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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

The New Brown Bag

Processed food companies have entire departments dedicated to marketing and selling their foods. It is relatively easy to elevate foods in the minds of adults—slapping on labels such as “natural, healthy, non-GMO, or more protein” seems to do the trick. Children, however, are less easily impressed.

Children are rarely motivated to eat foods they perceive as improving their long-term health status. What drives them to eat foods are taste and curb appeal, as marketing companies know. Cruising the center aisles of a grocery store with a young child in a store cart is wildly inviting for any young passenger. What bling—the colors, the characters, the positioning, oh my! Yet, there is a formula that can turn any brown bagged lunch into a meal worthy of a child’s discriminating food selection process: Mason jar with pop out lid [main food] + 4 oz. cup [accent food] = a healthy portable snack/meal sure to bring out the kid in anyone.

Some examples include:

Vegetable sticks + dip of choice [dressing, hummus, yogurt]: Stack vegetable sticks vertically, leaving some space at the top.  Drop in 4 oz. cup and fill with dip. Screw on lid.

Hummus + pretzels or veggie chips: Add hummus to small Mason jar.  Fill 4 oz. cup with pretzels or small vegetable chips.  Place lid on cup invert and screw onto Mason jar.

Yogurt + fruit + crunchy topping or nuts:  Add yogurt to Mason jar and layer with fruit.  Place crunchy topping of choice in 4 oz. cup. Place lid on cup invert and screw onto Mason jar.

Fruit + nut butter:  Slice firm fruit, like apple, and arrange vertically in jar.  Place 2 tablespoons of nut butter [or less] in 4 oz. cup. Place lid on cup invert and screw onto Mason jar. Tip: To prevent apples and other fruits from turning brown during storage, place in lemon water just after cutting to stop the browning reaction.  It doesn’t take a lot of acid – just squirt a wedge of lemon into 1 cup of water.  Blot fruit dry before packing.

Layered salad:  In a large mason jar [2 quarts for a side salad, larger for main], start with 2 tablespoons of dressing.  Add your heavier, wetter ingredients, such as beans, tomatoes, and cucumber.  Add your protein.  Add softer ingredients like avocados or berries.  Add seeds/nuts.  Finish with leafy greens [should represent most of the jar.  Twist on lid.  Tip:  You will not be able to eat your salad from the jar, so bring along a nice bowl or wider container.

Soup:  Add warm soup to a heat-proof, small-medium Mason jar [2 cups +] and fit into a can cozy [usually used to keep canned beverages cold, they do a great job keeping things warm too.]  in addition to insulation, can cozies can give you piece of mind if you are using glass mason jars with small children.

Smoothie:  Mason jars are the perfect vehicle for your morning smoothie.  You can make the smoothie the night before, fitted with regular lid and shake before you head out the door in the morning. When ready to consume, replace lid with the new tops for Mason jars with straw holes.

Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN, and founder of Living Plate Nutrition Education and Counseling Center, received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition Education from Columbia University and completed her supervised clinical practice at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. You can contact Jeanne by email at [email protected] or by phone at 908-234-1160.

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