Back-to-school lunches made easy (and fun)

Back-to-school lunches made easy (and fun)

It’s back-to-school time and that means packing lunches for the kiddos.

For some parents, and kids, lunchtime is a dreaded process. Many schools now offer free lunch to the entire school making lunch a breeze for parents, but what about the kid who will not eat the school lunch or for those whose lunches are not free?  Below are some ways to start the school year with healthy lunches that make you, the parent, happy and at the same time ensure your child will eat.

  • Make meals fun! Meals should not be a dreaded event and fun does not mean foods that are unhealthy. Kids love foods with a theme. So, make up names for them such as “ants on a log” for celery and peanut butter with raisins; “trees” for broccoli; “snow-top mountains” for cauliflower. Or, let your child make up his or her own names for foods. It does not matter what they call the food as long as they are eating.
  • Get children involved in the planning and making of lunches. Many parents find it easier to do this process themselves, but getting kids involved gives them a sense of independence. For this to work, parents will need to plan some healthy choices for the child to select. Once the selection is narrowed down, then the child can pick and choose healthy snacks they want rather than feeling forced to eat what was packed.
  • Plan meals, both lunches and dinners, before going to the grocery store. When you have a plan, you will be more likely to get all the ingredients and supplies needed for the week and not be able to make something because it was forgotten. When making a plan for the week, most people can stay on task at the store, therefore, spending less time and less money.
  • Do not let the rush of the morning get in the way of packing those lunches. Take time the night before to pack as much as possible, if not all, to avoid the rush. Extra tip: if you plan to pack leftovers from dinner, pack these right up as you are doing the clean up to avoid extra steps.
  • Always be safe with temperature-sensitive foods. For foods that need to be kept cold, consider freezing the drink overnight and using this as an ice pack. If you are packing pudding or yogurt, freeze these containers and pack them as an ice pack. By lunchtime, your child will have a nice treat that is defrosted. When foods need to be warm, purchase an insulated, wide-mouth thermos to ensure the food stays warm all day, most will stay warm for up to 6 hours.

Always remember, kids perform better in school with a nutritious breakfast and lunch to keep them focused during the day. Foods that are processed and full of sugar will leave your child feeling tired, and for some, hyperactive, thereby interfering with their learning.

By following these few easy steps, packing lunches that are both nutritious and appealing to your child will be much easier for busy moms and dads.

Special Note:  These lunch-packing tips are great for professionals who prefer to take their lunch to work. Planning ahead and prepping the night before are great advice for packing a lunch for any age.

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Heather Venoy, RD, LD, CDE

Heather Venoy is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator for Marshall Health’s Bruce Chertow Diabetes Center in Huntington, W.Va. Heather is a graduate of Marshall University and has 20 years of experience in dietetics.

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