Chef Teddy Diggs, executive chef at Il Palio restaurant in Chapel Hill, may be a nationally acclaimed chef, but he pulls parent duty just like the rest of us! With school starting again, he likes to keep lunches simple, fun and interactive for his two girls. No need to have formal training from the Culinary Institute of America or tenure at Martha’s Vineyard like he has. Check out Chef Teddy’s top three tips for healthy, easy school lunches.
1. Plan ahead.
Chefs and home cooks alike spend a lot of time each week planning what they are going to cook. School lunches should not be any different. While planning the weekly menu, ask your child to identify some of his or her favorite foods that he or she would like to eat for lunch. Encouraging your child to participate in the planning (and perhaps preparing) improves the chances that the lunch will actually get eaten.
2. Think outside of the (lunch) box.
As good as a sandwich can be, that is only the beginning of possibilities for a school lunch “main course.” Pack hot lunches—such as dinner leftovers—to add variety and create a delicious school experience. Here’s a trick: In the morning, pour boiling water into a thermos and let it warm the container for a few minutes. Discard the water and add the food for an instant “hot pack” that keeps food warm all day! Leftover chicken meatballs are a favorite with my girls! Other fun recipe ideas? Try noodle soup, beans and rice and pastas or even a late breakfast with brown sugar and raisin oatmeal.
3. Plate it pretty.
The way that food is presented can affect a diner’s appetite—even with our kids. Take effort to keep the school lunches clean and organized. Securely wrap food and choose a lunchbox that reflects the personality of your child. And don’t forget to pack a personalized napkin note!