Back to school has always been a tricky time for us. Finding lunches that taste yummy, are healthy and are not boring is not an easy task. I like to add variety to my children’s diets and at the same time follow the nutrition rules and be aware of school allergies.
Packing lunches that are healthy, cost-effective, time friendly and full of variety is key.
For back-to-school, Metro has teamed up with Celebrity Chef Donna Dooher, to provide families with tips on preparing for the busy year to come! For additional recipes and tips on how to prepare meals for your family all year-round visit facebook.com/metro.ontario
Tips for healthy options:
- Portion Control- Keep portions in mind to avoid waste and overeating. When making your kids’ lunch, try the Irresistibles Life Smart loafs or bagels. Not only do they help with portion control, they are packed with beta glucan, which is proven to reduce cholesterol and boost the immune system!
- Fruits and vegetables- If your kids are resistant to fresh produce, have them participate in the buying process. Make your grocery run a family outing and educate everyone on seasonal produce. Eating an apple is much more fun when you’ve picked it out!
- Include fresh fruit but don’t shy away from a small treat. Even if your child eats this first, it will whet their appetite and entice them to finish the rest of their lunch
- Dips- Having something to dip fruit and veggies in always makes it more enjoyable. Hummus, spinach and roasted red pepper dips are delicious and easy to store. A small container is a perfect accompaniment to cut up vegetables, whole grain breads and crackers.
- Healthy compliments – Try to work in protein like chickpeas and lentils as a compliment to the dish instead of the main ingredient to ensure a balanced diet that young taste buds won’t shy away from
Tips for preparing cost-effective lunches:
- Purchase in bulk– When shopping for lunch snacks like yogurt or cottage cheese, buying the large container and dividing it into reusable containers each day will be friendly to your wallet and our environment.
- Choose Private Label Brands– An easy way to cut down the grocery bill is to opt for private label brands carried at your grocer. For Metro consider Irresistibles or Selection. You won’t have to sacrifice taste or quality but you’ll notice the difference at the cash register.
- Keep it simple – To save money and make lunches while on a time crunch focus on nutrient dense foods high in fiber. Simple fresh ingredients always taste the best and are the healthiest!
Tips for when you are on a time-crunch:
- Prepare ahead of time – If you’ve got a busy week ahead, take some time on Sunday evening to chop veggies and fruits so they are ready to divvy up into reusable containers in the mornings when the family is in a rush.
- The power of a team- Get a group of parents together once a month or even start a group email to trade ideas and tips. Your kids are more likely to eat their lunch and not swap it when all their friends are also eating something similar.
- Ask for help – Allowing the kids to help make their own lunches not only provides them with an understanding of what goes into a well balanced meal, it provides you with an extra set of hands in the kitchen to help speed up the process!
Tips for a variety filled lunch:
- Mix up the staples – If your munchkins are tired of traditional sandwiches, try swapping out sliced bread for Irresistibles Life Smart bagels, tortillas, raisin bread or pita pockets for a quick fix and a little variety.
- Make it fun – To keep the kids interested, play with flavours and experiment. Expert Chef Donna Dooher suggests making fruit kabobs, or adding honey to cream cheese and topping with raisins for a tasty cracker spread. Cream cheese or cheese spread on celery is an easy solution to the no peanut butter rule in schools.
- Create your signature dishes with your kids and give them a fun name; when food comes with a story, kids get excited about eating. Think along the lines of toast soldiers or ants on a log
- Spice up leftovers – Metro knows how hard it can be to come up with dinner options for your picky eaters. By mixing up dinner leftovers into creative lunch options you can save on waste and provide a different lunch every day of the week. Donna Dooher suggests transforming chicken breast and boiled potatoes into a chicken Caesar wrap with tasty hash browns for a lunch your kids will crave.
No matter how many lunches I pack, I am always happy for tips and tricks. it sure makes life easier.
4 – 8 inch Irresistibles Life Smart tortilla wraps
1 cup Life Smart hummus
2 cups carrots, shredded
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
Lay tortillas flat and spread evenly with hummus.
Place the vegetables down half the tortilla.
Sprinkle chopped spinach over the vegetables.
Roll up tortilla snugly.
Cut into 1 ½ inch slices and serve.
This is an incredibly versatile technique. You can use whole wheat, flour tortillas or a gluten-free option. The sky’s the limit on the fillings; chopped leftover chicken mixed with tzatziki can be added and you can substitute the hummus with baba ghanoush or your kids’ favourite spread or dip.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
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