It’s hard to believe summer is almost over!
For many of us, the end of summer is also the beginning of the back to school season and preparing for the back to school routine. Part of that routine generally includes the need to pack school lunches. Packed lunches are great if your child doesn’t have time to finish their meal after going through the lunch line at school. I know this happens to be a problem for my, now, first grader! But, packing lunches also means you have more control over what your child is eating and you can offer them more of what they want.
If your child has food allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s safer to pack school lunches vs letting them buy from the cafeteria.
Though school lunches are relatively inexpensive (at least here in Florida), a packed lunch doesn’t have to cost too much. Plus, you can include healthy foods your child will eat.
It’s important to remember that, while you want your child to eat healthily, balance is a must to pack school lunches your kids want to eat. If your child trades part (or all) of their lunch for junk food or ends up not eating it at all, spending your time packing a lunch doesn’t do much good. So, it’s important to find things your child enjoys eating, and that it’s not always going to be the most healthy.
How to Pack School Lunches Your Kids Will Actually Eat
If you want to pack school lunches your children will eat, go back to the basics!
Don’t get fancy
Oddly enough, over thinking packed lunches doesn’t do much good. My daughter is fond of at least one peanut butter and jelly every week. I’ve been known to ask her what she wants in her lunch mid-week (when I haven’t done my usual lunch packing on Sunday). It doesn’t matter if she’s had peanut butter and jelly twice, she’ll often ask for it again.
When I try to get too fancy, it doesn’t usually pan out for either of us. I’ve made pinwheels out of spinach wraps with turkey, bacon, and ranch and she’s come home with a bite or two eaten. I don’t know about you, but wasting time and money doesn’t exactly make me happy. And I hate knowing my child didn’t eat lunch most of all.
Involve the kids in decision making
So, combat the problem by getting your child involved in making lunch decisions. Depending on your child’s age and kitchen skill levels, you may even choose to put them in charge of making their own lunches. Aside from teaching your children responsibility, they’re much more likely to eat lunches they’ve made themselves.
It’s totally cool to ask your children what they want in their lunches. As long as they’re not requesting a bunch of junk you wouldn’t consider making, let them make their choices. Make your grocery list, including the special requests by your children, then head to the store to purchase everything you need for the first week of school.
Have the kids help pack school lunches
Get all the kids involved in making lunches. Get your little partners in the kitchen to wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for their lunch boxes. Older, more skilled children can make sandwiches.
Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before, though preparing them all on Sundays for the week is even more effective. Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility and control over their lunches.
Because your children are choosing and making their lunches, you’re almost guaranteed they’ll eat their lunches. At the same time, you’re teaching them independence and personal responsibility.
Compromise for balance
Of course, you want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be the best strategy to getting your children to eat their lunches. As with everything I suggest, seek balance. It’s okay to make compromises. If your kids are willing to pack a healthy salad or wrap, it won’t do much damage to have a cookie for dessert. It’s your job to teach them to make good choices, but they’re kids. They’re going to want Cheetos or Oreos … and it’s okay! Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices. Restricting or refusing all junk food will only lead them to trade for the really unhealthy stuff with their friends or they’ll sock away change for buying their own junk food.
Are you ready to tackle back to school?
Getting ready for back to school? Get into a great back to school routine, including more lunch prep ideas in a previous post: Beat the School Morning Rush!
Want more ideas?
Don’t forget to sign up for my email list for instant access to a free resource library. I’ve recently added a mini school lunch idea recipe booklet!