I grew up eating in the school’s cafeteria, so I didn’t experience the packed lunch ordeal. However, I do remember my dad taking the same thing to work every day, six days a week. An Oscar Meyer olive loaf (I know, don’t ask) sandwich on wheat with mayo, a bag of chips, and a piece of fruit.
I can only imagine what it feels like being a kid and opening your lunchbox to see the same thing over and over again. One thing that shocked me as a parent when my kids started school was that rarely did a child bring a homemade lunch to school.
I would often visit my children at school and see that their classmate had lunchboxes filled to the brim with packaged stuff. Not even a main course. Just squeezable yogurt, cookies, fruit gummies, processed cheese slices, and nothing that resembled something from the earth.
My kids’ lunches are by no means picked fresh from the garden with hard-boiled eggs from the coop and steak fresh off our pasture. But I make a sturdy attempt to pack wholesome foods that look pretty close to how they did in the growing fields.
As your kids start to trickle back into their classrooms, standing an inch taller with fresh new shoes strapped across their feet, why not send them off with a lunch that makes them smile?
Rather than a boring sandwich on plain bread, try mixing things up with mini bagels, wraps, and even mini pizzas. You can make these quickly with English muffins in the morning. Kids don’t mind eating them at room temperature.
In addition, you can use sliced cucumbers as the sandwich bun to squeeze in some extra veggies. You may find that when you dress them up right, kids will actually enjoy eating veggies at school. Stuff pitas with sandwich fixing and fresh salads, make tortilla rolls with diced cucumber and tomato, and slice thin vegetable sticks for quick grabs.
Along with their veggie-stuffed fancy sandwiches, add some flavorful fruit. And not just the apples, bananas, and grapes they are accustomed to. Buy fresh, local produce that is in season and prepare it right when you get home from the market. This way you have lots of options when filling up their lunches.
I also keep a well-made thermos for each child so I can send leftovers, fresh pasta dishes, homemade soups, and grilled veggies and meats.
And what’s a lunch without dessert? Here are some great links to homemade granola bars sure to taste even better than the ones in the store. Make a big batch and store them in single servings for an easy add-in item for lunches.
Homemade Chewy Granola Bars by Iowa Girl Eats
Homemade Granola Bars by Barefoot Contessa
Homemade Larabars by Foodie with Family
I often hear from parents the same line, “My kid won’t eat that stuff.” I sometimes think it’s because they are used to not eating it. I know if given a choice, my son would gladly eat chicken tenders every day. But I don’t allow it. He gets along just fine.
If you do have a picky eater who will only down squeezable yogurt at lunch, break him into his new routine slowly. It always helps to have your child help prepare his lunch. Let him make his own fancy sandwich, slice his veggies (with supervision, of course) and customize his lunch. Over the weeks, taper down on the packaged snacks and get more into the routine of freshly made eats.
Take the time to pack a good lunch and your children will learn to appreciate good food. Nourishment is one of the most important elements of their school day and you don’t want them to miss out on a healthy meal. When you put a little love into their lunch, it goes a long way.
For more great school lunch ideas, check out Good Housekeeping’s article.
By Editor Kellie Davis