As back to school season arrives, the discussion about school lunches is in full swing. How to get it done faster? What should we pack? Will they eat it? All of these questions can make it challenging to pack a healthy, kid-friendly lunch for your child. Today I want to share a couple of ideas to help make packing lunches a little easier, while inspiring your kids to make some healthy choices.
1. Tap into the Rainbow
Studies show that kids often eat more food if they are presented with more colors. Presentation really does matter when it comes to food. Do you need to get every color in? No, but try to get a mix of those blues, oranges, reds and white. Start with a goal of three colors and see if you can later add in one more.
2. Move Beyond the Paper Bag
The number of choices of reusable lunch bags is awesome. Once you narrow down your choice to one that is BPA and phthalate free, let your child pick the print. Including them in the process is the first step in getting them excited about sitting down for lunch.
3. Do the Little Finger Test
The big push towards bento boxes and small plastic storage containers allows for some beautiful lunch presentations. However, I have found some that are really hard for little fingers to open (even big fingers!) Let your kids test out new containers in the store or upon delivery to make sure they can easily manage at school. Independence is a key factor in creating a relaxed environment during your child’s lunch.
4. Introduce New Foods During “Non-Nag” Time
When our kids are away from their parents during lunch, most educators are not sitting with them telling the class what to eat. Kids are allowed the time and space to make their own choices. It can be a great time to introduce a new fruit or veggie, without pressuring the child to try it. Will it come home untouched? Yes, there is a very good chance that will happen. But try again and maybe they will surprise you. Or maybe they will eat it the first time and now you have a new lunch idea.
5. Add in a bit of Whimsy
I know some parents really dread making lunches, while others truly love it. If you are in the first camp, let those in the second inspire you. There are fun ways to add in a little surprise to your kids lunch, without losing your mind trying to pack it up while you are rushing in the morning. The bento box is a great first step in pulling off a fun presentation. It’s still the same lunch, but in a pretty container, you already check off on of your “colors” in the rainbow. My little guy loves pirates so I plan to include this pirate cake topper on occasion, which will surely delight him. You can find inexpensive accessories for your kids lunches online, or just include a silly joke on a paper for older kids who can read.
6. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut
There are tons of inspiring ideas on Pinterest and Instagram when it comes to school lunch. I’ve learned a lot of fun lunch ideas from Weelicious Lunches, both the cookbook and by following #weelunches on Instagram. She doesn’t spend time on cutting up sandwiches into cute shapes, but does offer a ton of variety of foods. If you and your kids are tired of sandwiches, check out this recipe book full of non-sandwich lunch ideas. This ebook is 35% off until 9/7 with code: NOSTRESSLUNCH.
7. Include the Kids in Packing Lunch
My daughter wants to stay up “late.” We have talked about how we will use that time in the fall to pack her lunch the night before. I’m hopeful she will enjoy making some of the choices of what to include in her lunch the next day. It gives the child a little more control over a small piece of their day.
8. Don’t Forget about Snack Time
This year we have to pack two snacks for our kindergartener. We choose the dual Pottery Barn Kids lunch box so I could have a separate place to keep snacks ready to go. Another option one parent suggested is placing snacks in a front pocket of a backpack so they are easily accessible. I pulled together some of my favorite snack ideas in my “Snack Break” Pinterest board if you need some inspiration.
9. Milk or Water?
This is a hot topic among friends and while we like the idea of milk in the lunch box, the reality is it often comes back unfinished or worse, all over the lunch tote. Pack what your kids will drink, and make sure you have a water bottle that fits easily in their tote or backpack.
10. What else helps you make packing lunches a little easier? Leave a comment to help other parents!
Thank you to Pottery Barn Kids for providing these lunch totes and accessories to demonstrate the tips in this story. You can find their full assortment of lunch boxes and food storage containers at Pottery Barn Kids.
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About Emily Roach
Emily Roach is a culinary nutrition expert and works with clients to create a healthy lifestyle design. She loves teaching her kids how to cook, playing tennis and inspiring women to take control of their health. Emily does one-on-one consulting, cooking workshops and speaking engagements.