Packing the right lunch not only will ensure better nutrition, but you’ll also be able to cater to your child’s likes and dislikes. Our tips will help you put some fun in your kids meal all the while encouraging them to eat a balanced school lunch, which means there’s a good chance they will actually eat this lunch instead of leaving it behind in the rush to meet their friends on the playground.
1. Invest in a Super Cool Lunch Box. Let your kids choose their own lunch box, insulated bag or paper bag to express their personal style. Cool parents know that kids age (11-12) prefer paper bags, while younger kids (6-10) prefer lunch boxes.
2. Keep it Simple. Don’t get to fancy with lunch. Chances are your child prefers simple foods.
3. Get Your Children Involved. Let your child be in on the menu planning. If your children help plan their own lunches with their favorites, they will be more likely to eat them. Ask specific questions: Would you like a fruit salad in your lunch this week? How many times? Take your children to the grocery store with you to shop for their lunch. Have them make a shopping list with you that has all their favorite foods listed.
4. Make Sunday Prep Day. Fill small plastic reusable containers with yogurt for dipping or berries. Put them in the freezer and pull one out each day. By the time lunchtime comes around, the yogurt and berries will be thawed but refreshingly cool. Small plastic reusable containers can also be used for snacks such as pretzels, whole-wheat crackers, homemade trail mix and organic popcorn. Fill enough on Sunday to pop into your child’s lunch box each day.
5. Make it Dip or Dunk. Kids happily eat vegetables if they are cut up into bite size pieces and a tasty dressing, hummus, salsa or yogurt dip is provided with them. Lunch becomes a party when there are dips!
6. Make it Bite Size. Kids are likely to eat seasonal fruits at lunch if they are in bite sized pieces such as cherries, grapes, berries, melon balls and Clementine slices. Also, making bite-sized and mini versions of regular foods, like whole grain sandwiches, work well for small appetites and are much likelier to be eaten.
7. Leftovers/Protein. Heat up leftovers from last night’s dinner and put them in a thermos. Most middle schools offer microwaves for children to heat up their lunches. If your child helps cook his favorite dinner at night he/she is highly likely to enjoy it for lunch the next day. Leftovers are a great way to get protein into your child’s lunch, which is the most important part of this mid day meal. Other ways include: cheese sticks, grilled chicken and peanut butter.
8. Dependable Drinks. Since many children’s beverages contain nearly as much sugar per ounce as soft drinks, putting the wrong drink into a daily lunch box can translate to an extra 3-5 pounds of weight on your child by the end of the school year. Drinks should be either zero calorie or low calorie. Suggestions are: Water, low fat milk and 100% Juice Drinks (Note: Freezing water and 100% Juice drinks will keep your child’s food chilled and be thawed by lunchtime)
9. Wipe it Clean. Pack an antibacterial wet wipe so your child can clean their hands before and after eating.
10. Final Note. Include notes and celebrate special days. For example an all green lunch for St. Patrick’s Day or an all red lunch for Valentine’s Day. Include a fun game such as a backwards message or cryptogram for even more fun. A special note for good luck on a test or an “I love you” will always add a smile to your child’s day.
Great Leftovers for School Lunch
The Lady and Sons Chicken Fingers
Paula’s Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
Wayne’s Beef Macaroni and Cheese
Cheesiest Fried Chicken Empanadas with Chili Con Queso Dip