Lunches - the bane of most parents. Let's face it, packing lunches for your back-to-schoolers is no easy task. It takes time and planning. Plus, every parent knows that just because you pack it, doesn’t guarantee your kids will actually eat it.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to fill bags with chips and plain sandwhiches every dayeveryday. Below we lay out 8 tips for how to pack a nutritious lunch that your kids will look forward to eating and that you’ll feel good about giving them.
Give your kids healthy food options from each food group and let them make the final decisions on what goes in their lunch.
Let them help with the weekly menu (see Tip 5) and then take them shopping with you and let them have a say (to a certain extent) in what goes into the cart. This promotes feelings of responsibility and empowerment.
You can even designate a part of your kitchen as the “lunch packing station” and spend some time there with your kids the night before to get lunch ready for the next day.
A balanced diet includes all of the food groups. Luckily, there are so many different ways to enjoy each food group:
Fruits: fresh, frozen, dried, canned, baked (think apple chips!) or pureed.
Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or baked (think kale chips – our kids love these!).
Lean protein: baked chicken, deli meats, hard boiled eggs or beans.
Low-fat dairy: milk, cheese or yogurt.
Whole Grains: pita, sandwich bread, tortillas, wraps, and pastas.
Use shape cutters (like these from Funbites) to make shapes out of bread, deli meat, cheese or use silicone cupcake holders to liven up plain looking foods.
Make use of the variety of colours in the fruit and vege world to engage the eyes and even use silly names for food to make it seem more interesting - broccoli can be "baby trees" and grapes might be "alien heads" for example.
It’s recommended that school-aged kids drink between 6-8 cups of water a day and even more in hot weather or if their activity level is high.
So let your child pick out their favourite water bottle and encourage them to drink the whole thing at least twice at school. They’ll be more inclined to do it if they feel like they are completing a challenge!
You can also make water more interesting by throwing in in a few pieces of frozen fruit to sweeten it up – and keep it cooler. The Drink in a Box is awesome for this.
Having a plan for the week for lunches makes life a little easier.
We like to plan out all our meals in advance and hit the shops once or twice a week. Using our Yumboxes, it's easy to write a list of what will be in each compartment each day and make sure we buy it. Making lunch each morning is then simple. Combined with making leftovers (see Tip 6), this makes life a breeze.
And when the plan fails (and it will), make sure you have a backup plan. Our Plan B is to always have non-perishables liked dried fruit and pretzels etc. on our shopping list so there always enough variety to fill the lunchbox if the fridge is bare.
One sure-fire way to ensure you have plenty of food for lunches is to simply up the amount of dinner you make. You're already cooking, so making more doesn't usually take very long. Our kids often get a cold sausage, a home-made burger, pasta-salad and the like for a few days simply because we make that little bit extra.
And if you're planning as suggested in Tip 5, then this becomes even easier.
Getting super practical here but put your dinner leftovers in the lunch box or lunch container right after dinner, before you wash up. I have a bit of a process - I wash the kids lunchboxes as soon as we get home and let them dry on the sink. Then they're ready to be filled and popped in the fridge after dinner.
The Yumboxes are great for this because they seal well and keep the food fresh.
Because no matter how amazing a meal you put together, if it doesn't stay fresh, it’s not going to get eaten. The best way to do this is put the lunchbox in a cooler bag like these from SoYoung with an ice pack or, for longer lasting freshness, you can use a PackIt which combines the two for up to 10 hours of freshness.
There you go. Like any successful mission, lunches can be healthy, delicious, varied AND easy with just a little bit of forward planning. 30 minutes on a Saturday night can change you whole week for the better.