Do you kick off each morning in a bleary-eyed rush to makes lunch for you or your kids? If you’re so busy trying to keep everyone’s preferences straight that you sometimes overlook the nutritional value of the food you pack, read on. With a bit of planning and imagination, you’ll soon be creating wholesome menus that hit the spot and keep your whole family fueled all afternoon long.
1. Start with a Plan
Don’t head to the supermarket without a shopping list. Under each family member’s name, jot down his or her top three picks from each of these nutrient-rich food groups: dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits and veggies.
2. Invest in Containers that Seal Tight
You can’t expect them to drink lukewarm milk, to sip soup that lost its steam long ago, or to eat the lovingly stacked club sandwich that’s drenched in OJ because of that leaky bottle you got on sale.
3. Think Outside the Sandwich Box
She may be a die-hard salami-on-rye fan, but if you pack it five days straight, chances are, she won’t love it for long. So do her a favour and replace the old trusty sandwich with another main – like pasta in a thermos (with a container of tomato sauce, and another of parmesan cheese) or a bag of pita triangles with hummus dip on the side.
4. Use Leftovers
If he couldn’t get enough of last night’s chicken, spend a few minutes dicing it up so he can shake it on today’s garden salad. Or, for a unique mid-day treat, send along yesterday’s sushi rolls with a little soy sauce.
5. Healthy Hydration
Resist the temptation to buy cases of pop cans or energy drinks just because they’re neatly packaged. Instead, boost your energy with homemade smoothies with a few ice cubes thrown too keep them cool till noon.
6. Get Creative
Test your picky eaters with a new twist on their old faves. Try spooning tuna into a fajita wrap. Or skip the bread altogether and roll deli meat inside a slice of mozzarella cheese. If you think they’ll miss their carb quota, you can always toss in a few wheat crackers for a snack.
7. Make Veggies Appetizing
If getting your kids to eat their veggies is always a struggle, try slicing carrots and celery into skinny strips, and pair them with a favourite dressing. Other tasty veggie options: peaches and cream corn, or a foil-wrapped baked potato with a pat of margarine melted inside.
8. Go Beyond Bananas
Everyone enjoys their daily fruit more if it’s always a surprise. Take your cue from the changing seasons. There are myriad apples and pears in fall, while orange and grapefruit slices taste sweetest in winter. Melon cubes sprinkled with berries are especially refreshing when the sun heats up.
9. Select Salty Snacks with Care
Steer clear of high-fat salty munchies like chips, which contain too many empty calories. Healthier crunchy alternatives include cheddar rice cakes, baked pretzels, or a bag of trail mix, popcorn or sunflower seeds.
10. Add a Sweet Treat
If the rest of the lunch is full of nutrients, a couple of home-baked cookies or a slice of last night’s apple pie is fine, as long as it's not everyday.