School Lunches (That Your Kids Will Actually Eat)
It’s time to get back into a school year routine and packing school lunches. Summer is coming to an end, and school is about to start. Packed lunches are a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer or when you want a little more control over what your child is eating.
Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat, and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.
The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating. Packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food.
Talk to your kids about School Lunches
Start by getting your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. You’ll know that they’ll pack something they will eat, and they will learn responsibility.
Talk to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Encourage your children to make healthy choices without a lecture. Make a list of options and then head to the store. There is nothing worse than running late in the morning and then desperately trying to figure out something you can put in your children’s lunch boxes.
Start by sitting down with your kids and come up with a list of lunches they like. This could include sandwiches and wraps, or even homemade lunch-able, but it doesn’t have to stop there. If you add a thermos to the mix, you can suddenly pack reheated leftovers, homemade soup and the likes. The key is to find lunch foods and snacks that your kids will eat that are also easy to pack.
Don’t forget about snacks and drinks as needed. A list should make shopping and much easier. Once you have several different lunch ideas your kids like and will actually eat, you can simply rotate through them. Make the ingredients part of your weekly shopping trips.
The Key to School Lunches
Getting the kids involved will make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat. For older kids, that may mean making their own lunches (under your supervision). Stick to these tips and it won’t take you long to get into an efficient lunch packing routine that will make it a snap.
Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes or pick a snack for his lunch box. When possible, get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way, you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
When you get home from the store, keep lunch foods out and see what you can do to prep things ahead of time. Instead of putting that bag of grapes away, go ahead and wash and store them in little bags you can grab and toss in the lunch box. The same goes for things like carrots and even salads. Slice cheese as needed and just think about what you can prep as soon as you get home. These little snack bags can also be used for healthy evening snacks.
Mornings are busy and not always the perfect time to have to worry about packing lunches. Try making them the night before. Try packing them after dinner at night. Get the kids involved and have them help with lunch prep and clean-up after. You can store cold items in the fridge and have everything else sitting in the lunch box ready to go. It won’t take you long to get into a rhythm of preparing lunches while you’re cleaning up after dinner. You’ll appreciate this new habit in the mornings when all you need to do is grab a couple of things from the fridge and toss them in the lunch boxes.
To make lunch prep even easier, get the kids into the habit of cleaning out their lunch box as soon as they get back from school. Even the youngest can help with this. Have them toss any uneaten food and bring the containers to the sink to be washed. Older children can easily clean their own containers, while you’ll probably have to do the washing for your youngest. Having everything clean and ready to go will make it easier to pack the new lunches later on in the day.
Healthy Choices = Balance
Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy though. Of course, you will want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some chips or a pack of sugar cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden sweets.
1. Classic PB&J – What child doesn’t love a classic PB&J? Step it up a little by grilling the sandwich with butter on the outside slices. You may also step it up by adding honey, banana, or hazelnut spread.
2, Pita Pizza – Let your child fill her pita pocket with favorites such as pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, olives, ham, or feta cheese.
3. “salad” sandwiches – Egg salad, Tuna salad, or Chicken salad can be quick easy sandwiches. A few spices and some dressing such as olive oil. Serve with a small fruit such as grapes. Yumm-O!
4. Roll Ups and Wraps – Select a flatbread or tortilla and insert your favorites. Anything works for a wrap. Avocado and cream cheese make for great addition to a wrap sandwich.