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Healthy Packed Lunch

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Lunch is the most important meal of the day! A good lunch provides the nutrients that help you sail through the day efficiently. A balanced meal packed with all the essential nutrients at midday helps increase the attention span in school going children and in adults as well, thus allowing them to perform better.

But does lunch time mean heading to the school cafeteria or a fast food outlet near the office? Not always! One can pack lunch from home, which is, for sure, far healthier, tastier and easy on your purse. If you feel packed lunch is boring and tedious, think again! There are plenty of easy and quick lunch options available; be it for school kids or office goers or teenagers. Get creative with packed lunch ideas and be willing to experiment!


Packed lunch for school kids

Packing lunch for tiny tots is a tricky task that mothers face day in and day out. Children always like simple yet well presented, quick and non messy foods that they can finish in a jiffy and manage to accommodate 'play time' with their friends before the afternoon session begins. Hence their lunch should have a fun quotient and yet be power-packed with energy-providing nutrients. Here are some recipes to please your little ones.


Turkey tortilla rolls

1 whole wheat flour tortilla
4 turkey breasts
Grated cheese
Chopped lettuce leaves
I tsp of mayonnaise

Layer tortilla with mayonnaise, turkey breast, cheese, and lettuce leaves. Roll it tightly and cut into half. Your kid's lunch is ready to be packed.


Chicken sandwich

4 slices of whole wheat bread
1 cup of grilled chicken cut into small pieces
2 slices of cheese
1 tsp of salsa
Salt and pepper
Few lettuce leaves

In a mixing bowl put together chicken pieces, salsa, salt and pepper and mix it well until the chicken pieces are coated with the sauce and spices. Layer the bread slices with cheese slices and put the chicken mixture on top and add lettuce leaves. Cut them into triangles and pack.


Fish sticks

1 pound fish fillets (cod or tilapia or red snapper), cut into stick-size strips
¾ cup flour
2 beaten eggs
1 cup granulated oats
3 tsp of parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper each
Oil for shallow frying

Take a mixing bowl and combine fish, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Take two more bowls and put flour and beaten eggs in each of the bowls. First, coat each piece of fish with flour, then dip into beaten eggs and lastly, coat each piece thoroughly in oat mixture. Heat the oil in a large skillet and shallow fry until the pieces are golden brown.

Apart from the main course, send some accompaniments to satisfy their sweet tooth. Fruit yoghurt, baked apples or fruit custard should go down well.


Packed lunch for office goers

By packing lunch to the office, you have complete control on what you have for lunch. This is the biggest advantage of carrying lunch to the office apart from being healthy and economical. You are not an early bird and hence you are unable to cook in the morning, worry not ... prepare the lunch the night before and refrigerate. Or use the leftovers cleverly, push them inside rolls or wraps with few more interesting additions and pack your lunch.


Tuna Pita pockets

2 cans of tuna, drained
1 bell pepper finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper for taste
2 tsp tahini sauce
3 or 4 lettuce leaves

Mix together drained tuna, bell peppers, celery and onions in a bowl. Add tahini, black pepper and salt and mix well. Fill the pockets of pita bread with tuna mixture and pack.


Healthy pasta with vegetables

Cherry tomatoes cut into halves
Broccoli florets
Salt and Pepper
½ tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Packaged pasta cooked according to the directions on the packet
Grated cheese
Cilantro leaves
1/4 spoon vinegar

Slightly sauté and cook broccoli in oil, salt and pepper until it becomes mildly tender. Add onions and garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add cherry tomatoes and cooked pasta and toss until warm. Add vinegar finally and dress it up with cilantro leaves and grated cheese.


Sushi rolls

200 grams of grilled or smoked fish of your choice like Tilapia or salmon
100ml of rice vinegar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
200 grams Japanese rice
5 Nori sheets, roasted
2 tsp of pickled ginger
Few zucchini strips, cucumber sticks
2 glasses of water

Bring water to boil and put the washed rice in it. Cover the pot with the lid stirring the rice occasionally. Allow it to boil for 10 minutes and switch off the flame. Let the rice stand for 10 more minutes. Drain off the excess water. Dissolve the sugar and salt in rice vinegar and mix it into the rice. Spread this rice thinly on a Nori sheet. At the center, put pickled ginger, arrange zucchini, cucumber, and fish and roll them into tight rolls. Cut each roll into 3 or 4 pieces with sharp knife and pack.


