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Summer has ended for most of us, and school has started. That of course means it’s time to get back into a school year routine. Part of that routine in many households is packing school lunches. Packed lunches are a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer or you want a little more control over what your child is eating.
If your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat, and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.
Of course, packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
The best place to start is to get your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, but being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.
Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for the first week of school. Getting the kids as involved as possible will make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat. For older kids that may mean making their own lunches (under your supervision of course).
Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box. Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way, you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
Of course, you want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy though. Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad, for example, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices. Don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.
Allowing your children to help choose the foods for their lunchboxes and pack and/or prep the food before going to be the night before will do a couple of things. First, it allows the child to be part of the process. Second, you are spending quality time with your children. If you have more than one school-aged child, you can pack lunches together as a group activity or individually. Each child will then see this as a special time with you.
What are some easy, inexpensive, and (mostly) healthy lunch options you like for your children?
Today is the first post in a series of 5 weeks; come back for the next 5 weeks to get more tips and tricks for school lunches.
Until next week, if you still haven’t picked up a lunch box for your children yet, head over to Amazon and check these out.