Back to school is right around the corner, and that means getting back into routine- including the school lunch routine. Coming up with healthy and appealing lunches (read: your kids will actually eat) is often no easy task, so I'm dedicating the next couple of weeks to share some of my best tips for creating healthier school lunches, that your kids will enjoy- and you won't dread making.
Now, I might only have a preschooler, but I've been helping moms meal prep school lunches for most of my career, so I know a thing or two about lunchbox-friendly meals-- and I certainly know moms. So where I know the ideal would be to meal prep every item yourself, feeding your kids only real, home cooked food- I also know that's not realistic. So in the next few weeks, I'll share both homemade tricks and store bought favorites for your kids lunch boxes, starting with today's tips- 5 tips to get you started creating healthier school lunches. Because healthy, balanced (and tasty!) IS the goal. So let's dig in.
TIP #1: Real food, first.
As with any food, really, make real food the centerpiece of the meal. Snacks are great- but your busy kiddos need fuel! And the best way to give them that is by centering their meal with hearty, healthy options- like fruit, veggies and protein; and adding snacks in as fillers. When the bulk of their lunch box is healthy- they have won't have much choice but to choose healthier options.
TIP #2: Get your kids' input! Chances are, your kids have opinions about what they like (and don't like) in their lunch box. Don't be afraid to ask them! I promise, you'd rather know they don't like ham sandwiches ahead of time rather than getting box after box of uneaten food back. Your kiddo might tell you they want pizza every day- that's totally normal. Suggest some healthier options and ask them which they'd prefer.
TIP #3: Go outside the box. Who ever said it was a rule you have to pack a sandwich, cookies and an apple for lunch? Go outside the typical lunch box fare and try something new. Does your kiddo love cottage cheese? What an awesome protein option! Maybe they're like my little and they prefer deli meat to sandwiches, so little roll-ups are a perfect fit. How about leftovers? Find out if you little one has access to a microwave, or buy an inexpensive thermos to keep leftover soup or stew hot for an awesome, nourishing mid-day meal. TIP #4: Avoid the kid-packaging trap. Repeat after me: just because it's marketed for kids, does NOT mean it's healthy. Got it? Often the most sugary, processed, sodium-laden foods are marketed to kids-- why? Because the manufacturers know if the kids beg enough, you'll buy it, and they'll like it-- so you'll KEEP buying it. Avoid the inner aisles of the store and avoid the kid-trap when it comes to packaged snacks. There are SO many kid-friendly snacks that don't have the latest cartoon character on the package, are healthier, and your kids might actually (surprise surprise), love!
TIP #5: Above all, simply strive for balance. Your kiddo won't have you hovering above them at lunch time when they're at school, so they'll eat what they choose, and leave what they will. I promise- that's fine (preaching to myself, people!). Kids are natural self-regulators. If left to their own devices, they'll eat when they're hungry, stop when they're full, and unless they have a specific issue like a sensory disorder, they will likely eat a variety- OVERALL, throughout the day, if you provide it. You provide the variety, they make the choice. No stress, mama!
How do you ensure you are making healthier choices for your kids lunchbox? Share below, or on social media!