With so little time and so much to accomplish, it’s difficult to do everything that we’d like to do in caring for our children. If we could, many of us would cook every meal for them ourselves, from scratch, take educational vacations, and spend our free evenings reading and discussing the classics. Obviously this isn’t even remotely possible (or desirable), but there’s one very basic thing we should try to do as often as possible: prepare food that is healthy and nutritious. Feeding our children well is the most important thing we can do to ensure they lead healthy lives later on. Packing homemade lunches will establish good eating habits that will last a lifetime. Making lunch every day—before lunchtime, no less—can seem like a daunting task, as it adds one more thing to our morning to-do lists, but eating a good lunch is so important for a growing child that the effort involved comes to seem negligible. Far better than letting them fend for themselves in the cafeteria lunch line, sending our kids to school with a well-balanced meal ready to eat allows us to show them, by example, how to eat healthfully. They’ll carry that experience with them when they leave home to navigate the world of food on their own.
Every Sunday evening, I roast half an organic turkey for a week of school lunches. Turkey is a light, healthful protein perfect for sandwiches. Try fresh roasted turkey on sourdough, with thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, a thin smear of brie or a slice of Swiss cheese, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Or turkey with a thin spread of tart berry jam on dark whole-grain bread. Make turkey salad with the smaller bits at the end of the week—add a few pinches of curry powder and some raisins for a retro version.
Reheated pasta or homemade soup can go into a small stainless steel Thermos for a hot lunch. I also keep a supply of healthy treats like granola bars, raisins, and organic crackers on hand. The vegetable bin in the refrigerator is always filled with organic baby carrots, celery, and Washington State organic apples.
A healthy lunch says “I love you” in so many ways. For my eleven-year-old, it’s a reminder during the school day that I’m there with her. After all, food is love. What better way to express care than by preparing a homemade lunch that is full of good food?
* Pack small thermal containers for hot meals.
* Warm up leftovers in the morning, and they’ll stay hot until lunchtime.
* Keep small bags of blue gel ice in the freezer and pack one in with cold lunches to keep them fresh and safe.