I can’t believe it’s the middle of August already. Like many of you, I am enjoying a slightly more relaxed summer schedule but recent talk in the office turned to one of the aspects of back-to-school that fill many of us with foreboding, namely packing lunch. If your kid is old enough to be bringing lunch, they probably have a grasp of what’s considered healthy, and what’s considered a treat. However, if they’re like my daughter, they’d be happy with a cupcake and a piece of gum. So, after lots of trial and error, here’s what I’ve learned:
- Get them involved — Let them choose, they feel more independent and more likely to eat their lunch when they’ve picked it. However, the key to this is to narrow the options. They pick…a protein, fruit and/or veggie and a grain. Sandwiches are great for this in that you can combine the protein, veggie, and grain into one.
- I have tons of little containers that I pack with sliced meats, nuts, hummus, cut up fruits/veggies, crackers, muffins, a thermos of pasta, soups, etc…
- While we don’t want to assign good and bad values to foods, healthy and less healthy are pretty clear. I’ve limited the less healthy choices to special days and field trips. I try not to include them daily.
- Water, every day… I usually skip the juice, preferring real fruit instead, which is in keeping with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations (PDF).
- Reduce and reuse. We’ve all become more eco-conscious so re-usable lunch boxes and containers are the way to go. Here are some great options, including a bento-box style, ideal for a kid like mine who never quite embraced the sandwich, preferring a little of this and that for her lunch. Also check out Sigg water bottles, here.
- Let’s do lunch! Here’s something that took me a while to wrap my head around…School lunch is most kids’ first exposure to social eating, with friends outnumbering grown-ups. They’re so excited about this new big-kid thing that they do more chatting than eating. Fear not, they won’t starve! Eventually, they will get the hang of it. That said, anyone picking up my kids from school knows not to show up without a snack in hand.
- And finally….they are never too young to help with clean up. When my daughter gets home from school she knows the drill. She takes her lunch box into the kitchen and empties the contents into the sink. When she can reach more easily, she’ll be rinsing them, and putting them into the dishwasher.