As we work on recovering from our holiday sweets overdoses, one of the ways we can get our little chefs off the stocking stuffers is by packing them healthy lunches to bring to school. While sandwiches can be filling, they can also get pretty boring day after day. Here are a few ideas to change things up for the new year, while still keeping your little chef’s lunches healthy and satisfying.
That’s a Wrap
Bread can be one of the largest contributors to our consumption of sugar, even those that are whole wheat or whole grain. To cut down on these sugars and add variety to your little chef’s lunchbox, consider making wraps instead. Tortillas come in a range of flavors, from whole wheat to sun-dried tomato, and they can often be filled with many of the same ingredients. Turkey and ham slices work well with slices of cheddar or Swiss cheese, and a few leaves of spinach provides an important boost of vitamins and minerals. Your little chef can select his or her condiment to vary the flavors from day to day: honey mustard on Mondays, mayo on Thursdays, and jelly on Fridays. If you want to go veggie, you can fill the wrap with carrots sticks, lettuce, red peppers, cucumber and hummus. Some days you can cut the wrap in half on a diagonal (a la your favorite sandwich shops) while other days you may want to cut them into inch-thick coins. Making the wraps look different will help your little chef feel like they're eating something new and exciting every day.
Be an Ant-Eater
Sodium is another constant creeper in our foods that we try to eliminate. If you would like to cut back on chips in your little chef’s lunches, try other foods that still provide a crunch in her lunch, without the salt and fats. Ants On A Log is a classic snack staple, but there are other varieties to the standard celery-peanut butter-raisin combo. Your little chef may prefer celery-hummus-raisins or celery-peanut butter-craisins. Using organic peanut butter will cut down on the added preservatives and sugars. If your little chef detests celery, consider using large bell pepper slices instead.
It’s human nature to want something a little sweet at the end of a meal. Our taste buds like to send a reward message to our brains in the form of something sugary. However, we also know not all sources of sugar are equal. Processed sugars are not good for our bodies as those complex sugars that occur naturally in fruits. You can satisfy your little chef’s sweet tooth by packing a berry mix or homemade fruit roll ups. If your little chef has a thermos, you can also make smoothies with fresh fruits and Nutella as a special surprise. Another option is to make rolled oat granola bars with chunks of dark chocolate in them. These can be made in big batches, so extras can be frozen and stored for other times.
Drink To That
The healthiest drink for your little chef is also the simplest: water. If you want to spruce up your little chef’s water, try various ways of flavoring water naturally. You can infuse mint or cucumber, or you can make flavored ice cubes that will slowly melt into to the water during the day. But of course there are days when he may want something different, like juice. Unfortunately, many kinds of store-bought juices are loaded with unnecessary sugars. You can take control over the amount of sugar in your little chef’s juice by actually making the juice yourself. Fresh squeezed orange juice is an easy option, as is fresh squeezed lemonade. Pour these drinks into your little chef’s favorite water bottle, toss a fun straw into her lunchbox, and you will get a big squeeze at the end of the day.