Filling Lunches for Growing Kids
Sandwiches are convenient, and cold sandwiches are a tried and true go-to. To mix it up, try these delicious hot sandwiches!
The Hand-Crafted Meatball Sub
This one's a winner, and easy to assemble. Slice a hoagie bun and tuck sliced Swiss or mozzarella cheese inside, then wrap it for the lunch bag. Heat 6 meatballs in marinara sauce, until the meatballs are warmed through and the sauce is at a full boil. Ladle the filling into a preheated thermal food container and seal it tightly. At lunchtime, the kids can assemble the sandwich with just a few scoops.
The Sloppy Joe-to-Go
Sloppy Joes are another universal favorite that translates well to the lunch box. Fill a preheated thermal food container with hot filling and seal it tightly. Wrap up a big hamburger bun to go with it. Just like the sub, your child can assemble this sandwich just before eating. Include a knife and fork too, or you'll be reaching for the stain remover.
If you eat barbecue regularly, the leftovers make an enviable school lunch. Heat leftover pulled pork or chopped brisket in a generous quantity of sauce (thatâ€™s what will keep the meat piping-hot and food safe until lunchtime) and pack in a thermal food container. Include one or two soft buns and use separate airtight containers or bags to hold the slaw, pickles and other accompaniments.
Those Important Extras
For growing young bodies, it's a long way from breakfast to lunch and then from lunch to dinner. Supplementing the main lunch with well-chosen extras can keep them full and focused all day and reduce the allure of junk food.
Some kids are perfectly happy to eat their vegetables, while others need some convincing. Add in a salad or vegetables and dip for willing vegetable eaters. For the reluctant ones, make a wrap with plenty of veggies and a small quantity of tasty cheese or bacon.
A Healthy Dessert
Any kid will welcome a little something sweet after lunch, and a healthy dessert can help keep them out of the junk food afterward. Fruit-based is best, but homemade oatmeal cookies pack a lot of healthful fiber as well.
Kids often want and benefit from a quick nibble between classes or at the mid-morning break. Cheese and jerky snacks are good protein options, as are nuts. Granola bars and dried fruit are high in fiber and provide a quick energy boost.
Keeping it Safe
The broad rule for food safety, with school lunches as with other foods, is to keepÂ cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If you're sending milk or other perishables, pack them with a couple of frozen gel packs into the smallest insulated container that fits (extra air space speeds warming).Â If you're packing hot foods, start by preheating your thermal container for 5-10 minutes with boiling water. Then heat food right to the boiling point before transferring it to the container and seal immediately. It will cool by several degrees before lunchtime.
If you want to test your thermal container before trusting it with lunch, preheat it first for 5 minutes, empty it and refill it with fresh boiling water. Close the lid tightly and let it rest for at least 4-4Â˝ hours (a normal morning at school) before opening. Test the temperature of the water with an instant-read thermometer. A temperature near or above 140Â° F is good, while anything below 130Â° F is unacceptable.