Genius hacks to help you pack a better lunch for your kids

Genius hacks to help you pack a better lunch for your kids

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Genius hacks to help you pack a better lunch for your kids

It’s hard enough to fix food kids want to eat at home. But, what about healthy food they’ll want to eat at school?

Phoenix celebrity chef Robin Miller knows that this struggle is real.

She lovingly prepared a lunch comprised of ciabatta sandwiches, fresh salsa, adzuki bean chips, pepper Jack cheese and yogurt and was understandably “miffed” when her son Luke told her, “I threw the sandwich out.”

Why? He said it was too big.

So Miller started over. And she prepared an entire list of kid-sized, kid-friendly, grab-and-go food items that you can try in your child’s next lunch.

Best part? They’re fun and healthy, Miller says.

“I plan ahead, pack them with love and strive for a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber. I also cram in as many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as possible…”

Here are a few of our favorites, but you can find the entire list here.

We just might start packing our own lunches this way.

Grab-and-go items and how to prep them:

What

Examples

Do this

Vegetables

Bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, celery, green beans, snap peas, baby carrots

Wash and slice larger veggies into thin strips

Whole fruit

Apples, pears, nectarines, plums, grapes, cherries and berries

Wash and place smaller fruit like grapes & berries, in plastic containers so they don’t get squashed

Melon

Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon

Cube or use a melon baller. Place plastic forks alongside

Cheese

Sticks or whole cheese

Cube or wrap individual slices

Lunch meat

Turkey, ham, roast beef, bologna, etc.

Roll into “cigars.” Include packets of mustard or container of dressings for dipping (honey mustard, Ranch). Add cheese before you roll up. Swiss with turkey; Cheddar with ham

Dips and toppings

Salsa, guacamole, bean dip, hummus, cottage cheese, ranch

Portion into small bags. Single-serve containers work well, too

Stations help teach kids to prep and plan

Got a bit more time to prep? Get kids involved and let them pick and choose items to prepare wraps, soups, mini pizzas, bowls of rice or pasta, or smoothies. The pictures say it all. Easy and fun. Boom! Count me in.

Check out the video below for Miller’s demonstration.

Wrap station

Let kids tuck their favorite fillings into a flour tortilla or pita:

Seal nutrients in a wrap. Offer a variety of sandwich fillings and flour tortillas. Credit: John Samora/The Republic

  • Smoked turkey, baked or smoked ham and roast beef.
  • Swiss, Cheddar and pepper Jack cheese.
  • Baby spinach, Romaine and red lettuce.
  • Sliced tomatoes, roasted red peppers and pickles.
  • Mustard (yellow, Dijon, honey), mayonnaise, Dijonnaise and hummus (to use as a spread instead of mayo).

Mini-pizza and antipasti station

“This is a more healthful version of its prepackaged counterpart” Miller says. Kids get to choose what to pack alongside their pizza “base.” All they need to do when it’s lunchtime is spoon the sauce, sprinkle the cheese and add toppings. Don’t assemble in advance or the bread will get soggy. Do use containers or bags to keep items separate until it’s assembly time.

Kids call the shots at assembly stations. Credit: John Samora/The Republic

  • Mini whole-wheat pita pockets or whole-wheat sandwich thins.
  • Pasta or pizza sauce (pack in a small, reusable plastic container).
  • Fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini) or shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Cured meats, such as pepperoni, salami and ham.
  • Red and green bell-pepper slices.
  • Fresh or steamed broccoli florets.
  • Sliced olives.

Pasta- and rice-salad station

Complex carbohydrates plus protein and veggies. Miller says it best, and it’s what all parents hope for in their kid’s lunch. Nutrition!

You’ll need to cook a pound of spiral pasta or a cup of white or brown rice. But this is the more-preparation-required section, remember?

Kids can pick their selections and when they’re done selecting, add a light dressing, balsamic vinegar, or olive oil. Topping ideas follow the photo.

Various components can be added to pasta and rice. Credit: John Samora/The Republic

• Cubed cheese or crumbled feta cheese.

• Grated Parmesan cheese.

• Grilled chicken breast, diced.

• Hard-boiled eggs, chopped.

• Tuna chunks (from a pouch).

• Black beans (canned, rinsed and drained).

• Cherry or grape tomatoes.

• Shredded carrots.

• Shredded red cabbage.

• Diced celery.

• Diced cucumber.

• Frozen green peas (thawed).

• Sliced black olives or pitted Greek olives.

• Pickled peppers (such as banana or pepperoncini).

• Sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed and drained).

Watch: Celebrity chef Robin Miller demonstrates fun ideas for kids meals

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