From The Nutritionist

Anita Shaffer, R.D.
Author:
Anita Shaffer, R.D.

Think Inside the Lunch Box – Tips for Packing Grade A School Lunches

As a young child, I remember back to school time as a very exciting time - new teachers, new friends, new challenges, and sometimes new clothes, school supplies, and maybe even a new lunch box (my very first was a metal box with a handle, decorated with Charlie Brown comic strips - it had a matching insulated bottle). I always looked forward to lunch with my classmates, and opening my lunch box to see what treasures my mother lovingly packed. Now as a mother of three children and a Registered Dietitian, I appreciate how important school lunch is to give kids the energy and nutrients they need to do their best in school, and get through their busy, often demanding day. Below are some tips you can use to pack a lunch with nutrition punch.

Make it a Family Affair.
Planning healthy school lunches your kids will want to eat is an important responsibility that you don’t have to take on all by yourself. Involve your kids - even very young children can help plan their meals, shop for food, and prepare their own school lunches as part of their daily routine. These are valuable life skills, and it can help ensure you that once your child heads to school, with a healthy meal in hand, he or she will be likely to eat and enjoy it.

Strive for Five.
Plan ahead to offer a variety of foods that provide protein, grains (especially whole grains), fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy for overall good nutritional balance. At a minimum, be sure to include three of these five food groups in every lunch you pack. Keep in mind that most kids fall short of getting enough whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in their diet, so focus on including these kinds of foods to make most of your child’s lunchtime nutrition opportunity. Consider these options when pondering what to pack:


Protein Grains (make at least ½ whole grain) Fruits Vegetables Dairy

Leftover grilled or roasted chicken, turkey, or lean beef or pork

Lower sodium deli lunch meat, such as roasted turkey or chicken or baked lean ham

Sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Peanut butter

Sunflower butter

Soy butter

Hummus

Bean dip, salsa, or salad

Nuts

Hardboiled egg

Tuna canned in water

Cubed tofu

Lentil salad

Sliced breads

Pita pockets

Tortillas

Mini bagels

Hamburger and hot dog buns

Crackers

Low fat muffins

Cold cereals

Granola

Salads made with pasta, rice, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, or cous cous

Cornbread

Pretzels

Oranges cut into slices or wedges

Sliced apples or pear (dip in orange juice or ginger ale to keep from browning)

Bananas

Fresh grapes

Other fresh cut fruit in season

Applesauce or other fruit purees

Mandarin oranges, diced peaches, pears, pineapples, or mixed fruit in shelf stable cups

Raisins or other dried fruit

100% juice or 100% juice and water drinks with no added sugar

Fresh veggies cut into sticks, strips, or coins- such as jicama, red or green peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber; broccoli florettes, fresh green beans- with peanut butter, hummus, salsa, or low fat dressings for dipping

Dark leafy greens

Sliced tomato, cherry or grape tomatoes

Hummus

Bean dip, salsa, or salad

Tomato soup or other soups with vegetables (heat and pour into a thermal container)

Tomato or vegetable juice

Leftover cooked vegetables, tossed in light salad dressing

Shelf stable milk boxes

Low fat or fat free yogurt

Shredded, sliced, or cubed reduced fat or part skim cheeses

Part skim string cheese or other reduced fat cheese sticks

Low fat cottage cheese


Choose Good Goodies.
Many kids look forward to enjoying a savory snack or sweet treat with their lunch, and there are some goodies you can pack that contribute positive nutrition to the mid-day meal. Look for foods that contain whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and compare sugar, saturated fat, and sodium content on nutrition facts panels when making your selections. There are many Campbell products that are great choices, including our:


Think About the Drink.
At school, your child can purchase low fat or skim milk as a beverage to accompany their packed lunch, and many schools also make other healthy beverages, such as bottled water and 100% juice available. If you choose to include a drink in your child’s lunch, look for shelf stable low fat or skim milk and juice boxes or pouches, or select bottled water. When selecting a juice box, look for products that contain 100% juice or a blend of juice and water with no added sugar. Our V8 V-Fusion® juice drink boxes are excellent choices. Available in three great flavors, they’re made with real vegetable and fruit juices, and each box supplies one combined serving of vegetables and fruit (¼ cup vegetables and ¼ cup fruit), and an excellent source of vitamin C, with no added sugars, artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives, and only 60 calories per box.

Keep it Fresh.
To keep meals fresh and safe to eat, it’s usually necessary to keep them cold. Insulated lunch bags help maintain cool temperatures, especially if you include a frozen ice pack. You can also freeze bottled water and juice boxes or pouches and tuck them frozen into the lunch bag. By lunchtime the drink will be thawed, and during the morning the lunch will stay cool. If you can use some fresh ideas for what to pack your elementary schooler for lunch, then CLICK HERE for a sample menu and recipe you can use as inspiration to craft your own lunchbox creations, and see how Campbell products can be part of a kid pleasing balanced diet!

Best wishes for your child’s safe, happy, and healthy new school year!

-Anita

Anita’s Bio
Anita has over 25 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Nutrition Science degree from Drexel University and completed her clinical dietetics training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. Her diverse professional experience in the food service industry includes clinical nutrition practice and management, nutrition education program development, food services systems management, and recipe and menu development for healthcare and school food service operations. At Campbell, Anita is the Senior Nutritionist supporting the North American Food Service Division. She collaborates with the Campbell foodservice team to develop and promote innovative products and menu solutions that provide balanced nutrition for food service operators in the healthcare, school, and restaurant settings.

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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.