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I have two lunches to pack each day, one for me to eat at work, and the other for my nine year old son to eat at school. I usually prepare extra food at dinner the night before and then use it to make the lunch-packing-process a little less daunting. The variety prevents me from getting sucked into the same old “cheese sandwich” rut. (Snacks are a whole other posting….) This morning I packed myself a couscous salad from leftovers with crumbled feta cheese, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, and a piece of leftover trout. I also included a bowl of orange segments, strawberries, and a small container of my favourite yogourt from Activia. Cameron (my nine year old) enjoys eating a hot lunch, so at least once a week I send him with a thermos of soup (occasionally homemade, but not always). I heat it on the stove just before we leave, then put it in his thermos at the last minute (he assures me that it stays hot until lunch). Today I packed him Campbell’s Chunky Chicken & Vegetable, a small container of whole grain Wheat Thins, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 100% fruit orange juice, and a homemade chocolate brownie. Cameron is an active kid, so I try to pack a snack with some protein for the afternoon—today he had a Turkey Bite pepperoni stick and shiny red BabyBel cheese ball.
That was it for me today…what did you pack for lunch, anything interesting?
“I was too busy at recess to eat my snack. There wasn’t enough time to eat my snack today. I set my container down on the ground while I was playing and forgot to pick it up again. Why can’t I bring candy for my snack? Dessert means chocolate, not fruit. Can you please pack me a non-healthy snack today?”
Seven years as a parent of school-aged children and two children later, I have discovered that packing snacks can be just as challenging as packing lunches. Having nutritious snacks throughout the day is especially important for school-aged children because they help to keep their energy levels up and their minds alert.
Here are a few of our favourite lunchbox or recess snack ideas.
What kinds of snacks do your children like to take to school?
One of the best things about being away last week was a reprieve from the monotony of packing school lunches for the kids. But they go back to school in a few days, and there are still 60 or so more school days this year, so I’m determined to keep refining our school lunches to get them made more easily and get them eaten more often. With those goals in mind, I’ve found a few great tips to make school lunches better:
What are your favourite school lunch tips?
Everyone loves celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. We love his cookbooks (The Naked Chef), cooking shows, restaurants and overall good looks, but more than anything we love what he stands for—enjoying great food by eating healthy.
Most recently, Jamie has been receiving a lot of attention from the introduction of his newest television show Jamie’s Food Revolution.
In a school in Huntington, West Virginia, Jamie addresses America’s obesity crisis with young people. He starts with making changes to the lunches that are served in schools and attempts to educate lunch staff, kids and their families about the importance of choosing, cooking and eating meals with ‘real’ and fresh ingredients. If you haven’t had a chance to see the first episodes, try and catch the Season Finale this coming Friday on ABC @ 9:00 p.m. ET.
It is Jamie’s hope to inspire other cities and countries and to start a reaction of positive change across the country. To continue with these efforts, Jamie has created an online petition which he plans to present to the White House. Have you signed Jamie Oliver’s petition to improve school lunches? Help spread the word. Sign the petition and then forward it to a friend.
I pretty much want to buy every single thing in our recent Lunch Essentials Guide but I think I will start with the sandwich-related items. Making school or camp lunches is definitely low on my list of ‘likes’, and the fact that the only kind of sandwich my kids will actually eat is the verboten peanut-butter kind makes it even more disheartening, as every sandwich combination I try to send comes home uneaten.
But maybe it’s not the filling, but the shape of the sandwich that is a turn-off. So armed with the Lunch Punch Sandwich Buddies, I will be able to magically transform that ham and cheese into a princess, a butterfly or a train. And then I will nestle the sandwich into its own Fuel Everest Sandwich Box to keep it pristine until lunchtime. Hopefully I will never see the sandwich again after that (as it will be eaten right up).
What were your faves in the Lunch Essentials Guide?
Next to the daily challenge of packing a nutritious lunch for the kids, is the daily challenge of providing them an after-school snack that will fuel them through ballet class, hockey practice or a piano lesson but not fill them up so much that they don’t eat any dinner.
