Seven Simple Strategies for Packing an A+ Lunch

from Food Sleuth Melinda Hemmelgarn


Does your child’s lunch box make the grade?

The smartest school lunches:

• Taste great;
• Deliver key nutrients for growth and development; and,
• Help protect your child’s health and their environment.

Making organic food choices today helps protect tomorrow’s health, landscape, air and water quality. Certified organic foods protect our children from exposure to synthetic hormones, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and genetically modified ingredients. Even experts in climate change recommend organic agriculture as a planet-saving strategy because it is less dependent on fossil fuel.

These seven simple lunch box tips will earn you high marks and gold stars!

  1. Create a balanced meal.

    The best lunches contain a mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and contribute about one-third of your child’s daily nutrient and energy needs. Kids tend to fall short on fruits, vegetables and calcium, so pack fresh, seasonal or dried fruit, plus cheese sticks, yogurt and/or milk each day – organic, of course!
  2. Just say “no” to junk.

    Research shows a link between certain artificial additives and hyperactivity.  Corn sweeteners, sugar, and “trans fat” found in “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils add calories and dilute nutritional quality.

  3. Focus on fiber.

    Choose 100% whole wheat bread and whole grain cereals that contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. Use organic whole wheat pastry flour (plus organic eggs and milk) to whip up a batch of muffins over the weekend; then, freeze extras for quick and easy lunch box treats.

  4. Involve your child.

    When kids help make lunchtime decisions and share in the preparation, they’ll be more likely to eat and enjoy their food. Parents can provide the options, but let children make the choices. For example, ask if your kids if they prefer: plain or chocolate milk? Mozzarella or cheddar string cheese? An apple or a pear?  Peanut butter or a tuna sandwich? Read labels together and explain why you choose organic foods. Number one reason: because you love them!

  5. Cook once, eat twice.

    Leftovers make some of the most convenient and tastiest lunches. For example, reheat last night’s chili, soup or stew and pack in an insulated thermos for a steamy, nourishing lunch.

  6. Think about food safety -- from all angles.

    To prevent bacterial illness, invest in an insulated lunch box, include an ice pack or frozen juice box to keep perishable foods at a safe temperature, and wash fresh fruits and vegetables under cool running water to remove outside dirt. Encourage your child to wash hands before eating; include a moist towelette if soap and water are not an option. For after school activities, pack snacks that don’t require refrigeration, such as: trail mix, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter, and dried fruit. Choose organic foods because they protect your children from exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, genetically modified ingredients and synthetic hormones.

  7. Send a love note.

    School can be a stressful place. Let your children know you love them no matter what. Send a silly poem: "It's raining today, but no matter that's its gray; I love you anyway!" Even older children appreciate a joke or confidence booster: “I know you’ll ace that algebra test! Have fun!”

Bottom line:

Feed your children “well.” The safest, most nutritious and delicious foods are local, farm-fresh organic. Grow some, cook most, and get to know the source of all your family’s food. Food prepared by loving hands always tastes best.

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