Lunching with leftovers: What and how to prepare healthy food for kids from leftovers

Lunching with leftovers: What and how to prepare healthy food for kids from leftovers

If you cook more than usual for a few days or cook in bulk for the whole week, you might find a lot of leftovers in the fridge. And these might come in very handy while whipping up a tasty dish for your kids. Without devoting much time or energy, you will be able to prepare main meals or snacks that are nutritious, balanced and filling. Just keep the following tips in mind to ensure food safety and try out the recipes listed.

Precautions to be taken while using leftovers:

  1. Cook the food properly and at the right temperature. Make sure you clean your hands before handling the food to prevent contamination. These practices will prevent the leftovers from spoiling too.
  2. Bacteria can grow in abundance when the temperature is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you can allow foods to stay in this danger temperature zone, for a maximum of 2 hours. And if the temperature is above 90 degrees, allow the food to be outside only for an hour. If the food has been exposed to these temperatures for a longer duration than what is ideal, throw it out.
  3. Refrigerate food as soon as possible. Either put large quantities of food in a cold water bath or cut the food into smaller pieces and cool or refrigerate them.
  4. Proper storage of leftovers is very important. Seal the leftovers and label them so that you don’t lose track and you know what is left in your refrigerator.
  5. You can refrigerate your leftovers for a maximum of three to four days, and then you need to discard them. Avoid using very old leftovers for school lunch, to prevent stomach problems or poisoning.
  6. If you want to freeze the leftovers, do so after putting them in an airtight container. This way, the food will last for three to four months.
  7. Make sure you follow safety guidelines to defrost a food item properly. So, use cold water to thaw it first, and then microwave the food when you want to eat.
  8. If you have any doubt about whether the food is edible or not, just throw it out. Even if the food does not look, smell, or taste spoiled, it might have pathogenic bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses.
  9. Keep the temperature of the refrigerator above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will prevent your foods from freezing or being in the danger temperature zone. The best place to keep leftover foods is in the middle shelf, and the freezer needs to be at 0 degree Fahrenheit.
  10. It is important to keep your refrigerator clean. If any food item has expired for more than four days, or there are old crumbs or spills, clean immediately. Otherwise, this can encourage the growth of bacteria and mould, and pose the risk of food poisoning.

Here are some recipes to prepare healthy food for kids using leftovers:

Bread upma:

Crush the bread slices, including the tops and crusts, into very small pieces, and keep them aside. Cut paneer into small pieces and keep them aside too. In a pan, add a little oil, chopped onions, and green chilli, and cook until it all becomes tender. Then add ginger garlic paste, tomatoes, and cook till they become soft. Add red chilli powder, turmeric, salt, pizza sauce and chopped almonds. Then, you need to sauté the mixture for a minute. Now add the bread and paneer and mix them on a high flame. Sprinkle some lime juice, garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot.

Chapathi quesadilla:

Leftover chapathis are very common in most Indian households. And chapathi quesadillas are a tasty way to use leftovers for school lunch. Add some oil to a pan. Heat the roti on it. Now, add shredded cheese on top of it, along with chopped vegetables like onions and capsicums. You can even add olives and jalapenos. Then add chilli flakes, some herbs, ketchup, and red chilli sauce. Cover this up with a second roti. Press and cook until the roti sandwich is golden brown and crisp. Cut it into four pieces and serve hot. This recipe is rich in resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that does not get digested in the small intestine, and instead gets fermented in the large intestine. Hence, it acts as a prebiotic. As it is not digested in the small intestine, it does not raise glucose levels. Resistant starch ensures good glycaemic control, promotes smooth digestion, increases satiety, prevents constipation, decreases cholesterol, and reduces risk of colon cancer. For example, cooked rice that is cooled and eaten has a higher amount of resistant starch than rice that is not cooled.

Chapathi ladoo:

This is a sweet dish from Maharashtra, which can be quickly prepared. Tear up leftover chapathis into irregular shapes and add to a blender. Add jaggery and blend it all into a coarse mixture. Now add ghee, chopped almonds, and cardamom powder, and blend again. Take the blended mixture and shape them into ladoos by pressing them tightly, and store them in a clean, airtight container.

Curd rice:

Heat and cool any leftover rice, thus making it rich in resistant starch. Mash the rice lightly. If the curd is fresh, you can add the curd, or instead add milk, and mix. Cool it completely. Add more curd to it along with some salt. Now add grated cucumber and carrots to the rice. You can even spice it up with a dash of cumin, mustard, red chilli, channa dal, urad dal, cashews, green chilli, ginger, and curry leaves. For added appeal, garnish the curd rice with pomegranate seeds.

Fried rice:

Heat the leftover rice and cool as you did for curd rice, thus boosting the amount of resistant starch. Heat some oil in a pan and add a star anise to it. Now add chopped garlic and ginger. Add some spring onions to the pan along with finely chopped vegetables like capsicum, carrot, mushroom, etc. Then, you need to sauté the mix on a high flame. Add soy sauce, salt, and pepper as per taste. Quickly add the rice and stir it with the sauces, and add vinegar. Garnish with spring onion greens and serve hot.

Using the tips and recipes mentioned above, you can prepare the best meals with leftovers for lunch or dinner. It can save you a lot of time and the need to plan meals every day, without compromising on nutrition.