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Kids & Cheese: Packed Lunches

Girl eating a packed lunch of grilled cheese in a classroom

In this blog series, Erica discusses ways to introduce children to the diverse flavors of cheese. Starting with the challenges of new and unfamiliar cheeses on a young palate and moving through ways to make try new foods fun, she will explore expert advice, nutrition facts, and a world of recipes with the goal of making cheeses of all kinds accessible to kids. Last week, we talked about introducing your children to new cheeses, and Erin won a free issue of culture! Follow along and try some of the tips in these post to see if we can get your child from string cheese lover to stinky cheese lover, and comment below for your chance to win a copy of the magazine or a deliciously cheesy giveaway.

It’s not quite back-to-school time yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to pack your kids the most nutritious, delicious lunches – whether it be for summer camp, a picnic, or a day at the beach.

Packing a healthful lunch for your kids can be difficult, especially in those wee hours of the morning when all you want to do is go back to bed. When you’re racing to get yourself and your crew out the door on time, it’s tempting to shove a pack of ever-popular Lunchables in their bag and call it a day. But don’t give up yet – creating a healthy, packed lunch for your kid can be easy, if you know some good tips and tricks. Plus, it’s the perfect way to introduce your child’s palate to some fun, new cheeses.

The Gear

Finding the right lunch box or bag is important. A leaky, un-insulated bag can ruin not only your food, but your mood, too. This bag from Lunch Sense comes stocked with removable containers and an ice pack. The best part? It folds flat, giving your kids a mat to eat on and ensuring an easy cleanup for you.

Containers are key too, especially if you’re planning on packing creamy, soupy, or other potentially messy foods. This food container from Lock & Lock is completely airtight with a four-hinge locking system. Plus, it’s BPA-free and microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe. And if you want to pack hot food for your kids, you’ll need a Thermos. This sixteen-ounce one by Thermos keeps food hot for seven hours, and cold for nine. It’s made of unbreakable steel too, so no matter how much your kids toss it around, this Thermos is here to stay. 

The Food

As we’ve discussed previously in this series, pushing food boundaries is fine as long as you don’t go too fast or too far. Keep in mind what your children are already comfortable with and only take small steps outside that comfort zone with each lunch. By including your kids’ favorites, you combine the familiar with the unknown and make it more likely lunch will actually be eaten. Here are some fun lunch ideas:

Homemade Lunchables: These highly processed, well-beloved lunches allow kids to “make” their own food and use their imaginations. But they’re not the best choice when it comes to taste and nutritional value. The Turkey and Cheddar Stackers, for example, have 1100 milligrams of sodium, or a whopping 45% of an adult’s recommended daily intake. 

There’s an easy solution for this one: Make your own! Substitute rubbery squares of processed cheese for the real deal. Try introducing a different kind of cheese every couple of weeks, starting with a mild, creamy cheese like Havarti or a sweet treat like aged Gouda. Pack a stack of whole-grain crackers, a favorite cubed fruit or veggie sticks, and a couple of squares of dark chocolate for dessert. 

Turkey & Cheese Pita Pockets: Most kids love the texture of creamy cheese, such as Boursin. Spread it in a whole-wheat pita and stuff with sliced turkey, spinach leaves, and cucumbers. The taste will be mild, herbaceous, and meaty. Most of all, it provides your kids a healthy serving of veggies and dairy.

Grilled Cheese: This is always a favorite among kids, but the option is often dismissed for packed lunches. Won’t grilled cheese get soggy throughout the day? Not if you pack it right. Momables suggests letting the grilled cheese cool completely before putting it in a lunchbox, which will prevent sogginess. Here’s a healthy, delicious recipe to follow if you’re feeling adventurous. Your kids will love the flavor and texture, and you’ll love the health benefits.

For more inspiration, check out the Lunch Box Blues blog. J. M. Hirsch chronicles the lunches he’s packed his son over the past five years. The best part? They’re not always perfect! Because nobody is, and sometimes that’s just fine.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of culture magazine... or a kid-friendly prize of Wisconsin cheese!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of culture magazine… or a kid-friendly prize of Wisconsin cheese!

Do you have a system for making sure everyone gets out the door with lunch every day? Share your ideas in the comments below and you might win a copy of our summer issue! Plus, one lucky commenter will be chosen from all the commenters in this series to win a kid-frindly prize package of cheese from the Wisconsin Milk marketing Association. Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. on July 10th, 2014 to be eligible to win.

Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Erica Mixon

Erica Mixon is an editorial intern at Culture. Mixon is also the arts editor of Emerson College's student-run newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon, and editor in chief of an upcoming human resources blog, HRTalentManagement. While Erica is not editing or writing, she enjoys spending time in her hometown of Ogunquit, Maine.

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