BY RICHARD MOOREY
PARENTS everywhere are settling back into the school routine and the kids’ groans of agony as they dutifully march back to classes in the mornings will have begun to fade away as the first couple days of the new school year have come and gone.
Of course back to school always has its challenges. The long shopping lines as parents get their young academics all clothed and stocked up with supplies followed by a small mountain of paperwork containing rules, policies, information and permission forms and of course then there is snacks and lunch.
Sometimes back to school can have your kids excited and sometimes not so much — of course it depends on your kid(s) and their perception of school.
My man is into grade eight this year and is one of those guys who is kind of on the fence about school. There are so many things he likes and is excited about returning to and certain aspects of the education experience that he’d be more than happy to skip. He is particularly excited about his new head start program where he attends Hammarskjold twice a week to take a “home ec” (home economics) class where they will be doing lots of cooking and earn an advance standing credit while they are at it.
Whether or not your kid(s) are pumped or deflated about the end of summer vacation, or somewhere in the middle like my guy, one way to make the days go easier for your studious little school goer is to pack them snacks and a good lunch that they’ll actually like eating.
Of course good eats for school lunches seems pretty obvious but it can be difficult to get straight A’s all the time when it comes to what’s in the lunch kit.
Kids these days are pretty food savvy and not only are their tastes often way beyond where we were at that age, but they are far more educated in eats than we were too. Finding a variety of cool foods that won’t get traded, given away or hidden in the lunch room trash can be a bit of a challenge but with a little insight and some imagination, is very achievable.
A great place to start is to ask your kids for their input, their opinions and perhaps a list of ingredients and foods they like to eat and you will be sure to get some great ideas that came directly from the mouths that you’re trying to feed.
If you use this info to build a weekly game plan and write out a weekly lunch menu for your child you can shop more easily, prep in advance and even get the nod of approval from your little one giving you much better odds of opening an empty lunch bag after school. Not only does having a game plan save you time in the long run but will also allow you to avoid too many repeat lunches and is a good way to keep lunch interesting and ideas fresh.
By getting little hands involved in making snacks and lunches with you is also a great opportunity to earn extra credit with your kids. Not only will many kids get a kick out of cooking and learning something new that is tasty and fun but it’s something else you can do together and very often kids who participate in making food are much more likely to eat it as they had a hand in creating it. When they help to choose the ingredients and the dish, and they help to make it, many kids will get a sense of pride through the creation of their lunch time eats and feel some ownership of the food that’s in their lunchbox — making them far more likely to eat what they’re bringing to the lunchroom.
Don’t be a total health nut. While good nutrition is truly important and educating your kids on healthy food is a task for all parents, going too hard core on the healthy eats is a sure fire way to turn most kids off of their lunches.
While it’s always advisable to get a good serving of fruits and vegetables etc., if you’re packing nothing but kelp, kale, tofu, sprouts, nutritional yeast and goji berries it’s likely to go to waste.
Instead find that balance that keeps everyone happy. A youngster who has things that they like to eat is far more likely to finish their meal than one that dreads what’s in their lunchbox.
Let your kids have a cheat day. Everyone needs a break from making the healthy and wise food choices they usually do — your kids included.
Some schools offer a hot lunch once a week that is quite often a treat like pizza, or pasta and meatballs. Make sure your kid gets a “break” day so they have something to look forward to every week that is in the realm of kid delicious.
By remembering what it was like to be a kid and what your lunchtime favourites were, you can get into a routine of keeping your kid’s lunches and snacks fun and flavourful, packed full of delicious stuff that they will want to eat.
By doing a little planning and letting your prodigy have a hand in making their academic eats, you’ll be less likely to be emptying a lunch bag into the garbage after school.
Here’s a great lunch idea to get your lunchbox repertoire started on a positive note and earn you your first A-plus of the year.
Chef House Lunch Box Taco Bar
By using small containers to store each ingredient and keeping things separate you can easily turn taco night into an amazing lunch surprise that is sure to earn you an A-plus.
2 fresh soft or hard taco shells
1 cup of prepared taco beef (cooked hamburger with taco seasoning)
1/2 cup julienne lettuce
1/2 cup Pico De Gallo
1/2 cup shredded aged cheddar
1/4 cup sour cream
Set up this lunchbox taco bar so your child can easily heat the taco beef in its own container and build hot fresh and tasty tacos for lunch. This will be a lunch that’s sure to return with empty containers after school.
Fresh and Easy Pico De Gallo
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp. lime juice from 1 lime plus zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Season tomatoes with 1 tsp. salt and toss to combine. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer or colander set in a bowl and allow to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Discard liquid.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Store in an airtight container.
Richard Moorey (aka Chef House) can be reached with email to email@example.com, through his website at www.evot.ca, or on his Facebook group Evolution of Tastitude. You can follow him on Twitter @House_74.