We tested the lunchbox workhorse: insulated containers
Just as we are getting back into the school routine, the busy elves over at our food writer Janet Keeler's kitchens have tested the insulated containers to see if they keep soup hot or if the leftovers were only lukewarm.
Her buying advice after all that testing: Buy the best container you can afford and make sure it suits your needs. Open it up at the store and look at the serving cup lid. Does it come with a spoon (and can you keep up with it)? Inspect the opening and make sure it's wide enough to clean and load. Ask yourself: Is it the right size for my child's lunch box? Does it hold enough food for my teenager? Will my kindergartener be able to open it easily?
And, lastly, crank up the heat on the food before it goes in. That way, no one will eat tepid gumbo again.
I also really liked Janet's lunch packing tips:
• Introduce one new item at a time. A child used to eating lots of fast food is likely to balk at tofu crumbles and spelt.
• Think about other grains. There are whole-grain versions for white rice and pasta. Also, consider soups with barley, pearl couscous, farro and buckwheat.
• Pack crunchy items separately. For instance, include a small plastic bag of croutons to go with tomato soup or tortilla strips to top chili.
• Seek input in the planning and preparing, but offer some ground rules. Chocolate chip cookies and potato chips are not lunch.
• Test out dishes at dinner. Leftover soups and casseroles make good lunches. You'll know how they like them by what they leave on their plates.
• Don't give up on nutritious foods because your child won't eat them today. Keep offering — and eat them yourself. Opportunity and example are the best ways to influence what your child eats.
• Most important, do not chastise your child for not eating something she doesn't really like. Explain that if the container comes home empty, you'll think the dish was gobbled up with glee and you'll pack it again. Throwing it away to save your feelings will backfire.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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