Column: Let kids have input on school lunch menu

When I was going to school in Indian Head, Sask. a few years ago , we walked home for lunch each day.

When I was going to school in Indian Head, Sask. a few years ago (well, actually a whole bunch of years ago), we walked home for lunch each day, (uphill both ways) and only the farmers’ kids had a brown bag lunch.

I was always amazed at the great lunches packed for those kids by their mom, and envied them somewhat, but then they wished they could have a nice home lunch. Do you remember the school lunches you ate for 12 years?

School doors are now open for another year so now it’s time to start thinking about packing school lunches again. This ordeal always presents a challenge for parents and kids, alike.

Parents want to provide their pride and joy with nourishing meals that will keep them healthy and thriving through the afternoon. Kids want to bring lunches that will be the envy of all their friends and that they can eat quickly enough to have some time left over for the playground. There must be a way to make everyone happy (and healthy). Mix and match.

It’s  important to give your kids some input when it comes to school lunches because, when lunchtime comes around, you won’t be there to say “three more bites before you can leave the table!”

Ultimately, your children will decide whether they’re going to eat all of their lunch, so it’s better to pack something they enjoy than have the food you packed end up in the garbage can.

Most kids love “interactive” food-dipping fruit, vegetables, crackers or bread in sauces and spreads; assembling miniature cheese and cracker sandwiches; or making tiny fruit kebabs on toothpicks. Give them some choices from each food group, and allow them to mix and match for a nutritionally balanced lunch.

The perfect bagged lunches should include enough variety to keep your kids from getting bored, but don’t be surprised if they settle on a few favourites and request them week after week.

Fruits and vegetables should be small and easy to eat like grapes, cherries, small plums, blueberries, melon cubes, baby carrots, cucumber slices, bell pepper wedges and lightly steamed broccoli florets.

Beyond sliced bread, try crackers, pita bread, corn bread, muffins, baked tortilla chips, mini bagels, tortillas or even pasta salad.

For protein, there’s good ol’ peanut butter, but the kids might also enjoy hummus, bean dip, sliced cheese, yogurt, cold cuts, tuna salad, egg salad or a thermos full of chili.

When serving tuna, egg or chicken salad, mix in shredded carrots, apples, zucchini, bell peppers, raisins or nuts — anything to add nutrition and fibre without adding lots of empty calories. With such a hearty and nutritious lunch that you know your kids will love, you can even feel good about slipping a cookie or a brownie into the bag. School lunch will never be boring again!

Crunchy Tuna Sandwiches

• 1 6.5 oz can tuna

•1 tablespoon mayonnaise

• 1 small tomato, diced

• 1 teaspoon vinegar

• 2 – 4 slices of bread (depending on how thick you like your sandwiches. Use whole wheat bread for added fiber and nutrients.)

• 1 handful potato chips

Mix together tuna, mayonnaise, tomato and vinegar. Spread on bread to make a sandwich. Pack sandwich and chips separately; add chips to your sandwich immediately before eating to preserve the crunch.

Bye for now and Goood Cooking!

Ken Wilson is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Weekend Advisor.

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