Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Meredith Goad firstname.lastname@example.org
If anyone should know how to pack a healthy school lunch, it would be Dr. Dora Anne Mills, former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention – and a recently converted "veganish" vegetarian.
Reusable lunch containers even the brown paper variety can handle multiple reloads, and are good for the planet.
HEALTHY LUNCH BAG ITEMS FROM ERIN DOW, Guiding Stars Expert Chef:
• Kashi Go Lean Crunch (2 Guiding Stars)
• Triscuit Hint of Salt Crackers (3 Guiding Stars)
• Kashi TLC Trail Mix Soft Baked Cookie (1 Guiding Star)
• Goldfish Cheddar Baked 100 Calorie Snack Crackers (1 Guiding Star)
• FruitaBu Grape Smooshed Fruit (2 Guiding Stars)
• Flat Out Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Wraps (2 Guiding Stars)
• Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Flour Pita Bread (1 Guiding Star)
• Fruits and vegetables (most produce earns 3 Guiding Stars)
• Chobani Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt (3 Guiding Stars) (This makes a great base for healthy dips.)
FOR MORE OF ERIN DOW'S recipes, go to: GuidingStars.com
WORRIED ABOUT PLASTICS? Check out the "Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies" put together by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice for help finding PVC-free products – including school lunch bags. The guide can be found at chej.org.
Yet every year, she still struggles to find good-for-you foods that her children, ages 9 and 12, will actually eat. She has even dreamed up her idea of the perfect school lunch: It's plant-based, as fresh as possible, very low in fat and high-fructose corn syrup, has gone through little processing, is environmentally friendly and served in a reusable container (and lunch box).
And, oh yes, it can be prepared in five minutes the night before.
"There are days I look in my kids' lunches, and I see a lot of the opposite," Mills said.
Still, she and other parents have found creative ways to serve their children foods they like, in packaging that will ensure their lunch makes it safely to lunchtime even if they don't use insulated lunch bags.
Erin Dow of Winthrop is another busy mom who has the added challenge of packing her three children, ages 11, 9 and 6, lunches that are not only good for them but are also nut-free. Dow is a caterer and the expert chef for the Scarborough-based Guiding Stars program, which awards foods in the grocery aisles zero to three stars based on their nutritional value.
Her children's school recently went nut-free, and "a lot of parents and friends freaked out because they didn't know how they were going to get protein without peanut butter."
"I don't have a problem getting fruits and vegetables into my kids," Dow said. "They'll eat them all day. But it's the proteins that are going to make them grow tall."
Turn the page to get some ideas from these two moms that might help other time-starved parents pack a healthier school lunch this fall.
• Most kids like trail mix, but if they can't eat nuts, most of the trail mixes in the store won't do. Dow makes her own trail mix, starting with a base of protein-rich Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal. Then she adds in dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, dried cherries and cranberries, and even a few dark chocolate M&Ms.
"I think of the trail mix as like the chicken breast that would be on my plate at dinner, except it's a kid thing," Dow said. "It's sweet, it's crunchy, it's fun, it's tactile, it's colorful, and all of those elements I find help improve consumption in children as well. If it looks cute, they're more likely to eat it."
• Yogurt and cream cheese are two of the items Dow says she'd be least worried about spoiling in an uninsulated lunch box. But if you don't want to take any chances, buy some of those tubes of yogurt sold for children and pop them in the freezer.
"If you freeze those and stick them in the lunch box frozen, by the time they eat lunch at 11 o'clock, they'll be thawed and they can just kind of shake them up and they're good as new," Dow said. "If they're still frozen, then they just think that you gave them frozen yogurt, which is even better."
• Blend a smoothie with yogurt and fresh fruit and pour into a canning jar, leaving a little room at the top for expansion. Freeze the smoothie. As it thaws in the lunch box, it will keep any other perishables cold. (Dow sends a lot of her children's food to school in canning jars to stay away from plastics and disposable packaging. "I've found that really the only way you can break them," she said, "is if you drop them squarely on their bottom, and that rarely happens.")
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Dr. Dora Anne Mills