5 tips for packing a “cool” school lunch
By Cheryl Moellenbeck Tallman
Back to school means back to school lunches. Some parents dread this and if you’re one of those moms or dads, we get it. It can be cumbersome to pack a lunch each day and have your child come home with it half eaten or better yet, wrappers from items you didn’t pack. Whose lunch are they eating, you might wonder?!
All of your time and money, in the garbage. All you want is for your child to have a healthy, well-balanced meal to keep them fueled throughout the day. We understand. That’s what we want too! The issue might be simple. Your child’s lunch just isn’t “cool” enough. Their friends are bringing the pre-packed items commercials advertise with characters and endorsements. You know the items you avoid at the store.
Fear not, we have some tips to help you still avoid those items but pack a cool AND healthy school lunch your kids will actually eat.
- It’s all about the gear. It’s important for your child to have the right gear for packing a healthy lunch. It’s always best for them to help choose their own lunchbox so that it matches their personality and style. Involve them in choosing their lunchbox, reusable water bottle and reusable thermos. The more ownership you can give them the better, it builds their confidence and helps them to be excited about packing a healthy lunch.
- Make it fun. Children love the gimmicky, salt, fat and sugar-filled, “Lunchables” trays because they look cool. Not because they necessarily taste good. There is no reason a homemade lunch needs to look dull and unappetizing. Buy colorful re-reusable containers and water bottles to make lunchtime fun and eco-friendly. Try a bento style box and let your child create their own “Lunchables”. Let your child decorate their lunch box gear with stickers or permanent markers. The point is to make packing a healthy lunch fun and cool.
- Let them help you. It’s their lunch after-all. Let them help you choose what they want to eat, while you set guidelines. For example, making sure they make a healthy sandwich with a vegetable, dairy item and protein. Check out the MyPlate sandwich and snack bags with tips and reminders for children packing their own lunch. Setting the guidelines helps them learn how to eat healthy and also teaches them independence in the kitchen. You can even download and print some tips on packing a healthy MyPlate sandwich or a MyPlate lunch to make everyone’s life easier.
- Choices! Choices! Choices! Providing your child with plenty of variety is
not hard or time consuming. In fact, many of the lunch foods can be prepared, in advance, in large quantities to make packing a quick lunchbox easy. Here are some easy and healthy suggestions:
- Sugar snap peas with ranch dressing for dipping
- Hard-boiled egg
- Cheese cubes or string cheese logs
- White bean dip or hummus with carrots and mini pita breads
- Dried fruit
- Lunch meat roll-ups with cream cheese and an asparagus in the middle
- Trail mix made from cereal, nuts and dried fruit
- Communicate with your child. When they bring home an uneaten lunch, don’t assume they don’t like the food. Ask them a few questions about their lunchtime and find out what is going on. They might have not felt good that day or were too busy socializing with their friends. Use an uneaten lunch as an excuse to have a heart-to-heart. And remember, school lunch for young children can be challenging as they learn how to balance their time between eating and socializing. The good news is, the more your child helps you pack their lunch and shop for healthy food, the better they will become at not bringing even a bread crumb home!
Photo via Thinkstock
Simple Lunchbox Ideas:
- Whole grain English muffin with hummus, chicken and cucumbers.
- Whole grained sliced pita with peanut butter, cream cheese, banana and honey.
- Whole grain tortilla with chicken salad with celery and sliced mango.
- Whole grain bread with pork tenderloin, Swiss cheese, grated carrot and mustard.
- An open face sandwich: Whole grain mini bagels, cream cheese, strawberries and blueberries.
- An open face sandwich: Bruschetta, goat cheese, almonds, honey and raspberries.
- Ditch the sandwich, pack a salad! Whole grain noodles cooked with grated cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow peppers, cubes of salami and Italian dressing
Cheryl Moellenbeck Tallman is the Founder and CEO of Fresh Baby . Since Starting Fresh Baby in 2002, Cheryl Tallman has been honored with many prestigious awards, and is a US Department of Agriculture National Nutrition Education Strategic Partner. As the head of product and content development for her company, Cheryl develops innovative products and authors materials that inspire parents to raise healthier children. She serves as both a parenting and cooking expert for many high-profile online communities. Cheryl’s ultimate vision is to make the task of raising a healthy eater easier for all parents. Follow Fresh Baby on Twitter , Facebook and Pinterest for more healthy eating tips and ideas. Fresh Baby products are also available on Amazon.com