If your children will be attending school in-person this year, you may already be planning what they’ll need for lunch. You may be planning on packing a daily school lunch and this may be a normal habit for you. For others, however, this may be a new “chore” you are adding to your list.
Before starting, consider asking your children’s school a few questions. Finding out these details ahead of time will help you use these tips more effectively:
- Will your child(ren) have access to a refrigerator or microwave?
- Will you need to provide their beverages for the day?
- Are there foods that are forbidden due to food allergies?
- Do you need to pack lunches in a disposable container? If disposable containers are optional, consider purchasing two lunch boxes your child picks out, so it keeps it more exciting for them. With two, there is time for it to be disinfected and sanitized.
Here is a list of creative ways to keep this daily task from becoming anything but mundane. We are keeping it easy for you and fun and delicious for them!
1. Make a list.
Get your kids involved right from the start and together, make a list of foods they will eat. Split the list into foods they love, foods they are willing to try and foods they won’t touch. Putting items into their lunches they won’t normally eat at home isn’t going to make them magically start eating it. Chances are, the food would be thrown away leaving a hungry student.
2. Organize this list.
If you have multiple children, take each list of foods they put together and group their likes. This is a start to making a “meal plan.” Choose enough foods so each child has a morning snack, a lunch and an afternoon snack. Always better to pack too much food and have them bring some back home, than run out and be hungry.
3. Work together to create a meal plan.
Start with proteins. Depending on the ages of your children, teach them a few different types of protein, such as chicken, turkey, ham, string cheese, nuts, peanut butter, other nut butters, eggs, edamame, etc. and encourage them to have at least two servings of this type of food in their lunch every day.
4. Pair the protein with side items.
Kids want to have a sweet or salty snack with their protein. Pack three healthy and nutritious snacks such as cut up vegetables, whole or sliced fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. If your child likes “treats”, consider sending one less-healthy choice, such as pretzels, trail mix with a few M & M’s, small bag of chips, pudding, etc. This will teach them how to work these foods into their healthy meal plan. Also, it may bring a little variety and excitement into their lunches.
Besides these tips, you can also try the rainbow packing idea. This works amazingly well with younger kids as you base the packed lunches on colors. Very simply, you could choose the following routine:
- Monday = Red foods, such as apples, radishes and dried cranberries
- Tuesday = Orange foods, such as clementines, oranges and carrots
- Wednesday = Yellow foods, such as bananas, yellow peppers, pears, string cheese and hard-boiled eggs
- Thursday = Green foods, such as salad, broccoli with dip, avocado and guacamole
- Friday = Blue/purple foods, such as purple grapes, plums and blueberries
Each week you could change up the fruits and vegetables you pack based on a color scheme. Also, you could send handwritten notes on the same colored paper and keep it simple and fun.
Finally, choose containers that can easily be sanitized and have them ready to go on a daily basis. Plastic dishes come in all shapes and sizes and some with different colored covers.
Different colored containers and/or covers could be a fun way to once again incorporate colors into their daily lunches. You could also consider using these to distinguish items for each child (if more than one) or even the adults in the home. This way you could pack ahead of time, cater to individual preferences and they can be responsible to pull the colored containers out of the refrigerator or pantry and place in their lunch boxes.
Hope these tips keep you packing and eating healthfully!