Rotisserie chickens and grilled chicken strips from the service deli are playing key roles as retailers show customers how to pack a nutritious lunch for their kids.
With back-to-school on the horizon, the idea is to make it easy for parents, and at the same time, boost deli sales.
Some retailers such as Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., and Kowalski's Markets, St. Paul, Minn., have scheduled in-store events to offer back-to-school lunch ideas. Other retailers have encouraged their dietitians to deliver tips via local television or radio.
“Pick up a rotisserie chicken, chop some of the chicken up, add some fresh herbs, and barbecue sauce or Buffalo hot sauce, and make lettuce the wrap,” Barbara Ruhs, corporate dietitian at Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., told a television audience last week.
Interviewed by a local television morning news anchor at a Scottsdale Bashas' store, Ruhs suggested rotisserie chicken and other prepared items from the deli make it quick and easy to prepare a healthful take-to-school lunch.
“This isn't cooking. It's just throwing things together,” she said, and she did just that in front of the TV camera.
Against a backdrop that showed the produce aisle, Ruhs offered two recipes made from deli rotisserie chicken.
Linda Day Anderson, culinary promotions director at Kowalski's Markets, St. Paul, Minn., told SN in an earlier interview that she posts such put-it-together suggestions at least once a week on the chain's website.
“I call them ‘non-recipe recipes’ because there's no cooking involved,” Anderson said. “I suggest picking up a rotisserie chicken breast or grilled chicken strips from the deli and then combining it with other items like romaine, grape tomatoes and crisp cooked bacon, which they can also get at the deli.”
These “non-recipe” recipes are not necessarily aimed at lunch-box-packers, but the chain's nutritionist, Sue Moores, said some of them would make good candidates for a school lunch.
Moores is currently writing an article about packing a healthy lunch for the nine-unit independent's September newsletter.
“I tell parents just to makes sure the basics are there. For instance, it's necessary to get a protein in somewhere,” Moores said, noting that it doesn't have to be a traditional sandwich.
“It could be ham or turkey from the deli wrapped around pretzel rods, or cheese cubes with crackers.”
Moores advocates getting kids involved in choosing the food.
In fact, she has scheduled three parent-child workshops this year about packing healthy lunches.
She offered a similar workshop last year that was so successful and over-booked that she decided to conduct three similar sessions this fall.
“I received terrific feedback last year,” Moores said. “The parents thought it was good to be doing something with their kids, and the kids liked the idea of having some control over what they were expected to eat for lunch.”
Children at Moores' sessions tried some foods they had never had before, and decided they liked them.
During her recent television interview, Ruhs startled her interviewer when she suggested including hummus in kids' lunches. The interviewer looked doubtful, but Ruhs assured her youngsters do eat hummus, especially as a dip for veggies.
She also offered tips for changing the look of some everyday foods.
“The key is to keep things interesting,” Ruhs said.
“Kids love different colors and shapes,” she added, as she held up a container of melon balls and a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese.