How to Pack Healthy Lunches That Actually Get Eaten!
It’s that time of year again…
Don’t know about you, but I always start the school year off with great intentions. Images of amazing home-baked treats and incredible salads dance in my head. As everyone settles into their new routines, and extra-curricular schedules come into effect, it gets super busy. Some days it starts to feel like nothing short of a herculean effort is required to try and ensure that I am providing my 3 kids with nutritious and delicious lunches that they will actually eat. Yeah, that’s the kicker, isn’t it?
Like you, I want to be able to send my kids to school with foods that will energize them and keep them alert throughout their busy school day. However, I am no saint. I want to do this in the easiest, least time-consuming and argument-free way possible.
Our young children spend their day growing and learning, which requires a lot of energy. Food is energy. Nutrient dense foods provide us with the energy we require to build and repair (essential for kids) as well as to learn and to develop. When we eat balanced meals, our energy levels and moods stabilize, and we are better able to focus.
While many of us grew up on KD (that’s Kraft Dinner – i.e. macaroni and cheese) with a little Flintstones thrown in for good measure – and plastic cheese sandwiches, that isn’t what I am referring to when I speak of nutrient density. I am talking about good quality proteins, carbs and fats. All of the nutrients required to ensure that our bodies and minds remain engaged, active and sharp.
Here are my Top 4 tips on how to stress less, and fill your child’s lunchbox with healthy, nutrient-packed, and most importantly – yummy – lunches and snacks that they will actually eat.
1. Balance. Fill the box with nourishing foods. The good will crowd out the bad.
A quick eyeball check that the lunchbox has good quality protein, fat, vegetables, fruit, and a healthy snack or treat ensures that you are sending your child to school with food that will keep them balanced all day. Obviously, children have different sized appetites, so use your child’s needs as a guide. Do not worry too much about how much they are eating. If they are hitting all developmental milestones, they are usually getting enough food. Focus on the quality. Once you have provided all of the nourishment that your child needs, don’t be afraid to include some less than nourishing “treats.”
Kids are still kids after all.
Examples of Protein/Fats/Carbs
TIP: Try and ensure that each meal and snack has at least one food from each category.
2. Let the kids help
There is a greater chance of success if you get your stakeholders to “buy in”. You are the gatekeeper to “healthy” but your kids will be much more excited about actually eating things they’ve made or have chosen.
Depending on the age of your kids, this can also mean downloading the responsibility of making lunch on your kids to do for themselves. Your responsibility here would lie in making sure that HEALTHY foods are available for the packing and the taking.
3. Pre-Plan / Prepare Ahead of Time
There is no busier person on earth than a working parent. In my opinion, that means ALL mothers and fathers. If you have kids, you are always working. With pleasure, right? Whether it is packing kids’ lunchboxes or just generally trying to maintain a healthier diet, planning and preparing ahead goes a long way.
Some quick tips on planning and prep to ensure a healthier lunchbox:
I find it extremely helpful to get a jump start on the week by preparing some things ahead of time. Make Sunday ‘Prep Day’.
Wash and chop vegetables and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
-Make ahead tuna, salmon or egg salad and keep in a container in the fridge.
-Make hard-boiled eggs to keep in the fridge.
-Make a big mixed fruit salad
-Pre-portion snacks in containers or little baggies.
4. Create a rotating meal plan
Once you have received your child’s input, create a list of 10 different lunch options and combinations. This saves so much time because you have your shopping, planning and preparing game plan in place for two full weeks of school lunches.
Download your copy of my e-book “The Shifted Lunchbox” which includes a balanced 2 week lunch and snack plan that kids will actually eat, a whole bunch of recipes, and suggestions for healthier packaged snack foods, because, let’s be honest, sometimes that is just the easiest option.
Click here to download your copy now: