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slides: BACK TO SCHOOL 2012: 11 Easy Ways to Make Lunches Healthier

Saturday, August 25, 2012


With today’s jam-packed schedules for kids, it is essential to pack healthy lunches for your child. GoLocalWorcester asked Joy Feldman, nutritional consultant and author of Joyful Cooking in the Pursuit of Good Health  and Is Your Hair Made Of Donuts? for 10 easy ways to get children's meals up a notch.

Healthy lunches, said Feldman, "not only ensures that your young ones will stay fueled throughout the day with nutritious foods, but also helps to boost concentration and memory. For many of us, we are searching for magical foods that will not only delight our children, but also provide them with excellent nutrition. Incorporating foods that will infuse their bodies with superb fuel can be challenging, given their hyped-up romance with junk foods and fast foods. However, there are many options that are nutritious and delicious and best of all—they will not even notice."

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Ditch the white bread

Remember the days when you were in school, staring at the clock waiting for lunch and recess? After a morning in class, give them a nutritious meal. Ditch the nutrient deficient white bread and purchase corn or brown rice tortillas. Load them up with roasted chicken, and thinly sliced vegetables topped with plain yogurt or hummus. Another option is to use the tortilla with beans, shredded chicken, salsa or cheese. (Photo: USDAgov)

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Dip it

Who does not love dipping? Kids especially love to plunge their foods into a delightful creamy creation, so design a lunch that takes advantage of this natural inclination.  Start out with a small container of home-made salad dressing or yogurt with fresh herbs added, which is a perfect accompaniment to sliced vegetables and chunks of turkey. Don’t forget other toppings you could use such as well—for example, nut butters (thinned down with some water), tahini, tstazki, guacamole or even a delicious bean dip. (Photo: rmkoske)

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Easy switch-ups

On their next sandwich or wrap, add some grated carrots and zucchini, sprouts and lettuce. Add pureed peas to your next guacamole recipe.
 Steam the stems of the broccoli, puree and add to hummus or to guacamole. 
Add grated carrots and slices of cooked butternut squash to your next grilled-cheese sandwich.
 Try minced red peppers, celery, red onion and shredded carrots to your next tuna salad recipe.
 Add some spinach leaves to your homemade hummus or place store-bought hummus in your blender and add spinach leaves yourself. (Photo: KittyKaht)

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Make it cute

One way to make these healthy foods more appealing is to cuten things up! Try using skewers to put fruits and veggies on. Even making small cubes of cheeses alternating with fruits on skewers will entice the pickiest of eaters.

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Upgrade their water

Water is the healthiest option for kids, so here's a way to add some fun flavors without all that added sugar. Cut up strawberries, cucumbers, watermelon, peaches, lemons or oranges and add to a pitcher of water along with some herbs finely chopped. Put in the fridge or leave out at room temperature. Once this is made, pour into a thermos and you're all set. For herbs, consider rosemary, basil, mint and lemon balm. Another healthy quencher? Herbal teas: raspberry, hibiscus, mint, chamomile, roses, lavender and lemon balm.

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Try salads

Salads are a wonderful way to get your child to eat more of nutritious and delicious foods. Forget the iceberg lettuce and check out those dark leafy greens, such as arugula, and create some delicious salad dressing that will have your child asking for seconds. Grate or julienne carrots and zucchini, add handfuls of sprouts and mince some red bell peppers, celery and red onion to toss on top. Use tuna or diced chicken breast for protein and create your own healthy dressing, using yogurt as a base. Appeal to your child's sweet tooth by including some fruit, such as diced apple, raisins or mandarin orange sections, in his salad.

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Leverage leftovers

To pull your children out of the brown bagging blues, repurpose your leftover dinner ingredients with out experiencing any déjà vu. Take leftover tortellini and add it to a Thermos of chicken broth just before you send off your child to school. Toss in baby spinach and peas and voila, you have a nutritious and nourishing meal that is gourmet and delicious. Easy too! What about your leftover lentils, beans or grains? These foods are an excellent base for your salad. Toss in your favorite veggies and greens and voila you have a delicious lunch. (Photo: Super Healthy Kids)

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Veggie strategies

Wonderful and nutritious, these earthly marvels are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try packing on the veggies to your child’s gourmet pizza. Make your own pizza with a thin, wheat free crust followed by a thick layer of chopped up pre-cooked veggies, along with some oregano or other spices, a little tomato sauce and some tasty cheese. Kids love growing foods. How about sprouting some seeds or even growing micro greens. These vegetable confetti’s are perfect for kids-- they grow quickly and are harvested young. Once you have these treats in hand, top pizza, soups or salads with these nutrient rich foods.

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Taco tricks

Instead of filling taco shells (give those blue taco shells a try, they are high in antioxidants) with beans or pork; fill them with chopped up cooked veggies. Try adding some chicken, natural lamb, or even some sweet potato puree, cheese or a little brown rice to disguise the cooked veggies. Try taco cupcakes (left): Use a wanton wrapper in your cupcake tin and layer with proteins, veggies, or even some crushed blue corn chips and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. You can freeze them and use later when your food stash runs low.  They are pre-portioned and the cuteness factor is off the charts. (Photo: The Girl Who Ate Everything)

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Do (veggie) sushi

You might want to purchase a Bento Lunch Box for this meal. These boxes are way cuter than brown bags and fun for delighting the pickiest of kids. Try filling these compartments with sushi, nori rolls created at home. Stuff them filled with cooked veggies, brown rice and even try adding some sardines or mashed chicken. Provide some soy sauce for dipping.  Use the other compartments in your bento box for sticky rice balls, cucumber sticks, deviled eggs stuffed with vegetable purees, and some sliced fruit. (Photo: I Love Egg)

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Smart snacks

Don't give up your healthy campaign when they get home from school. Here's a great list of healthy after-school snacks.

Celery and Nut Butters
Mozzarella or cheddar cheese sticks
Rolled slices of turkey or chicken breast with a carrot on the inside
Trail Mix Nut Mixtures
Blue Corn Chips with peanut butter or hummus
Plain Yogurt with Fresh fruit
Natural Turkey Jerky or Beef Jerky
Almond butter balls rolled in puffed rice cereal
Bowl filled with lentil soups, chicken soups or chili
Organic apple with almond butter
Quinoa tabouli with blue corn chips

(Photo: kellyhogaboom)


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