Packing school lunches seems like it should be a simple task—just pack what your kids like to eat and be on your way. Right? Not always.
Sending your kids to school with lunches from home has become an increasingly challenging feat. Many schools now have stringent rules on allergy-heavy items such as peanut butter, a lunchbox classic. And, as has long been the case, lunches become part of your children's identities and sometimes can even affect their social standing. (Remember that famous scene from "The Breakfast Club"? Still alive and well today!)
So, it's important to put some consideration into what you will pack in school lunches. Planning ahead and packing lunches the night before can help you make sure your kids are getting nutrient-rich meals at school without adding to the chaos of the morning rush.
Get the Right Container
Let your kids help you pick out their lunchboxes and the interior containers. Who knew that a "sandwich container," as opposed to a resealable plastic bag, is all the rage these days? The kids know. And this stuff matters at the lunch table.
Help Your Kids Stay Hydrated
Statistics about the importance of hydration to basic body functions abound, but it's the ones about how the delicate balance of hydration affects brain function that are really eye-opening. Pack your kids a big water bottle (available in awesome patterns by SIGG, CamelBak, etc.) and instruct them to drink as much as they can. Skip the ever-popular juice boxes.
Pay Attention to Sugar
Sugar has a way of sneaking into everything—even the things you think are healthy, like granola and protein bars, yogurt cups, fruit cups, fruit leather, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (sigh). What's more, food manufacturers know that moms are watching sugar grams and are now adding artificial sweeteners to all kind of "healthy" foods. This is no better, so watch for buzzwords like SPLENDA, sucralose, and Stevia. It is important to watch the overall sugar content of your kids' lunches.
Try Alternatives to PB&J
Some kids just don't like sandwiches. If you have one of those, you may need to get creative. Some ideas:
- Hummus with pita wedges and veggies for dipping
- Guacamole packed with veggies and cheese quesadilla wedges
- Cheese cubes, olives, and salami slices with crackers
- A thermos with pasta or soup
- Peeled hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper packets
- Homemade yogurt parfaits that can be assembled at the lunch table
- Bagels with cream cheese
- Rice cakes with a small container of peanut butter or sunflower nut butter and a kid-friendly knife for spreading
Add Fun Novelties
Occasional thoughtful treats can make for a fun lunch for your kids. Some ideas:
- A can of sparking water instead of their normal bottle
- Nutella & Go as a dip for apple slices, bananas, or strawberries
- Sandwiches cut into festive shapes with cookie cutters
- A normally forbidden treat on Fridays, like a small piece of chocolate
- A mini-bottle of Gatorade on gym days (such a game-changer in the lunch of a boy!)
- Seasonal goodies like popcorn balls at Halloween, a small piece of leftover birthday cake, or an Easter egg
- A note to remind your kiddos that you're thinking of them at lunch and that you love them
Want more? Check out The Twin Source Recipe section for great ideas for the entire family!