Most children need to eat every three to four hours to replenish energy stores and recharge their bodies, and an after-school snack is a necessary component of a school-age child’s overall nutrition intake. In other words, it’s kind of like their fourth meal of the day, so I like to treat it that way and think of the Food Guide Pyramid to plan after-school snacks, just as we do for meals. Although I do include the occasional cookies or other sweet snacks, I also try to:
Some mini-meals my gang enjoys after school include:
What are your kids’ favourite after-school snacks? Savvy moms want to know!
When it comes to making school lunches, I try to incorporate a variety of whole grains in my kids’ sandwiches. But the kids tell me that whole grain sandwich bread gets a little boring day after day, so I try to liven up their lunches by using other types of bread such as pita pockets. Pita bread is easy to eat, easy to stuff and, because it’s thin, easy to pack.
Filling the pita is simple. Our favourites include egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, scrambled eggs and cheese, chicken Caesar salad, almond butter and banana slices, veggies and hummus, pizza pockets, Greek salad and shaved turkey and shredded cheese. The possibilities are endless….be creative!
Today I made tuna pockets and the lunch containers all came back empty—always a good sign.
Tuna Pita Pockets
Serves 4 kids
Prep and Cook
If you are looking for other ideas or tips for packing lunches, here are a few other great lunch-packing resources.
What are you packing for lunch today?
Next to discussing American Idol and potty-training tips, there isn’t a topic more popular at SavvyMom than our kids’ lunches—what they will/won’t eat, how sick of packing them we are…you know the pain.
So further to my recent review of the SavvyMoms’ lunches, I thought it might be interesting to see what the kids of the SavvyMoms were eating for lunch this week. Not comparing (of course) just looking for inspiration.
I started with the moms of toddlers. Maggie’s kids had grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots & cucumbers, strawberries, and milk, under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law. Robyn’s 3-year old enjoyed scrambled eggs with mushrooms and milk—very high protein! And Leslie’s twins ate a plate with cut-up turkey, a tortilla, medium, cheddar cheese, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, grapes and water—talk about a rainbow on their plate!
Then I moved onto the packed lunch crowd.
Angela reported the following lunches were consumed—note Kid 3 did not go with the planned program although he eschewed the chocolate at least.
Holly wasn’t able to report what her high-schooler had (gulp—not ready for those days), but her son had a hefty lunch of a ham and cheese sandwich on Wonder+ bread, an apple/strawberry sauce fruit cup, a Nutri-grain bar, a Chewy bar, and some Easter chocolate that he bought at the store near the school.
Denise packed the following x 3, which she said was not her usual creative stuff, but sounded yummy (and well-balanced) to me: green grapes, Jello chocolate pudding cup, turkey, havarti & lettuce on multi-grain bread, celery sticks & red pepper/grape tomatoes and an orange juice tetra pack
Minnow’s guys took chicken salad sandwiches on croissants with lettuce, an apple and apple juice. No snack—because she had run out of snack bars!
Have you found inspiration from the SavvyMom lunches? Let us know, we love to hear from you.
I used to live in France. Next to meeting and marrying my husband, and having my two boys, it was the single best experience of my life.
I always try to incorporate something I learned in France into my day-to-day life and their classic picnic lunches are no exception. To begin with, this is a lunch that works in the cold weather as well as for the outdoor eating season. It also works really well for school lunches and is definitely my kids’ most requested midday meal. And when you need to feed a gaggle of children, or unexpected weekend guests, this is the easiest way to do so.
The process is simple—grab a large platter/wooden carving board, or school lunch container, and fill it to the brim with any combination of the following:
Breads – baguette slices, wraps, mini bagels, rye bread, biscuits
Crackers – wheat crackers, rice crackers, crisps, pretzels
Cheeses – brie, goat, assorted cheddar, blue, feta, something unique and interesting that isn’t consumed everyday
Fruits – grapes, apples, strawberries, melon, pineapple, berries, bananas, kiwi, oranges slices
Veggies – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, celery, olives
Meats/Main – Virginia ham (sliced), quiche, roast chicken, hard boiled eggs, pastrami, salami, roast turkey
Dips/Spreads – hummus, babaganoush, egg salad, tuna salad, tzatziki, butter, preserves and jams, chutneys
Beverages – flat/sparkling water, sparkling juices, lemonade, ice teas
Sweets/Treats – chocolates, dried fruits, dates, nuts, bite-sized cookies and cake
What would you add to this list? Have you served a large platter lunch to guests or packed one in your child’s lunchbox?
