As kids are heading off for another school year, parents prepare to pack their lunches. I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to be hard. Getting organized with the right supplies, winning combinations, and a touch of creativity will ensure your child has an all-star lunch!
1. Get the tools
Before you start making lunch, equip yourself with the containers, the bags, and all the supplies that will transport your lovingly packed lunch! Pick the containers first, then buy the bag. This ensures you'll buy the right size bag for the containers you'll be using. The other piece to consider, are the types of foods you'll be packing. To keep their lunch cold, purchase a small ice pack that you can toss into their lunch bag. Another idea is to partially freeze their beverage container, so it keeps food cold, but thaws out by lunchtime. If your child likes to eat leftovers from dinner and comforting homemade soups or stews, consider purchasing a thermos. A thermos will allow them to enjoy this warm foods without needing to use a microwave.
Lunch box checklist:
- Insulated lunch bag
- BPA-free plastic, glass, or stainless steel containers of various sizes
- Water bottle
- Reusable cutlery
- Silicon muffin cups
- Ice pack
2. Get stocked
Fill your pantry and fridge with foods you approve and your kids love. Children are often rushed over the lunchtime, and often only have 10-15 minutes to eat! If you have a picky, or easily distracted eater, the types of foods you pack in their lunch should be geared towards them. For a picky eater who struggles with trying something new under the best circumstances, packing an unfamiliar food in their lunch likely won't go over well. For these children, try to stick with tried and true foods, and save the the exposure to new foods for family meals. If your child is easily distracted at meals, or has a difficult time opening up packages, try packing foods in easy to open containers or require little effort to get the meal going. This will prevent them from getting distracted by the package and miss the opportunity to eat the nutritious meal you thoughtfully packed.
winning lunch "add-on's":
- Dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, mango slices)
- Cheese string or cubes of cheese
- Whole grain crackers or pretzels, seeded crackers
- Air popped popcorn* or rice cakes
- Sliced veggies with dip, cream cheese, or hummus
- Baked corn chips, whole wheat tortillas or pitas, with mashed avocado or salsa
- Cottage cheese and sliced fruit or berries
- NutriKidz Cocoa-Chia Energy Bites
*Choking hazard. For children over the age of 4 years.
3. Get Creative
Lunches don't have to be complicated for kids to eat them, but a little creativity never hurt. Children often like to eat more simply, so when it comes to their lunches, Keep it Simple! To create a kid-friendly lunch your child will actually eat, try building a homemade lunch-able or bento-style lunch. Kids like to have choice and variety, and these lunches let them have both. It also allows them to eat things individually, where sauces and spreads can't make bread soggy or lettuce wilty...sound familiar? Many lunch containers have dividers, but if you don't own one like this, use silicon muffin cups to create dividers.
Build a Healthy Lunch:
- Start with a protein: eggs, meat, beans, tofu, yogurt, kefir, cheese
- Pair it with a healthy grain: whole grain crackers, bread, pita, quinoa, brown rice
- Add some colour: wash, slice, and serve up your child's favourite fruits and veggies
- Toss in a treat: dried fruit, pretzels, popcorn, homemade mini muffins, energy bites
If you find the lunches you're packing are boring, chances are, so do your kids. Try to think outside the sandwich. Use these tips the next time you make your child's lunch, and get inspired by trying something new! Your child will love you for it!