If you're like most parents, packing school lunch for the kids can be a fraught experience: Are you sending them with enough food? Too much? Were you supposed to include an ice pack? Will your children hate you forever because everyone else's parents let them have pudding snacks?
To solve these dilemmas once and for all, we've enlisted the help of Chef Bill Telepan, who's something of an expert on such matters. In addition to being a professional chef and father to nine-year-old Leah, he also serves as the executive chef for Wellness in the Schools, a New York City-based initiative that seeks to make schools healthier environments for kids. So, he spends his fare share of time thinking about school-day nutrition.
Without further ado, here are Telepan's tips for packing a school lunch that you - and maybe even your kids - can be proud of.BACK TO SCHOOL: How to Dress Your Kid >>
1. In terms of what to pack, just think about what your kids eat for a weekend lunch, and pack something similar. The basic format that I follow is a sandwich, a piece of fruit, some type of raw vegetable like carrot sticks or cucumber slices, and a drink.
2. For sandwiches, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, but try to use whole-wheat bread and all-natural fillings. There's nothing wrong with PB&Js, as long as you use all-natural peanut butter.
3. All they need for a drink is water. Yes, water. No soda, no juice. Those things are too high in sugar. If you want them to have milk, give them a little money and they can buy it at school.
4. Avoid anything that needs to stay cold to be safe, like milk, yogurt, and mayonnaise. It never hurts to throw in an ice pack with their lunch, but stuff like sandwiches (without mayonnaise), cut vegetables, and fruit should be able to stay at room temperature for half a day without an issue.
5. When it comes to junk food, just don't include it. Sure, they'll complain, but they'll get over it. What I see a lot with my daughter is that I don't give her junk food and she'll end up with it anyway. Other kids bring it in and they'll share. You can't control everything that they eat, but for what you can control, keep it healthy.
6. You can ask your kids what they want for lunch, and compromise. Some good sweets to give them as a treat, other than fruit, are a couple squares of dark chocolate, or something like a homemade cookie. Just try to steer clear of processed foods.
7. If you want an alternative to sandwiches, pasta salad is a good idea. Sauté broccoli, green beans, and/or peppers, then add some chicken with or without tomato sauce or pesto for added flavor. You can make it on a Sunday and it will last most of the week.
8. Chili is also a good one. Use whatever recipe you like. Just remove any ingredients that will make it spicy. Chili freezes well, so you can make a big batch and it will give you lots of lunches. When you're ready to use it, reheat the chili to 160 degrees and then pop it in a thermos with some brown rice.
EXTREME GRILLING: 8 Chef Recipes to Upgrade Your Cookout >>Photo Credit: Vintage Images/Getty Images
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