So, kids returning to school is imminent. While we're clinging to the last days of summer as best we can, another angst looms… the school lunchbox. What to put in it and why. Here are our top 3 tips to improving the contents and removing the stress of school lunchboxes.
Not the teary kiss goodbye at the classroom door, but Keep It Simple Stupid! Which is my first point - don’t over think it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with competitive lunchbox angst, but at the end of the day as long as your child is eating and has energy to run around and learn you’re doing a good job. It’s just one meal of the day! The image above is a homemade vegetarian sausage roll, using the same filling as is used for falafels so you can have two days covered off really easily with one batch cooking session, and you could eat them for your dinner as you make them. And the slice of water melon is a perfect solution to a simple small break treat. While variety is really good, sometimes keeping it really simple is better. Kids will have a mid afternoon snack, dinner and their breakfast before they leave. These are all opportunities for introducing variety. So, don't feel like you must have a smorgasbord of food for in their lunchbox every day.
2. BRINGING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL - THE WHY….
So, that’s base level lunchbox theory with a definite guilt-free approach. What if we want to achieve a few more things with our child’s lunchbox. I know these are some of the things I strive for, but each of my kids is different so I have to bear this in mind and I’m not doing three different gourmet lunches, life is too short! We’ve already touched on the first one, but these are my top three wishes:
- Giving them enough energy to fulfil their day well - unprocessed, whole foods will have a positive effect on their energy levels. And the fibre and prebiotics in these foods helps to keep their little guts healthy.
- Getting a wide variety of fruit and veg into them - upping their nutrient rich foods has massive positive implications in terms of their health and sets them up for good habits as they grow.
- Introducing new flavours & textures for them to build on - making them open to trying new things is a big challenge, some kids are better than others, but it's good to encourage regardless. They will surprise you when you least expect it.
….AND THE HOW…
So how do we go about this, especially if you are dealing with a fussy eater? Here are a few ideas:
- Involve them: Like all meal planning it takes a little bit of ground work to set up a good foundation. Sit down and discuss different ideas of what they would like and what they might be willing to try. If they are old enough, let them help you prepare the lunch giving them some more ownership of what they are eating.
- Give them some control: Let them choose what they will have for the week ahead (don’t give them too much choice on the morning or it might not go so well!). Maybe ask them to try one new piece of fruit or veg a week in addition to their usual staples and include it as an extra so they are not going hungry.
- Have fun: It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same food because you know they’ll eat it, but try to mix it up a little. Instead of a sandwich or bagel try making tarts, quiches, falafels, fritters or savoury pastries instead.
- The freezer is your friend: When you make any of the above make it in batches when you know they will eat it and freeze.
- Easy to eat: Most kids aren’t going to mindfully eat their lunch, I think it’s safe to say. They are more interested in chatting and playing with their friends. So, make sure the food is easy to pick up and eat without a mess. It’s a lovely idea for them to eat a salad, but maybe sticking with chopped fruit and veg is more accessible. Save the mindfulness for dinner time!
3. GET THE GEAR
By being fully prepared with equipment that works for you is really half the battle. These two items below are some of what we have been testing over the summer and we love them. The kids can't wait to bring them to school too, which hopefully helps with the contents being consumed too!
This year I’ve invested in my favourite water bottle for each of the kids (and me!). They managed to not lose a water bottle last year which was definitely an improvement on the 6 from the previous year. So, stainless steel is up – it’s durable, doesn’t leach chemicals, is sustainable and this one keeps drinks hot or cold. And with those colours, what’s not to love?:
And I think my kids are ready for these amazing Bento Boxes. You can have loads of fun with packing them and they are durable and leak proof, perfect for kids schoolbags being flung around the place. They also come with a neat knife, fork and spoon that clip together. (There’s a lovely stainless steel bento I recommend in our shop but maybe as your own office lunch box).
YOU'LL BE AN A-STUDENT BABY
Have a read about meal planning in our blog, it may help you out a bit. Best of luck and remember every week and every day is different. You can simply do the best you can in your given circumstances. But by creating a plan at least allows you to come back to something if you fall off the wagon at all.
See you at the school gate!
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