If you went to camp in the 1980s or ‘90s, you probably remember downing vats of sugary “bug juice,” nibbling on sandwiches of suspicious-looking cold cuts, and eating way too many campfire s’mores. Well, times have changed (except for the s’mores, of course). We asked Alex Jones, Value Chain Coordinator at Fair Food Philly, for some healthy, sustainable lunch-packing tips for food your kids will L-O-V-E.
The not-so-basic sandwich
“You want to keep lunch balanced — grains and proteins to replenish all that energy kids are burning off, with fruits and veggies for vitamins and fiber,” says Jones. “A classic sandwich works great for this.” But, this ain’t your basic bologna or PBJ. Jones suggests a Philly Muffin with smoked turkey from Koch's Turkey Farm, Conebella smoked cheddar, arugula and sour cherry preserves (or mayo and mustard for the less adventurous). “Or make it simple with PB&JAMS nut butters, Tait Farm Foods blackberry jam and a grass-fed beef stick from Birchrun Hills Farms on the side,” she says.
“I'm a big believer in leftovers, which you can remix to create some variation,” says Jones. “Dress up pasta, rice or other grains from last night's dinner with a little of your favorite vinaigrette, baby spinach, and veggies like rounds of roasted beet, grilled scallions, or sliced breakfast radishes.”
There’s nothing better than fresh, height of the season fruit. “One of my favorite memories is picking strawberries with my cousins every summer,” says Jones. “Your kids don't have to understand our food system — yet — to be on the right track in terms of eating healthy and supporting local economies, but flavor is the foundation of that.” Bonus: fruit is often cheapest when it’s at its peak.
Healthy soda? Mais oui!
As for the aforementioned, bug juice ... "I'm not a doctor," says Jones, "but I know that extra sugar isn't great for anyone." Her solution: herbal iced teas or homemade "soda" or juice — it's not as hard as it sounds. "Just add a spoonful or two of shrub — a mix of vinegar, sugar, and fruit also known as drinking vinegar." says Jones. "You can buy Tait Farm Foods' shrub at the Pennsylvania General Store in Reading Terminal Market. That way, you're controlling the sugar content, offering variety and offering an alternative to Big Soda."
A snazzy lunch box
Cuz such an epic lunch needs an equally smart carrier. Jones recommends bento boxes and tiffins, for keeping your different lunch elements separated. “And parents I know love those insulated lunch bags with built-in ice packs," she adds. "You store them in the freezer, pack them up, and they keep lunch cool all day.”
Raquel is a features editor at Metro New York, and she writes a lot about pretty and sometimes delicious things. Follow her on Twitter @RaquelLaneri.