One of the biggest challenges that many Vancouver moms face when kids head back to class is packing a healthy school lunch every day that their kids will actually eat. You want to know that your children have the food they need to keep them happy and learning during the long school day. You also don’t want a whole bunch of food (and the work you invested in preparing it) to go to waste. To help you out, today we’re sharing some of our school lunch tips.
Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold
When it comes to school lunch, keeping foods at the right temperature not only makes them more appetizing, it helps with food safety. Invest in a few basic items: an insulated lunch box or lunch bag, a few ice packs so that one is always cold and ready to go, and a good-quality thermos. If you’re putting food in a thermos, heat it as close to the time as your child leaves for school as possible, since the heat will only be retained for so long. If you’re packing both hot and cold food, keep the two separated. Nothing makes yogurt or cheese less appealing than serving it when it’s too warm.
Fuel Their Learning
Ideally, your child’s school lunch will help keep them going by containing protein and complex carbs to stave off low blood sugar. Think sandwiches on whole grain bread, whole wheat wraps, hummus and whole grain crackers, or a thermos with last night’s dinner of chicken and brown rice. For snacks, think of fruit and veggies. Not only are they fast and easy, but we all know how important they are nutritionally. Cheese, yogurt and unsweetened applesauce are also good options.
When you’re packing your child’s school lunch, keep classroom allergies in mind. Most schools forbid peanuts and tree nuts outright. If your child shares a classroom with a little one with a serious allergy to another food, you may be asked not to send those to school, either. It definitely increases the challenge of packing an appealing school lunch when you can’t just send peanut butter and jam, or when the list of forbidden foods grows. If you have a really picky eater you might want to investigate safer options that resemble their favourites. For example, WOWButter looks and tastes like peanut butter, but it’s made with soy so it’s safe in most classrooms. You can also find dairy-free cheese and yogurt substitutes, egg-free baked goods and so on, to keep everyone healthy and happy.
Don’t Overdo the School Lunch
Kids are smaller than adults, and they eat less. When you’re packing a school lunch, keep in mind that you’re packing for a five year old (or seven year old or nine year old), not for a fully-grown adult. Children have smaller stomachs, and they can only eat so much at a sitting. Instead, they often eat smaller portions more often. Buy kid-sized containers when you’re packing your child’s lunch, that reflect how much your little one actually eats. You’ll waste less food, which will save money and reduce that feeling of annoyance when you see that your child ate only half of what you sent. And load up on snacks, so that your child has something new to munch on the next time they get the chance.
Get Your Child’s Input
Do you remember being a child, and opening your school lunch to discover that your mom or dad had sent you something you didn’t like at all? It doesn’t feel good. And in defense of parents, keeping track of what kids will and won’t eat can be hard. Little ones can adore a food one day, and despise it the next. By getting your child involved in choosing (and possibly even preparing) their school lunch, you’ll increase the odds it will actually be eaten. Also keep in mind that for many kids, novelty is not much fun. If you find a tried-and-true school lunch option, your little one may very well enjoy eating it every day, because the familiar feels good to children.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.