The school year has officially started, and with it comes requests for snack food donations. Whether it’s for preschool nibbles or classroom parties, you’re certain to be called upon to provide some nourishment at some point in the year.
With rainbow-inspired food being all the rage these days, making appearances in cake, doughnuts, Jell-O and popsicles, we would be remiss to exclude fruity treats from this colourful application, especially when no unnatural dyes are required.
The how-to is simple: choose a red, orange, yellow, green and blue fruit. Chop up enough of each for your group: small bite-sized pieces work best. Using a large, wooden cutting board, arrange the fruits into an arc starting with the red fruit first, followed by orange, then yellow, the green and finally the blue. Make clouds with mini marshmallows or dollops of whipped cream, and you’re pretty presentation will easily win the kids over.
Alternatively, you could skewer the fruits in a rainbow pattern, using the same colours and slide one of each onto a bamboo skewer, topping it off with a large marshmallow. Just remember to cut off the sharp end with scissors to make the ends blunt before you take them into the classroom.
What are some of the ways you get creative with your fruit and vegetable platters for classroom parties?
Did you know, if you live in the United States and your children ate a slice of pizza for lunch at school, it would count towards the recommended 5 to 10 servings of vegetables they’re meant to eat each day?
Well, maybe not the pizza itself, but the tomato paste slathered on each slice is going to continue to be recognized as produce, according to the United States congress.
Last week, the American Congress voted for a bill that keeps the pizza on school lunch menus classified as a vegetable because of the approximate two tablespoons of tomato sauce (per slice) found in the ingredients list. The Department of Agriculture wanted that amount upped to ¼ cup per serving in order for it to qualify. However, last week the US House of Representatives refuted the request and determined that as long as there is ⅛ cup of sauce per serving, it can continue to be called a vegetable.
Naturally, plenty of parents are outraged. With childhood obesity rates on the rise, they would prefer pizza and French fries be removed from lunch menus altogether, instead of being falsely categorized as healthy options. If tomato paste is considered a vegetable, is it also fair to say that a glass of wine offers a serving of fruit? And not to be picky, but a tomato is technically a fruit, so why it is being considered a vegetable is even more confusing. But I digress…
My kids don’t have a cafeteria at school, so they either pack a lunch or come home and eat with me. At least once a week I make them a pita/English muffin/panini pizza. I don’t consider that I’m feeding my kids poorly because I give them this option (which they love), but I’m also confident that I’m not offering them any fruits and/or vegetables. I serve those alongside the pizza because, let’s be honest, even a few slices of mushroom or some chopped spinach isn’t going to amount to much nutrition when used as a topping on pizza.
Do you consider the tomato sauce on a piece of pizza equivalent to a serving of vegetables (or fruit)? Are we being too sensitive? And who should decide what is acceptable for our kids to eat—the parents or the government?
My children have many friends who suffer from a variety of food allergies, most of which are anaphylactic. They occasionally come to our house for lunch and dinner, and I’ve been known to feed those kids classroom and after-school snacks. I’m very cautious when feeding them, as anyone would be.
Last week, the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences was held in Windsor, Ontario, and academics gathered to discuss everything from book censorship to brand power. For the first time, a small study was done—and shared—on the social implications of children who live with food allergies. Researchers presented that these young people often suffer from loneliness and social isolation.
The kids that were interviewed for the research (all ages 8 to 16) shared tales of the barriers that make them feel ‘different’: being invited to birthday parties and not being able to eat the food served; having to sit far away from kids who are eating possible contaminated items; needing to take the time to read ingredient labels before eating something; having to avoid most restaurants, fast food outlets and variety stores that their friends are frequenting; walking around with an EpiPen at all times; and generally feeling nervous, anxious and embarrassed over their situation.
