It’s up to you to answer that, Solo Nation. Every school day until the end of… school.
Plain ole PB&J ain’t cutting it anymore. And nothing says fail louder than the untouched remnants of the day. Pre-packaged products are tempting because they shout, “Convenience!” But there’s an added expense for that convenience, not to mention the fat, sodium, preservatives, and sugar that many of these prepared lunches contain.
If you’re looking for ways to send your kid to school with a nutritious and delectable lunch, get creative. Whether it’s a surprise Bento box day, or last night’s dinner packed with love, getting creative in your meal planning will put a smile on that child’s face.
These tips can help you become the lunch box throwdown champ:
Make your kids’ favorite lunches with healthy swap-outs. This is a great way to add nutrition and variety to your kid’s packet lunch. Making a sandwich? Use whole grain sliced bread instead of white. Chop fresh fruit like strawberries, pineapple, or a banana and add to plain Greek yogurt for a sweet treat. If part of the meal includes rice, use brown rice or quinoa cooked in chicken broth for a flavorful side.
Let the kids make their own homemade smoothie creations. Kids are more inclined to eat things they help prepare. And parents can sneak fruits and veggies into a shake-like form. They can pick their favorite ingredients and make a unique creation that’ll satisfy their hunger at lunch time. Since you can make it as healthy as you want, it also serves as a nutritious meal that’ll keep them full well past the dismissal bell. Throw some bananas in the freezer to have a creamy cool kick available anytime.
Get creative with sandwiches. Let’s be honest – sandwiches are the bomb! It’s easy to make, pack, serve, and eat. Plus, it’s a lunch box fave. There’s just one problem: sandwiches can get BORING. To avoid this, add ingredients that you normally wouldn’t find on a sandwich, like pepperoni and sliced mozzarella. Get ideas from the kids about their favorite sammies or what new ones they’d like to try out. Roll ingredients in flat-bread for wraps, or use cookie cutters to make cute sandwich shapes that your kids will brag about.
Dinner leftovers make great lunches the next day. This is a go-to tip for adults making lunch for work. It’s equally awesome for lunch box meals. You make a delicious pot of beef stew, or some slamming barbecued chicken, and the next day there’s plenty of leftovers packed in the fridge. Thermal containers work well if you want to heat up the meal in the morning and make sure it stays warm for them until lunch time. Not only will they get to enjoy that meal made with love from the night before, but you’ll waste less food.
Build school lunches into your weekly meal plan. This will help you keep track of what’s for lunch, and what you need to buy from the grocery store. Older kids can use the meal plan and make their own lunches, saving your time and energy.
Add a “special lunch date” to the calendar. Bento box day is something to look forward to. Or a special salmon filet, zesty chicken breast, or a slice of cake. Make it a different day every week – this week it can be on Tuesday; next week it can be on Friday. To make it more fun, don’t tell! Let them be surprised at lunch time, and they’ll come home from school that day raving about how awesome you are.
Try not to repeat the same type of meal back to back. This is very important in breaking up the monotony of lunch box meals. If you give the kids a sandwich on Monday, then give salad or pasta on Tuesday. A smoothie and a wrap will work for Wednesday, and you can do leftovers with a special note in the box on Thursday. This will help to keep fresh ideas coming, and add the fun in eating a packed lunch.
With just a little creativity, consistency, (and the power of the internet!), you can make your kid smile every day. What’s better than that?