Back to School Lunches (After More than a Year of Eating at Home)
Many parents are still wrapping their heads around the idea of children returning to in-person learning for the first time since March 2020. With this transition comes a lot of changes to children’s daily routines, including packing school lunches. Since a lot of us are out of practice, I thought I might share some basic tips for how to achieve success with school lunches:
1. Keep it balanced!
You have likely been in survival mode for the past year and a half, especially when it comes to food prep. I encourage you to take full advantage of this new routine with kids going back to school to instill some structure with lunches. Follow our trusty MyPlate to pack a protein + grain + fruit/vegetable each day. The more consistent you are with including these three food groups, the more your child will begin to accept them. Who knows, maybe he will even eat some foods you send to school that he would never eat in your own home? Give it a shot!
2. Keep it easy!
You don’t have to pack heart-shaped cucumbers and write thoughtful messages in their lunchboxes to be an awesome parent. Lower your expectations for school lunches to keep things quick and easy. Maybe you can throw together some leftover pasta with chicken and broccoli from last night’s dinner? Or maybe you can prepare a quick turkey sandwich with some grapes on the side? Or maybe even a snack-themed lunch of crackers with cheese, apple slices and sun butter to dip? As long as your child leaves the house with a lunchbox full of food you should consider that a win!
3. Keep them engaged!
We all know that children do better when they have time to process things. This applies to food as well. Involve them in the preparation of their school lunches not only as a fun activity but also to familiarize them with what is on the menu for that day. When your child opens their lunchbox and sees all the items that he put in there from the night before, he is sure to have a more pleasant mealtime experience.
Lastly, here is a tip that I want to leave you with: Consider making three lists to put up on the refrigerator: one list for protein foods, one for grain foods and one for fruits/vegetables. Then set aside a few minutes each night with your child to pick one food from each list that will go into the school lunch.