5 Steps to Preparing Creative Lunchboxes Everyday

It’s that time of year again. With the last days of summer looming in front of us it’s time to start thinking what to pack for school lunches.

Whether your the reason for reading this article is to learn more about packing nutritious school lunches or just to get some new ideas I’m glad you’re here. Today I will go over 5 quick steps to creating creative lunchboxes.

1.)  USDA MyPlate

It’s back! Before preparing a lunchbox it helps to use MyPlate as a visual (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/). Imagine how you would divide your plate into four sections: Veggies, fruits, protein, and grains. Include dairy as an option as well. Then choose foods for the packed lunch in the above order.

If you’re family is vegan or doesn’t consume dairy then think of possible alternatives such as soy, almond, or rice milk. Dark green veggies, tofu, and some seeds also contain the bone-building nutrients found in dairy.

Planning your child’s lunchbox this way keeps you focused on healthful options to include and will also minimize choosing less healthful options. Although, a treat every now and then won’t hurt.

2.) Be Creative

If you’re like me then most likely lunches will include sandwiches everyday. This can become boring after awhile.

What I would suggest is to search lunchbox ideas on the computer whenever you lack for ideas. Here are some to get you started:

  • Leftover turkey or chicken salad w/ a side salad
  • Homemade pita bread or English muffin pizza
  • Fruit, crackers, and cheese (my fav!)

For more ideas follow this link: http://www.5dollardinners.com/31-days-of-school-lunchbox-ideas/#_a5y_p=2302145

3.) Staple Foods

Check your pantry for food staples. These include any common ingredient or food that can be made up into many different dishes such as beans, rice, canned veggies or fruit, and pasta. (Remember to rinse canned veggies to rid yourself of the extra salt.)

In addition, try buying foods that are easily packed such as carrot or celery sticks, grapes, or seeds.

4.) Food Safety

Lunchboxes have their own rules for preparing foods safely so as not to leave food in an environment where bacteria can multiple and cause harm. Usually, food can be kept safe above or below this temperature range: 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use ice packs and thermos to keep cold food cold and hot food hot for 2-3 hours. Or you can freeze water bottles and juice boxes. Insulated lunch boxes can keep temperatures constant until lunch.

For more specifics about what does and doesn’t need to be kept cold go to this web address: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/safetysanitation/a/baglunchsafety.htm

5.) Make it a Family Affair

Get your kids involved in the preparation of their lunchboxes. This can be as simple as having them choose what foods from each food group to include in the lunch.

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The School Nutrition Guidelines

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since the last blog I wrote. I hope you’re all enjoying summer so far. I know I have.

Today I want to take this opportunity to talk about the National School Lunch Program’s newest guidelines under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. With school about to begin again in a month this is the perfect time to get yourself and your kids acquainted with the school lunch standards!

For those of you that are already a part of a school community that is participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) you might already be aware of the changes that are taking place on your kids’ trays. For those who are new, keep reading and don’t stress.

In 2010 the First Lady helped to initiate the Healthy, Hunger Kids Free Act which become the basis for policies governing the NSLP as well as other school nutrition programs.

Since this has passed the standards/guidelines for school lunches have tightened. Managers of food services are required to re-vamp menus of students K-12. Suddenly, french fries have become baked potato sticks; frozen foods have been replaced with scratch cooking; and sugary drinks have been replaced with water. 

All these changes can be overwhelming for any parent let alone their kids! So why has this happened?

The Purpose

Well, the main goal of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act is to foster an environment for kids that would help them develop good food habits, balance those habits with exercise, and experiment with new foods.

The secondary goal is to make sure no kid goes hungry. (There has been a good amount of research that connects learning and behavior in school to eating regular, nutritious meals.)

The Guidelines

These guidelines are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2010. Put concisely these guidelines try to:

1.) Increase fruits/veggies and whole grains

2.) Increase fluid/exercise while decreasing sugary drinks and high sodium foods

3.) Balance food intake with exercise

Thus, the new foods being introduced on your kids’ plates.

Wait, there’s More

Two years later in June 2012 these standards were changed to cut sodium and sugar even more drastically. This was due to the fact that these new standards would be implemented gradually over a period of four or five years.

Now we have come to the fifth year. It’s time to review these standards as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and the Dietary Guidelines expire this fall.

What Can We Do?

As school food managers reviews the pros and cons of the new standards in hopes of reauthorizing these programs for another five years there are a few things we can do to prepare.

1.)Take time to talk to your kids about these guidelines over family dinner night. Make sure they understand why these changes are taking place.

2.) Research these guidelines by following the links I’ve provided below.

3.) Get involved! Volunteer at your child’s school cafeteria or eat lunch with them.

4.) Be patient with school managers as we are all getting used to these standards.

5.) Review menu with kids each evening to see what they want to eat. Encourage them to try new foods.

6.) Act as your child’s role model to healthful eating habits. (Look back at some of my previous posts for ideas on how to model good eating habits).

Resources

http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/healthy-hunger-free-kids-act

http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010.asp

https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/SchoolNutritionStandards/

https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/Parents/