Back to school is just around the corner. Let the beauty contest of perfectly packed bento boxes commence.
Let’s be honest, cutting out perfectly shaped sandwiches and making designs in cucumber skins may look great on social media, but here are some practical tips for packing lunch for your child.
Pack food they like to eat
This might sound obvious, but it is easy to forget with the pressure to create a “healthy” lunch. While making a nutritious lunch is a great goal, the food does little to give your child fuel to learn and perform if they don’t eat it.
If you have a picky eater or one that has a limited appetite, you know that feeling when you unpack the lunchbox and realize that your child has had little more than a nibble of food the entire day. This means that you need to balance nutritious choices with ensuring that your child has food they are willing to eat.
Keep it simple
While fancy dips and garnishes look great on Pinterest, they can make preparing lunch more complicated. You don’t need to create a photo-worthy lunch. Instead, put effort into making it easy for your child to see what is included and make selections.
Using see-through containers, bags or a bento style box are a great option. While it only takes a second for your child to open a stainless steel container to see what is inside, remember that lunch time offers many distractions and your child may not make the effort to explore offerings that aren’t immediately identifiable.
Monotony is fine if it’s working
Packing the same lunch every day may leave you wondering if you should shake up the routine. It isn’t necessary to serve jicama sticks at least once a month.
You don’t need to have a vast array of lunch ideas for your child. Varying the vegetable, fruit, protein source a couple times a week (or month) are more than adequate to provide ample variety. If you serve the same fruit 3 days in a row and the container comes home empty, keep it up!
Include lean protein
Protein doesn’t have to be a turkey or tuna sandwich. Low-fat dairy is another option for lean protein. Consider yogurt, milk and string cheese as options for protein. A hard-boiled egg is a simple and effective way to include a protein source. Don’t forget about plant sources or protein such as beans. Including tofu, edamame, roasted chickpeas or even dips like hummus provide lean protein.
Include variety with hot food options, too. Pre-heat an insulated container with boiling water and then add warmed food to maximize the length of time the food stays hot. Pay attention to food safety with protein foods as they are the most likely to cause illness. Food should not be in the danger zone (40-140 degrees) for more than 4 hours.
There are many healthier convenience foods that you can include in your child’s lunch. While these are great options, they can quickly add up to a costly lunch. Aim to include foods that are not pre-packaged as often as possible.
Food waste is a consideration. Don’t overpack! You may be inclined to pack more than twice what you would serve at home to offer variety or for the occasional day that appetite is at a peak! This can result in a great deal of food waste.
Focus on practicality!
Packing a lunch for your child may not be the most glamorous job and often goes without a thank you. It doesn’t have a to be a complicated event. Browsing Pinterest and the internet for ideas is a great way to find inspiration, but don’t get drawn into pressure to create photo-worthy lunches. Focus on the essentials and most importantly, packing food your child will eat!