INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As kids go back to school, parents are once again confronted with the challenge of packing a lunchbox. In an effort to include more produce in your child’s lunch – without it being the subject of food trades or throw-aways – we enlisted the help of food blogger and produce industry front-woman The Produce Mom, Lori Taylor.
“First and foremost, all produce is good for you. And when you’re packing your lunch with fruits and vegetables included, you’re doing a great thing,” says Taylor.
Taylor admits texture is a major component in whether kids will eat a fruit or vegetable, so if you plan to freeze a certain fruit, think about how it will feel once it has thawed.
“A lot of fruits you have to be really careful with because if you freeze them they get waterlogged,” says Taylor. “Bananas are a good example of this: they taste really good frozen, but once they thaw, they’re just mush.”
The produce industry endorses stone fruits — apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines — and grapes as being the fruits that freeze best.
If you’re freezing stone fruits, Taylor suggests choosing one that’s not fully ripe. Place slices in a single layer in a freezer bag and lay the bag flat in your freezer. Place the bag of frozen fruit in your child’s lunchbox in the morning. The fruit will thaw just enough to be edible, but successfully keep your child’s lunchbox cold all morning.
Taylor encourages you not to be afraid to use pre-cut, pre-packaged produce in your child’s lunchbox – like baby carrots with dip, single-serve packs of blueberries and pre-sliced apples.
“If you’d rather do a fresh apple, there are two varieties that are slow-browning – Ambrosia and Opal,” explains Taylor. “So you can cut it, put it in the baggies and send them off to school, and it will be just minimal browning on the apple.”
Strawberries are a popular lunchbox inclusion, but Taylor cautions against slicing the strawberry as berries are one of the most fragile fruits.
“They just don’t have the shelf life that a lot of our others fruits and vegetables have,” says Taylor, “So, even something as simple as cutting the top off the strawberry, it’s now exposed to oxygen and this is where the berry will begin to breakdown.”
Taylor encourages you to leave the strawberries whole when packing them in your child’s lunch.
If you’re wondering what The Produce Mom sends in her two boys’ lunchboxes, Taylor admits one of her sons only wants one vegetable: carrots.
“My son only wants carrots every day, and if I pack broccoli or another vegetable, he won’t eat them,” says Taylor. “But I try every week to introduce other vegetables to encourage my kids to find their favorite.”