I was saddened to learn that young kids are feeling this way but it makes sense to me. Because some of those who were interviewed are now in their early teens, I’m wondering if things have gotten better for the younger kids who suffer, due to more social awareness surrounding the allergies. Experts seem to think so, now that Ontario has passed the Sabrina Law (schools need to be trained in anaphylaxis care and have an action plan in place).
I’m curious though, if your child is anaphylactic, or suffering from any kind of food allergies, is it any better for them socially than the kids who were interviewed for the study? Is there anything that other parents and friends can do to help them feel less isolated?
When I recently set out to make a berry crisp for dessert, it struck me that the ingredients I was using weren’t all that different than those required for our favourite pancake mix. In fact, they were almost identical, which got me thinking about making fruit-based crisps for breakfast once school is back in session.
Here’s the thing—the entire recipe comes together in the time it takes your oven to preheat, and it bakes for 20 minutes, which is just about the time you need to rouse the kids from their beds/take a shower/drink your coffee/check in with Twitter, etc. Basically, it’s only six minutes of work for a hot breakfast to be had.
I swapped the traditional sugar-heavy crisp ingredients for a few tablespoons of pure maple syrup and brown sugar, and used whole-wheat flour and oats in place of the white stuff we often see in dessert. When served with a hearty scoop of protein-laden yogurt, this makes for a healthy start to the day.
I’ve used berries here because that’s what’s in season, but any fruit will work. Consider using plums in the early fall and apples and pears through the winter. Just keep in mind that the cooking time may vary depending on the fruit that’s used, but 20 minutes should be good for most varieties.
Are you starting to think about back-to-school breakfasts? What are some of your favourites to make?
Find the full printable recipe here: Back-to-School Breakfast Crisp
Are you a meal planner? While I do admit to being a little slack with my planning over the summer months, from September to June our weekly meals are laid out every Sunday with little exception. In fact, I’ve become known for my regimented preparations and, several months ago, the folks over at Food Bloggers of Canada asked me to write a primer on meal planning. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested to see how I go about choosing our meals for the week.
In addition to saving time and money at the grocery store, weekly meal planning also makes my school-night dinner prep much easier. When I’m making breakfast, I pull something from the freezer for dinner, if necessary. I also might chop a few veggies while I’m waiting for the oatmeal to cook, or I grate some cheese for the lasagna I’ll prepare later that evening. In essence, with a plan in place I can get a head start on dinner first thing in the morning. For reasons unknown to me, taking ten minutes to do some prep work usually saves me half an hour later in the day (likely because then I’m being interrupted to help with homework while I’m trying to cook).
I’d love to know, do you meal plan or do you prefer to just wing your nightly meals? If you plan, do you do it weekly or monthly? Are you interested in any printable meal plans with an accompanying grocery list? Let’s talk!
Although we recently published a list of ideas and recipes for back-to-school lunches, it’s nice to know what other moms are packing for their kids, too. Which is why we took to Facebook to ask the question, “What is your go-to lunch to pack for school?” Thankfully we received some really great answers that included tips for hiding brown spots on apples, unique dessert ideas and character sandwiches that transform the midday meal into something out of this world.
Star wars cookie cutter deli meat sandwiches with fruit, cucumbers and some homemade banana bread as a treat and water to drink!! He always comes home and tells me it was the BEST lunch ever! – Laura Lindsay
Turkey wrap, apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon (tastes yummy and hides the ‘browning’ by lunch), a thermos of water and a treat (cookie, granola bar, etc.) – Elizabeth Barone Russell
Leftovers in a thermos. Chocolate milk in a thermos. I make mini pumpkin pies for his dessert. – Abby Allthatmakesyou
My daughter has been enjoying cold cheese quesadillas with a small Tupperware of sour cream. – Elizabeth N. Harvey
She LOVES tuna sandwiches with dill pickle minced in. Must have something chocolate like a brownie and juice boxes, with grapes on the side. – Sharon Marie Cosby
Dinosaur shaped butter & jam sandwiches with cucumbers, marble cheese, yogurt and apple sauce. Water to drink. – Jennifer Fabian Gibbs
If you didn’t get the chance to share your answer, please do tell us what packed lunches your kids like best and which ones are the easiest for you to make—just comment below.