Cookbook Q&A: The Lunch Box Queen

Back-to-school means back to packing lunch boxes, and any parent that packs a school lunch knows that putting together a healthy, appealing meal, day in and day out, can be a daunting task. Happily, Parents contributing editor and Weelicious blogger extraordinaire Catherine McCord is here to inspire us with her new book Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals

Why a lunch box cookbook? 

I’ve been obsessed with school lunch since my son first started preschool 4 years ago. I became fascinated with everything from the perfect lunch box to what goes inside.

How can parents encourage kids to expand their culinary horizons, especially when it comes to lunch?

The more you can get your kids involved, the better. Try taking your child to the farmers market or grocery store and let them pick out their fruit or vegetable of choice. Keep a running list of favorites. Remember that variety is the spice of life!

What should every lunch include? 

I make sure that every lunch I pack has a fruit, vegetable, carbohydrate and protein with a little sweet treat too. If you send a balance of foods you’ve done your job.

Why is it important to pack a colorful lunch?

Kids eat not only with their mouths, but also with their eyes. If lunch looks interesting to the eye, it can be more exciting to eat.

How often do you include treats in the lunchbox?

I like to add a little sweet treat almost everyday. That could be homemade fruit leather or a cookie or even a few yogurt-covered pretzels. 

Do you make your kids’ lunches in the morning or the night before? Is it okay to pack lunches the night before?

It always depends. Most times I get the fruit, vegetable and sweet treat ready in the lunch box the night before. Then I prepare the main event or sandwich in the morning.

What are some strategies time-strapped parents can use when it comes to making creative lunches?

Keep a list of your child’s top 10 favorite foods and make sure to have them on hand at all times. You would be surprised how many interesting, simple recipes you can come up with off that list.

How can the freezer help when it comes to lunchtime prep?

Your freezer is a total lifesaver. I freeze everything from pancakes to cookies, waffles, muffins and more. Whenever you bake pop a few items in labeled zipper bags so you can add a special treat or make pancake sandwiches when you run out of bread.

What are your kids’ hands-down favorite lunches?

That’s tough! The most requested are usually Veggie Tortilla Roll Ups, Sushi Sandwiches, Banana Dog Bites and veggies with Veg-Wee Dip. Having said that I’ve never given my kids the same lunch in 4 years, so they’re used to variety. 

What doesn’t belong in a lunchbox?

White food. I really hope that lunch can be an opportunity for kids to fuel their bodies with nutritious foods.

What did you eat for lunches when you were a kid?

I ate cafeteria food every day from kindergarten through high school. I dreamed about being able to bring my own lunch. I used to skip recess to hang out with the lunch ladies. When I look back I realize I have been interested in the subject of school lunch for years and years.

Interview has been edited and condensed.


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