to reheat your lunch? Keep a glass container at the office and carry your leftovers in BPA free plastic containers for a much lighter load.
We’d love to hear all about your creative lunchbox favorites, so please share your tips with the community!