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Easy and healthy packed lunches

06 July 2017

By Jo Campos

Picky kids? Bored with the lunch boxes you prepare for the boss and their kids to take to work and school?

This could be a challenge, especially if what we’re after is food that is both appetizing and healthy. The solution to this dilemma is to plan the week’s menu ahead of time so you avoid stress. This will also give you more time to do the grocery shopping and stock up on the ingredients.

A sure tip: healthy salads and sandwiches are always a hit with adults who watch their weight. And picking the right veggies and the various dressings that could go with them will help you add figurative spice to their daily “baon”.

Another thing to remember is to ensure that the food you prepare conforms with the particular diet that they follow. Therein lay more challenges, unless you prepare well in advance, for there are a great number of diets followed by people nowadays.

One example is the gluten-free diet, which could be not just a fad, but a health concern. People allergic to gluten could develop celiac, a serious illness that could lead to death.

Gluten is the composite protein present in wheat, rye, and barley. This particular protein gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise, keep its shape, and provide a chewy texture. Gluten is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including bread and baked goods, pasta, cereal, many dressings and sauces, and beer. This means choosing gluten-free bread for your sandwich, and ensuring the other ingredients you use do not contain wheat, rye or barley.

Other diets, mostly for slimming purposes, are just fads, and come with suggested amount of serving or calorie count so the person in charge of the kitchen is best advised to plan and do some research even before doing any kind of food preparation.

Kiddie meals are far easier to prepare, but it could be a challenge if the child is picky. My take is to make them get used to eating vegetables and fruits from an early age so packing a nutritious lunch for them when they start going to school would be less of a hassle.

The biggest challenge to packing food for young kids is to make the lunch box look appetizing each day so they don’t complain about getting “bored” with their meals. There are a variety of ways to make the food more appealing to a kid. For example, (1) make small sandwich roll ups with flatbreads and some lettuce or other greens and thinly sliced ham with a bit of honey mustard dressing. Cut them in small round shapes to make them look like sushi, which most kids love. (2) Shape small sandwiches with different shapes using cookie cutters.  (3) Dip fresh baby carrots and cucumber sticks in peanut butter or nutella to make a crunchy and healthy fresh veggies, or spread a thin layer of peanut butter or cream cheese on thinly sliced apples, a few grapes on the side for an appetizing light lunch for the kids. (Word of caution, do not use peanut butter if the kid is allergic to nuts). A yummy alternative is strawberries dipped in melted chocolates.

The possibilities are endless if you’d just let your imagination run. Is the kid a big fan of some cartoon show? Be creative and shape your sandwiches into his or her favorite cartoon or book character. Search the internet for some great ideas like doing bento lunches, or sending them off with fried rice mixed with veggies and other healthy ingredients in their lunch box. Finally, make sure to pack in fruits or fresh fruit juice to complete their meal for the day.

These lunch ideas are also suitable for adults, especially those who need something to perk them up during a hectic day.

But with adults, the choices could be more extensive. Have leftover roast chicken from last night’s dinner? Pack it on top of a Caesar’s salad, or turn into a healthy veggie and chicken wrap. Good for roast beef leftovers, too! How about an Asian inspired sandwich? The spicy, tangy veggie-loaded Vietnamese baguette or Bhan Mi will surely impress the boss! Pesto pasta, pizza rolls, frittatas, pork chop burgers… there are so many ways to make lunch boxes an exciting treat.

Go ahead, challenge yourselves. Remember, a happy cook is one who “ creates food out of love.”

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