School has started, and with it the rote task of making lunches has begun.
Unsure what to make and short of time, many of us revert to the “assembly line” lunch: mini yogurt, juice box, granola bar, cheese string or pepperoni stick, fruit snack.
While individually these choices are okay, the lunch as a whole is high in simple carbohydrates (sugar) and low in protein, fat, fiber, and many minerals and vitamins.
Although convenient, the lunch does not provide good food value for your money and creates more garbage.
For example, my daughter loves the mini yogurts with princesses on the package, but paying a dollar for a tablespoon of yogurt in a lot of packaging seems like a waste.
And while granola bars are always a favourite, most of the “nut-free” varieties are not much better than a chocolate bar.
For those of you prepared to designate an hour of prep at the beginning of the week, here are some ideas to upgrade your “assembly line” lunches:
Hard boiled eggs – Many kids love hard-boiled eggs; they are inexpensive, nutritious and can be kept for a week in your fridge. If peeled, they should be eaten within five days.
Cheese cubes – making your own cheese cubes is generally cheaper than buying cheese strings or slices.
Veggie sticks – taking a little time to chop and prepare veggies once a week is probably the best way to increase your veggie intake. They should last three to five days in your fridge, if stored in an air-tight container and grabbing a handful for lunches becomes easy. You can add a squeeze of your favourite dip as well.
Yogurt – Flavoured yogurts contain a lot of sugar. One solution is to “dilute” your yogurt by mixing one carton of plain yogurt with one carton of your favourite flavoured yogurt. Spoon out in individual Tupperware containers and they are ready to go.
Trail mix – many schools are nut free, but you can still make a mix of dried fruit and seeds such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Dried cereal, pretzels or tiny crackers can also be added to make it more appealing. Store in a large air-tight container.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.