Packing a Healthy Lunch (for a trip to the zoo!)

Packing a Healthy Lunch (for a trip to the zoo!)

We’re going to the zoo today!  My parents are visiting, so there will be 3 generations going to see the animals.  I can’t wait!  Our kids love seeing the animals and at our local zoo they are really well cared for.

But what to pack for lunch? Of course the kids will have breakfast before they go, but then they need morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack. (And probably another snack or two in there! My kids are good eaters.) We’re planning on doing a beach day later this week, too, so I’ll be packing a couple of meals for big outings this week. What to pack?

The most important thing is, of course, for it to be healthy! But I also want a few treats thrown in to make this zoo day with the grandparents even more fun (and also to have on hand in case I need to bribe them to behave or quiet them down – parenting tactics I’ll admit to using!).  So I need a good balance between healthy and tasty.

The first order of business is lunch. For my main course for the kids, I’ll turn to the trusty sandwich. Sandwiches are quite possibly the best on-the-go meal for kids (although banana-oat pancakes come in a close second!).  For my boys I’ve selected a whole grain black Russian bread.  I’ll admit it’s not homemade, but some day I will master the art of making it at home and I’ll tell you all about it!  I’ve decided on peanut butter sandwiches using 100% pure organic peanut butter.  I don’t want to use jam or jelly, as they are almost always full of sugar.  When I figure out a way to make one sugar-free, I’ll post that, too! Until then, my boys don’t mind a plain peanut butter sandwich, especially when it’s on black bread.  My toddler calls it “chocolate bread,” bless his heart!

If you're making a sandwich, be sure to pick the healthiest whole-grain bread you can find - choose one your kids enjoy. Today there are seemingly infinite options.  Then pick a healthy filling.  100% pure organic nut butter is great. Make sure the peanut butter you're using has only one ingredient: peanuts! Kids do not need salt, sugar, or oil added to their peanut butter. If your kids are allergic to peanuts, try almond butter. If they're allergic to nuts, consider a filling like coconut butter. Or, if you have Aussie kids like I do, Vegemite!

If you’re making a sandwich, be sure to pick the healthiest whole-grain bread you can find – choose one your kids enjoy. Today there are seemingly infinite options. Then pick a healthy filling. 100% pure organic nut butter is great. Make sure the peanut butter you’re using has only one ingredient: peanuts! Kids do not need salt, sugar, or oil added to their peanut butter. If your kids are allergic to peanuts, try almond butter. If they’re allergic to nuts, consider a filling like coconut butter. Or, if you have Aussie kids like I do, Vegemite!

With the sandwich out of the way, I had to consider a side dish and some snacks. Of course, fruit!  I keep a couple of apple slicer/corers handy so there’s always a (clean) one around when I’m looking for it.  Apples and pears can be sliced into easy-to-hold slices and with a sprinkle of lemon juice won’t brown. Apples are hard enough they won’t smush even in a ziplock bag, but softer fruits like pears need to go in a box or snack cup.  We use Munchkin Snack Catchers, Snack Cups, which, at just $6 for two of them, are worth far more to me than I paid for them.  I find them perfect for small, bite-sized fruits and veggies like berries or grape tomatoes.  Or for grapes. This weekend, I happened to get my hands on some gorgeous grapes, so dark they look almost black.  Just think of all the antioxidants they contain! And, best of all, my kids love them. Today’s snack is definitely going to be grapes.

Midnight black grapes

Now, I just have to fill out the rest of my snacking repertoire! In case the kids are extra hungry at lunch, I added some cheese omelet.  Omelets travel well and are delicious cold. They can also be cut into easy sizes for kids to hold and munch on.   Because we’re vegetarian and I don’t really like nuts (a taste I am slowly trying to acquire) we do tend to eat quite a lot of eggs as a main protein. I also put in some French toast, made with homemade raisin bread. That’s a treat! Instead of sweetening it as some people do, my mom adds a drop of pure vanilla essence, which has the effect of making it taste sweeter without actually being sweetened.  The raisins also add an element of sweetness.  For more special treats (and backup bribery), I also included some whole wheat sesame rings, 100% pure fruit leather, and a mozzarella stick.  Our kids get very little dairy but they love it, so for each of them half a cheese stick would be a fantastic treat.

A healthy kids' lunch for our trip to the zoo

Voila! A healthy lunch with lots of healthy snacks for eating all day long.  My kids will have plenty of energy and will be happy as can be. Now, I’m off to the zoo!