The New Brown Bag
Processed food companies have entire departments dedicated to marketing and selling their foods. I am always in awe of the many ways in which they can make food more appealing to the consumer. It’s easier 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 are less easily impressed.
Here’s what I know: 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. Try placing a young child in a grocery cart and cruising through the center aisles of a store [not recommended by this mom of four.] What bling – the colors, the characters, the positioning, oh my! Here’s 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. For more ideas on constructing the perfect mason jar salad, read our blog post: Mason Jar Magic
- 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, especially when you have this handy top + straw. You can make the smoothie the night before, fitted with regular lid and shake before you head out the door in the morning.