Packed lunch for teenagers

Don't let your teenage kids fall prey easily to eating junk food on a regular basis for lunch. Make packed lunch a habit so that you can incorporate all the important food groups loaded with calcium and iron to provide them essential nutrition. Low-fat dairy, whole grains, meat, fruits and veggies in right proportions will ensure optimum growth and good health.


Meat balls in spicy sauce

2 tablespoon of olive oil
½ onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ lb of minced beef
½ cup grated Reggiano cheese
2 medium eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup spaghetti sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Take a pan and pour half a spoon of oil. Once the oil is heated, sauté the onions and garlic for two minutes. Switch off the flame and wait for it to cool. Take a bowl and mix together ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, pepper, garlic and salt. Add onion garlic to this mixture. Shape this mixture into medium sized balls. Take a skillet and pour 2 spoons of oil in it. Once the oil is heated drop the ball one, shallow fry until they turn brown from all sides. Add in spaghetti sauce and keep stirring for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and pack.

This can be eaten with simple spaghetti, just cooked and dressed with little olive oil and herbs of your choice. Combine this main course with fruit salad to make the lunch wholesome.


Crab cakes

16 oz lump crabmeat (preferably blue crab meat)
¾ cups dry breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp finely chopped parsley
3 tsp finely chopped green onions
11/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp of paprika
2 tsp salt
Olive oil for frying

Take the crabmeat and carefully remove the pieces of shell and cartilage if any. In a mixing bowl, add crab meat, parsley, pepper, green onions, salt, and paprika, dry mustard, egg, breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Divide the mixture into equal portions and shape them into oval cakes. Arrange them on a flat plate and refrigerate for some time. After removing from the freezer, fry them on both sides in oil or butter until they turn golden brown.

You can relish these wholesome crab cakes with Tzatziki Greek yogurt, cucumber, olive oil and few spices, garlic and dill).


Banana pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
150 ml skimmed milk
2 eggs
2 medium sized bananas mashed
2tsp baking powder
Salt
2 tsp thick cream
Butter to toast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp honey

Take a mixing bowl and combine the flour, sugar, honey, bananas, baking powder and salt. Take another bowl and whisk together eggs, cream and milk. Pour this mixture on the flour mixture and make a smooth batter. Lightly grease the skillet with butter and heat it. Pour the batter on the heated skillet little at a time and spread it by rotating the skillet gently. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on both sides till the pancakes turn golden brown. They are ready to be packed. They can even be topped with chopped strawberries or few nuts. These pancakes can be served with grilled vegetables.


Grilled vegetables

1/4 cup green onions
1/4 cup red peppers
1/4 cup eggplant
1/4 cup yellow peppers
1/4 cup green zucchini
10 gms paprika
2 tsp olive oil
10 ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Wash all the vegetables thoroughly and cut them into long strips. Coat them with oil, salt paprika, and pepper and grill them in an oven until they are done. Drizzle lemon juice on the vegetables once they are cooled. Salad is ready to be packed.


Healthy packed lunch tips


  • Try different types of sandwiches. You can experiment with different types of bread (rye, pumpernickel, flax or zucchini), or go in for bagels or tortilla wraps. Use a cookie cutter or cut your sandwiches in fun shapes for kids. Flatten your bread slices with a rolling pin and make pinwheel sandwiches.

  • Make exciting salads by adding color and crunch, mayonnaise, corn, cucumber, pasta, sliced turkey or ham.

  • Try out mini meals - mini burgers, mini pizzas and the like. You can make use of leftover chili, lasagna and casserole. Small foods are much easier for kids to handle and cater to their mini appetites too!

  • Stock up on yogurt and cheese, fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. Buy trail mix or better still make your own one with dried fruits, unsalted nuts, pretzels, and baked crackers.

  • Plan out your packed lunch menu in advance so that you can avoid the morning rush. In fact you can even plan out every Sunday for the coming week. You can even get the kids to suggest ideas.

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