School lunches are the bane of so many parents’ lives. As parents, all you really want for your child’s diet is that it’s balanced and varied. Obviously, a lot of kids have food preferences that they often seem to arbitrarily decide on from day to day, but on the whole it’s generally easy to control what your children eat at home. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite so easy at school – and when you hear about what their school gives to them for lunch, you often have a lot of questions. Why is that salad so limp? What exactly is in that meatloaf? Why is that mashed potato so weirdly gray?
Luckily, there is a solution. If you send your kids in with a packed lunch, you know exactly what’s in it, you know that your child will like the food, and you can control the nutritional content.
Here are 7 tips on how to make incredible packed lunches:
There’s nothing like the utter panic of waking up late and realizing that not only do you have to dress your kids and drive them to school in fifteen minutes, but you also have to make their lunches. Admittedly, on those days it’s okay to give up the ghost, slap some peanut butter on some bread and throw in a bag of potato chips and an apple. No one’s perfect and there’s always tomorrow to create your perfectly curated bento box. But if you start preparing food the night before, at least you’ll always have a safety net for those particularly frantic mornings. Chop up some carrots and cucumber the previous night, wash some baby tomatoes, make the sandwiches and put them in the fridge. Just make sure that you add any wet ingredients the next morning so nothing gets soggy.
Present it with Care
We all know that kids can be very picky with their food – so a lot of the time it’s a good idea to present it with a little love, care and creativity. Just like squirting whipped cream smiley faces on their pancakes in the morning, you can give your kids attractive lunch boxes that will make sure they eat all their food. First of all, let them pick out a lunch box with their favorite TV or movie character on it. Secondly, try to make the food as colorful as possible to make it attractive. Luckily, a lot of healthy food like fruit and vegetables are bright and colorful! Lastly, use smaller Tupperware containers within the lunch box to separate off the food and guard from any squashed sandwiches. If you want to, you could even use sandwich cutters to chop the sandwiches into cute shapes.
Include All the Food Groups
Remember that you should try to include all the food groups in your child’s packed lunch. First of all you need a starchy food like bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. Then you need some dairy, for example yogurt or cheese. You need some protein, like fish, eggs, meat or beans – and finally you need to include some fruit and vegetables. This may sound challenging but it’s easier than you might think. A chicken salad sandwich covers the starch and protein – add in a yogurt and a small salad of tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks and you’re good to go. Make sure that you use rye or whole wheat bread instead of white. If you think that your family’s eating way too much bread then why not try a wrap or pita bread instead? Not only will it be an exciting change for your child but it might also change the way that you think about fillings, enabling you to add different ingredients like sauces and salads.
Vary the Contents
Make sure that you vary the lunchbox’s contents from day to day. If you’re duly aware that your child has the same sandwich almost every day then you might consider changing it up a little. Try out couscous with vegetables – not only is it quick and easy for you to prepare (always an important consideration as a busy mother!) but kids will love the bright colors and completely ignore the fact that it’s very healthy. You could also try out a pasta salad (like the best easy pasta salad | MyGreatRecipes) – just remember to put a fork in as well so your child doesn’t attempt to eat it all with their fingers!
Be Aware of Allergies
Remember that you need to keep within the school’s guidelines of what’s acceptable for your kids to bring for lunch. Sometimes if there’s a student with a nut allergy, peanuts are banned, and a lot of the time schools are striving for their students to develop healthy lifestyles so they won’t allow the kids to bring items like soda or candy. Of course, that definitely isn’t a bad thing – they’re terrible for the teeth and you don’t want to let your kid get too used to eating sugar all the time.
Be aware that it’s totally okay to use leftovers from dinner the night before. If your family ate chicken fingers, then why not cook a couple of extra ones and put them in the fridge for your child’s packed lunch the following day? Likewise, if you made your favorite tuna bake then you can always put a portion in the fridge to pop into the lunch box the following morning. Just make sure that you remember to use a chilled lunch bag to keep the contents cool and fresh.
Cut Out the Junk Food
There really isn’t any reason that you should give your kids unhealthy junk food in their lunch bags. If they love potato chips then you can switch them out for vegetable chips, and if you want to make sure there’s a little sweetness in their lunch bag then you can always add some fruit instead of chocolate or candy. If you want to add a little chocolate as a treat, why not dip some orange segments in melted chocolate or add some chocolate drizzled popcorn?
Other Great Resources:
Creating appealing and appetizing school lunches doesn’t have to a chore or boring for us parents or our children. Getting the perfect lunchbox, a little prep the night before, filling it with foods that are healthy and fun to eat is a great way to get the kids to want to eat their lunch at school.