How To Pack School Lunches Your Kids Will Actually Eat
Let’s talk school lunches. You start the school year with the best of intentions, filing ideas from Pinterest and joining groups on Facebook for inspiration. And by the end of the year your kids are lucky if they get a (nut free, of course) granola bar and an apple. Sound familiar? It can be mind-numbingly frustrating to send fantastic, healthy lunches off to school with your kids, only to have them return half eaten, at best.
Some schools provide a hot lunch program or cafeteria, but packing a lunch has a number of benefits. For kids with dietary restrictions it’s a must, but it’s also a great way to (at at least attempt) to get healthy foods into your kids. Not all school program can boast the healthiest options. Of course packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it or throwing it away. Kids are increasingly challenged for time to eat, so they end up rushing through their lunch to get outside as quickly as possible. The key is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
The best place to start is to get your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, being in charge of packing lunch will give them some responsibility.
Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need. Getting the kids as involved as possible 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, if necessary). Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for her lunch box. 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.
Side note: If possible, get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Mornings can be absolutely chaotic getting everyone dressed, teeth brushed, backpacks packed…the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about packing a healthy lunch amidst all of that. 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.
Of course you want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. But insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy. Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad for example, let them have a treat for dessert. Ideally they’re healthier cookies or bars like Bear Paws and not a sugar-laden treat, but take the wins where you can get them. Teach them to make good choices, and be an example yourself. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, and to be properly fuelled for the afternoon ahead.
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