Just like that, we’re back to school. This year, it’s hot to brown bag your lunch again, packing up food from home and bypassing the preservative-laden pizza, translucent mashed potatoes and the steamed vegetable medley.
But when you’re competing with cheese pizza and chicken nuggets every day, how can you ensure that the lunch you so lovingly packed for your child is the one that gets eaten and not tossed in the trash?
Here are a few tips to make those brown bags fun and interesting. Not only can homemade lunches be healthier for your children, but they can be more exciting, too.
Get Them Involved
Yes, kids really do respond when you ask them what they want and give them a choice. Try offering up two selections that they can choose from: “Would you like hard-boiled eggs or a sandwich for lunch tomorrow?”
I like to get my kids involved in the packing as well, letting them fill containers with fresh fruit or pretzels. Give kids a task that gives them a sense of ownership over the meal you’re preparing for them.
Finger Food is Fun
Grapes, crackers, cheese cubes and carrots are only a few of the possibilities. Pack a lunch that gets kids involved. One of my favorite “tricks” to getting my kids to eat something they’re not usually interested in is providing bite-sized pieces and a toothpick. They are so drawn in by poking the tiny pieces of food that they forget they were protesting a minute earlier.
Send along a coffee stirrer for kids to poke cheese cubes and peach chunks with. If you’re serving a small piece of snack cake for dessert, make an improvised pastry bag with a tiny snack-sized zip-top bag, cutting off one small piece of the corner. Your kid will love making squiggly frosting lines on their cake when lunch rolls around. Also try dipping sauces, hummus, salad dressings, nut butters and chocolate sauce for dipping pieces of fruit, crackers and vegetables into.
Not All Leftovers are Boring
Some of my favorite meals come from repurposed leftovers. Take fried rice, for example: leftover rice, whatever vegetables you have lying around from other meals, leftover meat. A few minutes in the wok with a bit of oil and soy sauce and you have a completely new meal that is lunch-box friendly.
Invest in a thermal container to pack leftovers like macaroni and cheese, casseroles or fried rice to send a warm meal with your child. Don’t stop at warm food items, though. Pasta salads and yogurt can also be sent in food jars and the like.
Eat a Rainbow
Eating a rainbow is good for you. You want to be seeking out foods in different food groups and that provide different nutrients and vitamins for little bodies to grow strong and healthy. Not only is one-note food unappealing and unappetizing, it’s usually not the best meal you could be eating.
Pick bright and colorful produce to fill your child’s lunchbox. Make celery interesting by providing the peanut butter and raisins for them to create their own ants on a log. Alternate cheese cubes and grapes and berries on coffee stirrer skewers for them to bite off one by one.
Let Them Eat Cake
Include something special in there for your young soul. I like to toss in small fruit leather rolls that my kids can eat right away or save for later. Yogurt-covered pretzels and raisins are other favorites in our house. A sweet treat is a great end to a meal, whether you’re young or old, so give them a little something to satisfy that craving.
- My friend Jessica from LifeasMOM and contributor here to Food Your Way has some great ideas on how she does lunch for her six kids.
- Read my post over at Lifetime Moms for five quick school lunch ideas.
- Find great ideas for different foods to pack in that sack from meals matter.
- Watch as a teacher chronicles her adventures in eating the hot school lunch every day just like her students. She’s on Day 102 of her project.
Do you pack lunches to send with your kids to school? If you homeschool, do you pack lunch ahead like Jessica does?
|Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family and the author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine. She is a contributor to Babble.com’s Family Kitchen Blog and the food channel on Lifetime Moms. Shaina can usually be found cooking, at the computer or behind the camera.|