How to Pack a Healthy Lunch Box...That Your Kid Will Actually Eat
Packing lunch boxes is the bane of all our existences at one time or another, but nothing is a kick in the teeth to your efforts like seeing those lovingly packed lunches come home uneaten! However, there are a few things you can do that might improve your success rate for packing a healthy lunch box that your kid will actually eat!
1) Surprise Them! When your child opens his or her lunch box, it is like unwrapping a gift! At least it is for my daughter and most of the many students I have had over the years. They look forward to seeing the new and different things that you've packed! Cut their sandwich into a great shape with a fun cookie cutter. Make a rainbow fruit kabob! Have fun with it so that they will have fun eating it.
Now, I'll be honest. This tactic might now work for all kiddos. For those extra stubborn or particular eaters, I suggest my next trick be taken to heart.
2) Get Them Involved! Is your little lady or lad not digging your lunch box choices for them? Well then, give them the power! Or at least, some of it. Let them pick the veggie ("Do you want carrot sticks tomorrow or sliced cucumber?"), the fruit, the protein, and so on. Not only will your child feel empowered by all the choices over their food, but because they got to have choices (and don't we all love choices) they will likely then be more interested in actually eating the food you guys packed. I like to invite my daughter to help me pack her lunch after dinner so that I'm not cramming one more thing into our already busy mornings, but you have to find a time that is right for your family.
Is your kiddo just wanting a peanut butter sandwich everyday? While that may seem frustrating for you, let them have the redundant sandwich. Perhaps tell them then that they need to pick a new fruit or veggie to add to their lunch box. Still no dice? Don't push the battle. You could do a lot worse than a sandwich made with a couple of slices of whole grain bread and natural (no sugar added) peanut butter. Chances are, the power struggle over the food will stop once you stop fighting it and the PB will eventually get old.
3) Balance. Remember learning about those food groups? They are as important in lunch boxes as they are at any other meal! So when packing lunch, make sure all of the food groups are represented to ensure that your child's tummy stays full and their brain is nourished to absorb all that import info being sent their way in school and the world. Crackers and cheese sticks are okay in moderation, but carbs and dairy products should not be the only things represented in the lunch box! Need a few easy grab-n-go fruits and veggies that require nothing more than a quick washing? Here are a few of my favorite plants to include when packing my daughter's lunch:
cherry or grape tomatoes
sugar snap peas
clementines (you may need to start the peel for younger kiddos)
mini sweet bell peppers
4. Use kid-friendly containers. This is a tip I actually got from a kindergarten teacher. She told me that children often spend a great deal of their lunch time just trying to get INTO their lunch containers. Think about it. If it is tricky for you to open and close, then its definitely going to be hard for your child to accomplish...especially with a time constraint. Most school lunch facilities have adults present to monitor and help children of course, but the children needing help far outnumber the adults. So stick to a container that requires minimum work to get into. That way your child will spend less time fussing with the container and more time focused on eating all the good stuff you packed it with.
My favorite is the PlanetBox lunch system. Its is an all-in-one container that your child can easily open, see their lunch/snack spread, and close up just as easily. No muss or fuss. I taught my 4-year-old how to use it in about 5 minutes. I also like my ECOlunchbox (pictures below). Another great brand that I have seen come through my classroom is Bentgo kids.
5. Don't be afraid of leftovers. They save my behind at lunch box packing time on a regular basis. Was dinner great? Did your child love it? Send it for lunch the next day! I use a Thermos to keep warmed leftovers hot(ish) until lunch time. I quickly heat it up in morning, throw it into the thermos, and hit the road for school. Cook once, eat twice!
Hint: When using a thermos to keep food warm, use hot water to heat up the inside of the thermos with hot water while your food warmed up. This way, the room temperature metal won't cool down your warmed food, thus keeping it hotter longer!
6. Play with your food. We all eat with our eyes first and kids are no different. Cut that cheese in to cute shapes with small cookie cutters. Make a pattern with those beautiful rainbow carrots! Your kiddo will love how fun their food is and fun food always tastes better! Plus, taking the time to make your kiddo's lunch box special and fun will likely make them feel loved. So when they open up a lovingly crafted lunch box, its kind of like you giving them a midday hug. Cheesy, but true.
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