10 Tips for a Healthy and Happy School Lunches
School has started over in this part of the country, and with that comes the daily task of school lunches! Since neither of my girls are huge fans of the lunch provided by their school’s cafeteria we have some thinking to do.
Recently, in talking to them about this they hoped for lunches laden with powdered donuts, candy, soda, and chips… Not such a healthy plan!
So, what’s a parent to do?
One of the trickiest things can be packing an easy, kid friendly, yet parent approved home lunch for school kids. And in my world, one that is easy enough for my older kids to make themselves.
In general, my rule of thumb for lunches is a fruit, a veggie, a protein, grain, a small treat, and a bottle of water.
In this article you will find 10 tips that I have found to be useful.
1. Write a list: Take five or ten minutes and have the kids brainstorm with you to compile a list of fruits, veggies, proteins, grains, and dairy that they can pack in their lunch such as: grapes, celery and carrots, crackers and cheese, etc. If you have dietary restrictions you would obviously need to adjust. Feel free to mix it up! Sandwiches can be substituted for a wrap. Pinterest has some great ideas. I have found just getting them involved on this level helps them to be motivated.
2. Education: As you are writing your list with the kids, explain what the food can do to help nourish their bodies. “Did you know that oranges have vitamin C in them?” Do you know why vitamin C is good for you?” Don’t feel that you need to go overboard on this one, just a few facts here and there is fine. This helps them have an awareness about why it’s important to feed our bodies well. But be sure to clarify! Last night my nine year old informed me that when she was younger she thought that oranges had vitamin “SEA” in them…. Oops!
3. Print it out: Print out the list and tape it in a place where everyone can see it. It will help with the “I don’t know what to put in my lunch.” Problem.
4. Water bottle: Let your kids help choose one. If it can fit in the lunch bag, even better. Water is so important for our bodies. Often times kids forget to keep themselves hydrated, so having a sturdy/”cool looking” water bottle that they helped pick out will help them stay motivated to drink from it.
5. Go to the store: Ha! I had to put that one in, but often times if you have done a good job planning you won’t take the time to get to the store with the list! So, make time to go, list in hand. Usually I like to go on the weekend so we can be ready for the new week. (Don’t forget to buy ziptop bags, plastic utensils, etc. For lunches if you need them!)
6. Do the prep work: It may take a little time in advance, but I’ve found that if I cut, wash and store fruits and veggies such as celery, and carrots, cantaloupe, grapes in sandwich ziptop bags or small containers, they are ready to be added to a lunch quickly. If you have kids that are old enough have them help with this too!
7. Buy in bulk and package yourself: My kids love pretzels, and those little crackers that resemble a certain goldfish. Although not the best, I don’t feel that they are the worst choice, but in moderation. I like to premeasure a small amount and put it in ziptop baggies soon after I’m home from the store. Again easy to throw in the lunch later on. And again, kids can help with this.
8. Make it the night before: I don’t know about you, but I am not a morning person! So every little bit done the night before helps. My kids know that as part of their evening routine they make their lunch for the next day and stick it in the fridge. Does it always happen? No. But when it does, the morning seems to go that much better and they have the time to make healthier choices instead of grabbing whatever they can find, throwing it in their lunch bag and running out the door…
9. If possible, try making it from scratch: a little treat to go in their lunch is something my kids enjoy but I do like making it myself so that I can have control over what is going into it. (Much better for you than processed sugary stuff.) Again, prepackaging this yourself (one or two cookies, NOT four or five as opposed to what my daughter would hope to find.) in advance is helpful for later on when it’s time to assemble lunches.
10. Don’t stress: hopefully if you do a little organizing and prep beforehand, making a lunch that both you and your kids like will be less of a stress, be kid friendly and provide some nutrition as well. And don’t stress about doing it perfectly. If it seems overwhelming just start with brainstorming healthy lunch ideas with your kids to at least get them thinking.
What are you doing keep your kids lunches healthy and happy at your house?