It’s no secret to any parent that the food that gets sent for lunch may very well enter the high-stakes lunch food trade. The stock market has nothing on the shrewd trading skills elementary school students have! Especially in the current Covid-19 school environment, it’s key for students to eat their own lunch and not trade with other students. School policy may also prohibit any sharing or trading. So how can you get your student to eat the food you send, rather than not eating it or throwing it away? Here’s three tips to pack lunches that will get eaten.
Involve your child in the prep –Let your child help with the preparation for foods for lunch. Let him or her use the apple corer and let them put a few drops of lemon juice in the storage bag with some water. (Also a great opportunity for a cooking/science lesson!) Making pinwheel sandwiches? Even the youngest student can spread cream cheese or mayo on a tortilla. Also, give jurisdiction (being in charge of an activity) to each student for clearing their lunch box at the end of a day — they’ll be much more likely to be neater if they know it’s them cleaning out an icky, sticky mess at the end of the day. Ask your child for ideas for what they would like to eat for lunch. Of course, a candy bar and a soda are not choices for school lunch, but how about string cheese and carrot sticks? Or skip the loaf bread and use a pita, a tortilla, or a croissant? Maybe even crackers instead of bread. Letting your child have a (reasonable) say will get their likes in their lunch, which will end up in less food being uneaten and brought home.
Use a functional lunchbox — Do you pack foods that need to be cold? Get a lunchbox that is insulated and use a cold pack, in addition to freezing their drink. However, make sure that you are using food containers that are leak proof, because who wants a soggy sandwich? Wet bread will put a sandwich on the No-Eat List. Have a picky eater that likes to graze? A Bento Box will let your picky eater pack his or her lunch with what they like to eat, which makes food more likely to be eaten. When considering a bento box, think about: Is it easy to clean? Is it the right size for how much your child eats? Is it kid-friendly (easy to open, no sharp edges)? I find that the best reviewed bento box is made by Omie. (Check it out on Amazon here.) It has functionality to include a thermos for hot foods and sectioned areas for cold foods. It’s not cheap ($39.50), but you will have it for years and it can be used every day.
Of course, a lunch box filled with school lunch favorites is easy and familiar. Plastic sandwich bags are easy and can be thrown away. However, I have recently tried out reusable bags by Nordic by Nature, find them here. I’m pretty much in love with them because they keep food fresh, are super easy for any hands to open, and can be washed in the dishwasher. Good news — they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Get a 13″ bag, 2 12″ bags, and 2 snack bags for $14.99 -$15.99. Lots of cute patterns to choose from! They also have a lifetime warranty. Lots of wins here!
Last tip — Notice and follow your child’s eating patterns at lunch. Use intuitive eating practices to help your child build a healthy relationship with food. It’s not your job to make your child eat; it’s your job to provide healthy choices. In the school lunch, provide healthy choices and let your child’s natural appetites dictate how much you pack. Avoid attaching moral value to food; rather than calling food “good” or “bad,” use “healthy” or “not-so-healthy.” Use food to bond with your child rather than create conflict. If your child comes home with a lunch box full of food, ask him or her if she has enough time to eat or if there is anything that keeps him from eating lunch. Going back to school this year presents a number of new challenges; try to be open to talking to your child about concerns he or she has.
Lunch box doesn’t have to be synonymous with “headache” or “pain in the neck.” Use these tips to include your child; his or her ownership in the lunch packing process will make packing lunches easier and tastier! Got a comment? A great recipe? Let me know! Use the contact form to let me know your successes and fails!
*Note: There were no paid sponsorships for any products named or linked in this post. I just really like them!
Beautiful, creative, organized, people-lover – I am two or three of those things every day. I am also the wife of an amazing husband, the mother of three adult children I am very proud of, and would love to have a Corgi one day. I love to help people by bringing order to chaos, show hospitality through food and planning events, and I’m learning calligraphy and hand lettering. Other favorites include cheesy cheese pizza, re-purposing home decor, using the crevice tool on my vacuum cleaner, and talking to people wherever I go.