It’s time to pack school lunches for most of my readers, but the trick is in packing lunches that they’re actually willing to eat. No one wants to find out that the carefully packed lunch landed in the trash. Get your child involved and include some of their favourites when you can.
Summer is coming to an end and school is about to start. That means getting into the normal school year routine.
And for many families – that means you need to start packing school lunches! It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it because your child doesn’t like the lunch room offerings, if YOU don’t approve of what they serve, or if you’re looking to save some money – there are a lot of reasons to pack school lunches for your children.
Of course if your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must.
Packing a lunch lets you include healthy foods your child will actually eat and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school. It might even cost less.
Every parent knows that packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
Some Tips on Packing School Lunches They’ll Eat
The best place to start is to get your child involved.
Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they’ll eat, being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.
Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box.
Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for the first week of school. If at all possible, have the children with you. Getting them as involved as possible will make sure that they end up with food they will eat
Younger children can help pack school lunches, of course. Don’t underestimate what your child can do, especially when they know they’ll be eating the food.
Even your kindergartner can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box.
Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before.
Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. I’ve found that a 5 year old might pack a banana and a bag of cookies, if given full rein, but an 8 year old who has been taught will put together a fairly balanced, mostly healthy lunch. My 10 year old can slice bread and meat, make a respectable sandwich, and ensure that carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables are all represented.
He’s been practicing, with a lot of supervision, for several years, of course.
A few weeks ago, my 8 year old said “Well, practice makes perfect!” and his brother corrected him “No, poor practice doesn’t. PERFECT practice makes perfect.” That applies to packing lunches, too. Supervise, correct, and make sure they understand why you make the choices you do.
Just the fact that you’ve given them some responsibility will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
You do want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Giving them responsibility doesn’t mean you should let them take three Twinkies and a fruit Rollup to school.
Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy, though, especially if you’re competing with a school lunch program that offers pizza, hamburgers, and chicken nuggets.
Strike a balance and make compromises.
You’re packing a healthy veggie-filled wrap or a salad? Include your child’s favourite cookies.
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Teach them to make good choices, but please don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. All things in moderation – and that includes moderation!
Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food. The only result of ‘no junk food ever’ will be that your child will trade with friends for those forbidden Twinkies!
Even if the brown bag has been landing in the trash or a completely full lunch makes its way home every day, you can learn to pack school lunches they’ll eat with just a few simple changes. Involve your child in the process and get her input. Include his favourites, especially if you’re trying to get him to try something new. And above all, be flexible and willing to adapt.