Brooke’s Lunchbox Battle

Brooke is a mom of three school-age children who also works full time in their family business. As the new school year approaches, Brooke prepares for another year of lunchbox battles. Namely, not having enough time to prepare healthy meals and snacks to send to school. Furthermore, she feels defeated and frustrated when she finds half of the lunches come back completely uneaten with her hungry, cranky children. She feels she is fighting an uphill battle consisting of high expectations for how she should care for her children while her precious resource of time seems to be continually depleting. Often, this leads to resorting to pizza pops and a granola bar, which are quick, easy and unfortunately – not the healthiest option. She knows what a nutritious lunch might look like, but she isn’t sure how to make it affordable, timely and find options that actually get consumed by her picky eaters. After endless struggles, she finally reached out to her local nutrition professional to get back on track with meal planning for her kid’s lunch boxes and alleviate her burden of stress.

Top Five Lunchbox Survival Tips

Brooke’s challenge is not unique; I believe every parent at some point has gotten fed up with what to pack in their children’s lunches. I’ve compiled this list of tools and tricks for this exact reason – to make your life easier!

  1. Pack what you know your kids will eat, not what you wish they would eat! Too often we pack healthy options we might enjoy or what we know would be healthy despite the child pushing it away for the tenth time. I like to follow the 3:1 rule when packing lunches. Keep three items in their lunch you know they’ll eat, and then introduce one new food. This prevents the child from feeling overwhelmed at all the new flavours, smells, colours and textures.
  2. Utilize your freezer – make a big batch of soup, chilli, rice, pasta or even sandwiches and freeze in small containers to toss in lunchboxes in a pinch. Even better, apply this rule to the entire family so that everyone (parents included!) have a healthy on-the-go lunch option. Dinner is a great time to start putting this practice into play, it’s never a bad idea to make a double-batch and utilize the leftovers!
  3. Use a bento style lunch box to cut down on waste and make clean up easier at home. A bento style lunch simply means it has separated compartments – it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A Ziploc container from the grocery store will do perfectly.
  4. Use dips like nut butter, hummus and yogurt to entice your kids to try new fruits and veggies. Dips have gotten a bad rap recently, namely from the heavy amounts of creamy mayonnaise style dressings and dips common in our society. The key is to choose the right dip, read the food label and look for dips that contain some fibre and protein while being low in sugar and sodium. Kids love finger foods, so a little bit of hummus may go a long when in getting your child to try those scary new snap peas!
  5. Get the kids involved – they can’t complain about what’s in their lunches if they put it in there! Have healthy snacks available from these three categories: fruit, veggies and a treat (see the info graphic for some great ideas). Keep a few from each category stocked in the fridge or cupboard. The night before school, have your child add one snack from each of these categories into their lunch. This not only gives them responsibility, it also lessens the burden on mom and dad to constantly be packing lunches – win, win!

These are just a few tips and tricks to decrease the mayhem of school lunches this year. It can be important to remember, however, that children are still learning to develop their palate and eating skills. From Ellyn Satters’ Division of Responsibility, we must remember that parents are responsible for what, when and where while child has the choice of how much and whether. Continue to demonstrate healthy eating habits around your children and they’ll grow to be competent and happy adult eaters!