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How to Ensure A Successful Year of Packing Healthy School Lunches

lindseymathews August 21, 2012

When it comes to healthy school lunch, I have to first admit something. I am not the school lunch maker in our home. That is my husband’s job. I’m not sure if it’s a job I subconsciously put on him (since my dad was the lunch maker in our home growing up), or if it’s something he enjoys doing. I think a little bit of both.

This year we have four kids in school. The older two kids go 5 days a week and the younger two kids go to school 2 days a week. There is a lot of lunch making going on in our home. Hubby makes the school lunches before he leaves for work in the mornings. He leaves very early, so this is all done before any of us wake up.

We are both working parents, so our motto is “Keep It Simple,” without ever compromising our priority to feed our children healthy nutritious meals. I know a lot of parents feel like they don’t have the time to pack a healthy school lunch every day, so hopefully, this post can encourage you to give it a try. And stick with it.

A home-packed healthy school lunch is the absolute best way to give your children proper nutrition during the school year. Cafeteria food cannot compare.

 caffeteriamschool lunch
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I sat my hubby down to ask him for his tips on ensuring a successful year of packing school lunches.

  1. Keep it simple. I often see pictures of home-packed school lunches on different websites, and they are very fancy & look very involved. If I thought I had to pack school lunches that looked like that, I too would feel like I didn’t have time. My husband says: “Kids are simple.” They just want a healthy school lunch that consists of the stuff they know and like to eat. Healthy does not have to mean complicated. 
  2. Pack stuff you know the kids are going to eat.  Trying new foods or ideas on your kids in a packed school lunch is not the best idea. Stick with what they know. If we are introducing a new food that is not typically in their lunch we will tell the kids. Mid-way through last school year, we started making a lot of hard boiled eggs. The kids loved them, so we started packing them in their lunches. We tried it at home first though, and then let the kids know that we were going to start putting them in their lunch. That way they know what to expect.
  3. Choose items that don’t require tons of preparation. You can still give your children a healthy school lunch without involving a lot of prep work. Take fruit: If you do not feel like you have time to cut up fresh fruit (mangos, pineapples, kiwis, etc..) then get fruit that only involves rinsing. We love to do blueberries, raspberries, & grapes as our easy-fruit options for school lunches.
  4. Make sure you have what you need. My husband has a white board on the fridge where he will jot down different food items that we are running low on. That way we know to get them before we run out. The worst is going to make 4 sandwiches in the morning, only to realize you only have enough bread to make 3 sandwiches.healthy school lunch note
  5. Personalize it. My dad started this fun tradition and I love that it has been passed down to my kids. My dad used to decorate our brown paper bags by writing our names in very creative ways or with drawings or notes or Bible verses. (Remember brown paper bags back in the day?). My husband puts a sweet note or picture inside the kids’ lunch boxes. It only takes seconds to write “I love you” on a piece of paper and slip it in with the lunch. Kids love this. Last year, we got a note home from my daughter’s teacher. It said that she found our daughter crying during lunch. When she asked why, our daughter told her: “They are happy tears. My daddy wrote me the sweetest note today.” This simple gesture not only touched our daughter, but touched our daughter’s teacher as well.healthy school lunch

Think outside the sandwich

I read somewhere: “Think outside the sandwich.” I think this is a good saying when thinking of packing a healthy school lunch. I recently did a post titled Healthy School Snacks, where I listed our Top 10 favorite healthy school snacks. All very easy to prepare and typically found in our children’s lunch boxes. I also feel that these Healthy Snack

I also feel that these Healthy Snack suggestions, can also be combined to make a very nutritious lunch. Pita & humus, with a hardboiled egg, yogurt, nuts, & fresh fruit are all great snacks, but together also serve as an excellent lunch.  You can find some additional ideas for healthy lunches here.

Our priority is always making sure the school lunch consists of nutritious living foods. Many children’s snack & food items today consist of nutritionally void, overly processed, dead foods. With a little extra effort, we can offer our children so much more!

Packing a healthy school lunch requires my husband to wake up earlier. It also requires diligent planning and multiple trips to the grocery store. But my husband says the satisfaction of knowing the children are eating a healthy school lunch is well worth it.

Do you have a tip to share for packing school lunches? Is there a favorite healthy school lunch item in your home?

 

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5 Comments

  1. The kids love hard boiled eggs. Our best lunches are usually “outside the bun!”

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  2. Or use frozen fruit (mangos stand up well to the freezing and thawing process), which will double as an ice pack to keep everything cold. ^_^

    The first day of first grade, I brought my lunch back home and told my mom it was gross. She never made another school lunch for any of us again. From that day forward, it was our own responsibility. This was sort of a hit-and-miss tactic so far as balanced nutrition went, but great for encouraging responsibility and creativity. My favorite was when we had leftover soups and things that could go in a thermos. I also brought a lot of yogurt, and tortillas with random other items (I still think most sandwiches are gross).

    Anyway. I was always jealous of the other kids who had nice meals packed by mom, with treats and love notes written on the napkin and whatever. But, when I started middle school, I was suddenly the first person up in the household. So I started making lunches for my dad. He could have leftovers since he had a microwave at work, but he also liked sandwiches, and I had a lot of fun making sandwiches just how he liked them and giving him extra portions of leftovers that I knew he liked, or hunting down some treat to include with the lunch so it would be special. And I wrote him notes on his napkins just like my friends’ moms did for them.

    I guess I never received those good special lunches, but I had the experience of making them for someone else, and that definitely stayed with me. I don’t know what I’ll do when our kiddos are school-aged; perhaps something in the middle. These are great tips!

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  3. Thanks for the post! This is the most overwhelming part of back to school for me.

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  4. My best purchase has been thermos bottles for my children. I have 6 and some days I just can’t think of something else creative AND healthy or else I haven’t made bread that week and can’t make a sandwich. So thermoses are great to give me more options for packing lunches. My kids love to get soup on a cold day and I love to put leftovers in their bottles from dinner the night before. They also enjoy pasta with sauce. I have used them for cold items such as homemade potato salad too. Another idea I have employed is to make a knock-off Lunchables. My kids see those packages in the stores and want them, but they go against what I believe about food. So I sometimes make them a similar cheese, meat, and cracker style lunch in place of a sandwich, and I get to choose the ingredients.

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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