Building a better lunch
The school bell tolls, and it's back to the old routine. Try some new tricks for your youngster's lunch.
By JANET K. KEELER
Published August 3, 2005
What's that you hear?
It is alarm clocks, school buses and a collective whine as the new school year kicks in.
Yes, today. Pinellas County kids are in class this morning; Hillsborough on Thursday. Pasco, Hernando and Manatee students return Monday; Citrus is back to school on Aug. 10.
As the school year goes, so goes the continuing discussion of school lunches. You know, the jawing and hand-wringing that has gone on since parents trudged up the hill in the snow, both ways, to get to the one-room schoolhouse.
Will Junior eat the fruit in his lunch bag? Is it better to take or buy? Can Brittney survive on a PB&J sandwich every day? How much time is there to eat? How much food ends up in the trash? Are homemade cookies still a good trade for a candy bar?
If only the worry ended with the purchase of school supplies.
Truth is, most parents never know what's eaten in the lunchroom. And anymore, the midday break is also part social time, which means the food is eaten at lightning speed.
One strategy is to focus on breakfast and dinner, and hope the lessons taught there spill over to the noon hour. (Or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., whenever your kid has lunch.) If children bookend their days with quality food, a lapse at lunch doesn't take on disproportionate significance.
If you're sending lunch, think about the different food groups and how you can sneak them in. An all-carb lunch will create an afternoon crash, so watch the sandwich-chips-cookie trilogy toted to school so often.
Popular soft-side carriers have plenty of room for ice packs to keep food and drink cold. Don't forget insulated containers for hot food. Yes, it is retro, but a Thermos of chicken noodle soup is comforting, especially in a loud cafeteria.
Also, consider drinks. There are lots of empty calories plus carbohydrates in sugary drinks. Flavored waters are a good choice, but the best of all may be low-fat chocolate milk.
Since school begins in August in Florida, there are lots of fresh fruits in season including strawberries, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, watermelon and nectarines. Pack what your child likes. Later in the year, look for tangerines and other easy-peeling citrus.
Stock up on plastic utensils and containers in various sizes for salads, dressings, dips or other foods that need more protection than a plastic bag.
Most important, get your children involved with the planning and packing. If he eats asparagus at dinner, what's to say he won't have cold spears with dip at lunch? You won't know if you don't try.
- Janet K. Keeler can be reached at 727 893-8586 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT'S FOR LUNCH?
A week's worth of totable school lunches:
Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich
Chicken Caesar salad, dressing packed separately
Corn bread muffin
Buy or send milk
Chicken salad pita sandwich, with tomatoes and/or lettuce packed separately
Veggies with Ranch dip
Chili and tortilla chips
Small chocolate chip muffin
Baked chicken drumstick
Trail mix of nuts, raisins, minichocolate chips, minimarshmallows
Low-sugar juice drink
[Last modified August 2, 2005, 09:45:05]
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