I remember when Lunchables first came out. I think I must have been 5 or 6 years old. They were, like, the ‘coolest thing ever !!!’ As with all the bright, shining foods advertised on the Saturday morning cartoons, I had to have them (what’s that about the nag factor?). Unlike the sugary cereals I simply dove into for the toy and then threw into the cupboard uneaten, I really liked Lunchables. They were made for kids! They were packed so none of the food touched! I could make a cheese cracker or a cheese and ham cracker, or just a cracker! A-may-zing!
Never mind that my favourite snack was already a plate of cheese, pickles, olives, meats and crackers that I simply cut myself. Because Lunchables were pre-packed, they were BETTER. Oy…how my opinion has changed. So have Lunchables! Not just “cheese” and “meat” anymore: they contain sandwich cookies, BBQ chicken “shakers” and Kool-Aid. The cheese is processed and the meat is light on actual meat. Not exactly the lunch of champions. In addition, buying these individually packed meals is incredibly expensive and generates plenty of waste.
You know what is easy to make at home? Lunch-ables! As a kid, I appreciated being in command of ‘making’ my lunch. As an adult, the concept appeals to me because it is an easy lunch to graze on…for the (not so) rare occasions that I work through lunch. So as our focus on going unprocessed and homemade this month draws to a close, refresh your lunchtime menu and keep it simple with homemade lunch-ables.
A key strategy for helping kids enjoy their lunch is to involve them in making decisions. No, this doesn’t mean that you need to let them eat candy for lunch! Kids can customize their Lunch-ables by choosing from an assortment of healthy options that you purchase and pre-cut. Let kids (and adults!) choose at least one item from each category for a balanced lunch. If you are looking for a lunch box that will work nicely for this type of lunch, look no further.
1. Proteins: Leftover turkey, chicken or other lean meat; canned light tuna or salmon mixed with a bit of real mayo or lemon and oil; hard-boiled eggs; baked tofu; chick peas, plain or roasted; hummus or white bean dip; nut butters, cheese.
2. Veggies: My favourites include snap peas, carrot sticks, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, sliced kohlrabi or jicama, cherry tomatoes. As the weather gets cooler, you could bake up big batches of yam or squash and slice for snack-sized treats.
3. Fruit: Sprinkle apples and pears with lemon juice to help prevent browning – or try plums, blood oranges, banana, satsumas, grapefruit, berries or summer fruit (while they last!)
4. Healthy Grains: 100% whole grain crackers, pita bread or tortillas. Choose options without hydrogenated oils, preservatives or MSG.
5. Healthy Extras: dried fruit, raw nuts and/or seeds, milk or organic soy milk, plain applesauce, plain yogurt with honey and chopped fruit, homemade muffins or trail mix bars.