Lunch! It’s the eternal struggle for the parent who wants their kids to eat even kind of healthy, and the kid who either wants to buy lunch or just wants to make their own food decisions.
We take lunch to school because giving a child a lunch account card without them understanding the limits thereof, or the fact that the money they are spending actually comes from somewhere, is a disaster waiting to happen. When I was a kid, lunch was much easier. Probably because no one understood that a sandwich on white bread, chips, a juice box and a cookie was a terrible lunch. Today, the crunchy moms would have you crucified on a gluten-free cross for sending such a meal to school.
While I’m not overly concerned with my child eating paleo or vegan, I do want them to have healthy stuff that will keep them full and not give them a sugar rush or low blood sugar later. Here are a few cool lunch ideas that will help keep things interesting, help get your child involved in making healthy choices, and be easy on you.
Choose your own adventure:
I like this idea, although the amount of waste it creates does make me a little twitchy. Basically, you put two choices from each food group in a box and label the outside with how many items from each box the child needs to grab. So maybe two fruit items, one dairy or meat and a carb. So you still have control over the nutritional make up of their meal, but they get to pick which individual items they use to get there. It’s also great for kids who love variety and don’t want to eat the same thing every day.
Make your own lunchables:
So I love the concept of Lunchables, but not the actual content. Grade D ends of meat and cheese? No thank you. Making your own is so easy. Grab whatever meat you like and slice it, along with a cheese stick and some crackers. We love using summer sausage or ham off the bone. My kids love these with some pickles and cheery tomatoes on the side. Plus, you can use these Easy Lunchboxes to keep from having to buy baggies in bulk. You can also use toothpicks to kabob everything—that makes any meal more fun!
I love these pinwheel sandwiches because you can make them ahead for the whole week! Use wraps along with your favorite deli meat and sliced cheese. Use a flavored dip or spread to help the wrap to stick, then just roll and slice.
My kids love pasta salad, and it’s also something you can whip up Sunday night for the whole week. We make a Greek pasta salad using cucumbers, tomatoes, rotini, kalamata olives, red onion, (chop and soak in water for about 10 minutes to take out some of the bite) feta cheese and Greek dressing. I toss it altogether and it will stay good for the whole week.
Think outside the box!
If lunches aren’t working for you, problem solve with your kids! Whether you have a picky eater, allergy concerns, or school restrictions on what you can bring, ask your child what their idea lunch would be and scale back their grand plans to something that’s doable. It gives them ownership in the process and makes it a team problem-solving activity. Have them help you put together lunch the night before so there’s no time crunch, and explain any limitations you’re setting.
No matter what goes in the box, my secret to being able to buy more healthy food is not spending money on items you throw away! I love these reusable snack bags—each set comes with a sandwich-size bag and a snack bag, and you can throw them in the washer and dryer for easy cleaning. I also love these bento boxes from Sistema. And washable lunch bags are a must! Add a stainless steel thermos and you are good to go for the whole year.
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