AUSTIN, Texas (August 21, 2001) With the hustle and bustle of getting ready for a new school year, parents' hectic schedules allow little time to think about what to pack for lunch, an important part of children's daily nutritional intake. As an alternative to prepackaged lunches, Whole Foods Market offers quick and easy “Lunch Box Primer” ideas for well-balanced, great-tasting, kid-friendly lunches that are both convenient and nutritious.
Chef Steve Petusevsky, director of creative food development for Whole Foods Market and a single father of two, has developed a simple step-by-step plan for taking the tedium out of packing lunches by replacing it with fun and nutritious choices.
“As much as we want our kids to eat nutritious foods and as much as we want to provide a variety of lunchtime options, we tend to fall into a rut.” Petusevsky said. “Parents, it's time to think outside the 'lunchbox' to take the drudgery out of packing lunches while giving your children a nutrition boost with simple-to-prepare, delicious options.”
Just Follow the Formula
The Whole Foods Market Lunch Box Primer, a tool for planning lunches, can be broken down into five basic elements that can be easily remembered by thinking “Back To School Smart Starts:”
- “Between the Bread” – new sandwich ideas
- The Drink – in pouches, bags, bottles or thermoses
- Something Crunchy – take a natural crunch
- Something Sweet – and parents don't have to be embarrassed to pack it
- Seasonal Fruit and/or Vegetables – take advantage of nature's abundance
Between the Bread
“Between the Bread” takes a starring role in a child's lunch box and goes beyond just sliced white bread. It may be a sandwich, quesadilla, wrap, mini-pizza, leftover savory strudel or calzone. It can also be a colorful pasta salad or leftovers from last night's dinner or a steaming thermos of Whole Kids Macaroni and Cheese.
“Between the Bread” may also be as simple as a classic PB&J, but with a twist. The Whole Kids line of organic products includes peanut butter, both smooth and crunchy, made without hydrogenated oils. Instead of boring jelly, jazz-up sandwiches with Whole Foods organic mixed berry spread. Experiment with a high fiber wheat or multi-grain bread, pitas or tortillas.
One easy-to-make recipe is for a California High Roller made with fresh roasted turkey or your favorite deli meat. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over a fresh tortilla. Overlap two dry lettuce leaves or mixed field greens and a few avocado slices. Layer turkey slices over the lettuce leaves and sprinkle the shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the turkey. Sprinkle salsa over the length of wrap down the center.
Wrap the sandwich firmly by rolling the edge closest to you over itself and the filling until a pinwheel is formed. Cut each sandwich in half on the diagonal and secure with a toothpick. Serve with extra salsa for dipping. This sandwich is fun and easy to prepare and offers a change of pace from the typical sandwich.
A wide variety of juice boxes are available but parents need to read labels very carefully. Many are full of sugar, sweeteners and artificial colorings and contain little actual fruit juice. However, Whole Kids juice boxes, available in organic grape or apple, contain 100 percent fruit juice. To save money, parents may want to consider packing a small thermos of juice, lemonade, milk or soy milk. Add a small bottle of water to ensure your kids are getting enough of the “liquid of life.”
Kids crave crunchy snacks and it doesn't have to be the standard potato chip or artificially-colored cheese doodles that land in the lunch box, either. For “quick-n-easy” prepared snacks without preservatives or artificial colors or flavorings, try Whole Foods Market 365 Every Day Value brand for Veggie Chips, Cheese Curls or Cheese Puffs. Also, Whole Foods Pretzel Twists and Woven Wheat Crackers offer crunch but avoid high fat content. With the Whole Foods Tortilla Chips, try adding a small soufflé cup of mild salsa for dipping. Don't forget about the myriad of options available in the bulk department, including almonds, trail mix, sesame sticks and roasted soy nuts.
Adding something sweet to a child's lunch box doesn't have to equal “bad for you,” cautions Petusevsky.
The sweet component can be anything from dried fruit to cookies to flavored applesauce varieties. For an all-natural sweet option, try Whole Kids flavored applesauce, Whole Kids organic raisins, 365 Sandwich Crème Cookies and the delicious Whole Foods Oatmeal Currant or Chocolate Chip cookies. Try tossing in a bag of dried apple rings or strips of dried mango for variety.
Seasonal Fruit and/or Vegetables
As a rule of thumb, always try to select fruits and vegetables that are in season. Not only will they be at their peak of nutritional value but also that is when the prices are the lowest. Kid favorites include apple and oranges slices, frozen grapes, melon chunks, mixed berries, pineapple, banana slices, peaches and kiwi (simply cut in half and send a spoon). For vegetables, kids love carrots, celery, green pepper strips, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes.
Chef Steve to the Rescue
Since many parents find it difficult to be inspired each day when making lunches for school, here are some simple tips from Chef Steve to liven up ordinary lunches:
- Try a cinnamon raisin pita pocket stuffed with cream cheese and shredded carrots
- Spread all-natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread and add a banana and some chopped dates.
- Pack a toasted English muffin or a bagel with a drop of marinara sauce, melted Swiss, cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Add additional toppings.
- Hollow-out a red or green pepper and stuff it with tuna salad.
- Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese. Roll the sticks in sliced almonds for extra crunchiness or raisins (and call it “ants on a log”).
- Hollow-out an apple filled with a mixture of farmer's cheese, granola and raisins.
- Wrap thinly sliced turkey or turkey bologna around cheese sticks, dill pickles or carrot sticks
“You don't have to force your kids to eat things they don't like — just use a little creativity — to make old standbys with a new twist or create some new, delicious favorites,” advises Petusevsky. “Every child needs a nutritious lunch. With this lunch box primer, parents can help their children get a smart start to the school year.”