The Ultimate Backpack Lunch
Summer is coming to an end and the new school year is starting. With all the children returning to school, we are once again confronted with the issue of what to pack your child for lunch. If your children don't like the school lunches or you feel the need to pack a more nutritious lunch for your child you will run into the challenge of packing something different every day. The tips below will also help you pack a fabulous lunch for day hikes or day-long outings.
The ultimate backpack lunch should be nutritious simple and -- most importantly -- delicious. There are a few items which make packing backpack lunches much easier. Firstly, an insulated lunch box gives you much more leeway in items that you can pack. They keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold much more effectively than a brown paper bag. In addition, a good stainless steel thermos allows you to pack warm foods such as homemade soups and noodles.
An average backpack lunch usually contains a piece of fruit, maybe some vegetables, a sandwich, perhaps a snack and a treat. To make an average backpack lunch the ultimate backpack lunch you really only need to spice-up these items a bit. The ultimate backpack lunch is a packed lunch that you look forward to with delight rather than ambivalence.
A balanced lunch should always contain fruit. Many packed lunches simply contain a whole piece of fruit. A simple method of spicing this up is to slice the fruit rather than packing the whole fruit. If you are slicing apples you should always remember to mix a slight amount of lemon juice with the apple slices, as this prevents them from going brown while waiting to be eaten.
Another excellent way to spice up the fruit portion of lunch is to use dried fruit instead of fresh fruit. Unsweetened dried fruits are healthy, but are more like a treat than many types of fruit. You can also find new types of fruit to pack in your lunches. I especially enjoy packing a kiwi, sliced in half, so I can eat the kiwi fruit out of the skin with a spoon.
Instead of packing potato chips or pretzels, try packing a nice trail mix. Nuts are a very healthy snack and are especially good for packed lunches as they provide plenty of energy. If you have the time, visit your local market's bulk food section. You can purchase your favorite types of nuts as well as dried fruits if you want something a little sweet. I suggest a mixture like this:
1/2 cup each peanuts, pecans, almonds, and walnuts
1/4 cup each raisins, golden raisins, dried halved apricots, dried pineapple pieces, and dried mango pieces
1/2 cup unsweetened banana chips
1/2 cup mixed dark chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and white chocolate chips
You can mix whichever types of ingredients you like best. If you or your children enjoy certain types of fruits and nuts, use more of these. When you mix up you trail mix, make enough to last for a week or so.
Another good snack idea is to pack yogurt and perhaps some granola. If you have some small plastic or glass containers, you can purchase a quart sized container of your favorite flavor of yogurt, then pack an individual serving of yogurt for lunch. Adding a small bag of granola adds a little more substance to the yogurt. I would suggest mixing banana-flavored yogurt with plain granola
You should try to make sure you pack a good serving of whole grains in your daily lunch. A nice alternative to the traditional sandwich is whole grain crackers. You can use your basic sandwich ingredients and eat them with crackers instead of bread. I enjoy sharp cheddar cheese and ham or salami. For the ultimate backpack lunch, make a nice tuna curry to spread on your favorite crackers.
12 oz tuna, drained
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp curry powder
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Sautee the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the garlic, tuna and curry powder. Continue to cook until the ingredients are mixed and thoroughly heated. You can serve this hot or cold, but it is especially good served warm on crackers. As always you should adjust this recipe to fit the flavors that you like best. The best way to find recipes you love is it to experiment with the ingredients and their proportions.
These are just a few simple suggestions that can spice-up any backpack lunch. I have also found that packing leftovers can be an enjoyable lunch. A thermos full of soup is a great lunch. I hope you can use a few of these suggestions to create a truly delicious backpack lunch.