You may spend the better part of your morning putting together the perfect healthy lunch for your kids to take to school, but will it really matter if they don’t eat it? I learned this the hard way when I found out my child traded his entire sandwich for a single candy corn in the lunch room! Don’t let this happen to you! It’s worth getting this right as your kids will bring 2160 lunches to school by the time they graduate!
In our house, I allow the kids to get school lunch once per week. The rest of the week, they bring a lunch. Here are 8 things we do so I can be more confident that they are actually eating what they take!
- Ensure the sandwich is manageable for little mouths! If your kids are small and you want to add vegetables, flatten out the bread and grate the veggies. This is my kids favorite way to eat a veggie sandwich. Here is one I made once for my kids:
Sandwiches we make now. While the flat sandwich has negligible veggies, in the younger years, learning to love the tastes and flavors of vegetables on their sandwiches was the goal. This sandwich is a favorite. We flatten the bread with a rolling pin and add: Hummus for a spread, shredded carrots, diced peppers, and alfalfa sprouts.
- Let them pack their own– or pack it with their input. You can teach kids to pack their lunch even before kindergarten! They’ll need help fixing a sandwich for the first few times, but after that, let them do it! They love to be independent and this is one small thing that you can let go as their mother about! Setting parameters about the items that are important in a balanced lunch is the first thing to teach, and then they can be super good at it all by themselves.
- Keep food fresh. Wrap it up, add freezer packs, or pack it in an airtight container. I had to teach my daughter this when she couldn’t find any sandwich bags, so she just threw her sandwich into a lunch bag. 4 hours of air on that bread would not be appetizing by the time lunch came around.
- Keep certain sandwich fixings separate. The last school field trip I went on, this cute little girl had bread in a bag, and in a separate bag had tuna salad and a spoon. Her mom kept them separate and for lunch, she spooned the tuna onto her bread! Also, leave tomatoes separate as it gets the bread soggy as well!
- Don’t forget the veggies- and make them familiar. School lunch is usually not the best time to introduce new veggies. You may want to leave the radishes and turnips at home. Instead, let them fill their lunch with carrots and cucumbers- and then make them easy to eat. I like to cut carrots with our wavy cutter (2.99 on the gadget wall at Bed Bath & Beyond!)
- Keep portions sizes small enough to get through it. Have you heard about the ridiculous eating times at schools these days? If you are unfortunate enough like us to have lunch first and recess second, it’s even worse. My kids swallow as much food as they can in 5 minutes, so they can get outside to play. So, packing too much food is usually wasteful.
- Remember to pack fruit! Don’t get hung up on the fact you don’t have any cuties in your fruit bowl. Also, don’t send things that tend to go bad. Bananas and pears are fragile and get bruised easily. It’s easier for my kids to take applesauce, single serving fruit bowls, dried fruit, or even 100% fruit juice!
- Include protein for staying power and slow absorption of blood sugar! If there is anything kids need in the middle of the day it’s even energy to finish school. Protein is a great way to regulate blood sugar spikes. I have a daughter who won’t eat meat, so she brings hummus that she spreads on a sandwich (above), nuts, hard boiled eggs, beans or seeds! Of course, when sending nuts to school, make sure you are aware of your child’s school nut policy!
So, roll out some bread, shave some veggies, and teach your kids how to make lunch themselves!
What do you like to send to school?
We sent this meal to school in our Easy LunchBoxes! Check them out here.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie