We are well into the school year and chances are you are already starting to get burnt out on packing school lunches. It’s just one of those necessary evils! You want your child to go to school with a healthy, well-balanced lunch, but you hate taking the time to prepare it every morning. It doesn’t have to be stressful! There are things you can do to make your life easier when it comes to packing a healthy school lunch. This graphic from Cooksmarts is super easy to follow and takes the guesswork out of it for you.
Choose a functional lunch box. My son started preschool for the first time in September. I didn’t have any prior experience with packing lunches, but I had been following some popular school lunch bloggers for quite some time. I thought that the Ziploc container was going to be perfect for us. It had 3 compartments and fit nicely in his lunch box. After using for about a week, I quickly became frustrated with it. I felt like I couldn’t pack a balanced lunch with the Ziploc containers, so I went on the hunt for something new. That’s when I fell in love with the PlanetBox. It is a a bit pricey (especially for a preschooler- EEK!), but it is so worth it to me. The stainless steel design makes it durable, and the compartments are fantastic. Cole’s favorite is the tiny little square in the middle because that is where his treat goes. If you don’t have a bento style lunch box, silicone muffin cups work really well.
*Pack what you can the night before. *You’re going to save yourself a lot of time if you can get some of the work done the night before. Mornings are usually rushed as it is, so take some of that pressure off of yourself by planning ahead. I like to pack all of the cold stuff the night before and then put the lunch box in the fridge. When morning comes, all I have to do is finish it off with the rest of the items and I’m good to go. I probably spend about 2-3 minutes in the morning finishing the lunch. I think anybody can handle 2-3 minutes! If you prefer to pack all of the room temperature items the night before and wait to add the cold items, you can do that, too! The key here is getting most of the work done in advance.
*Focus on variety and balance. *Balance is the secret to life, isn’t it? We hear it all of the time, and that’s because it really is the best way to go about most things. Ate cookies for breakfast? Balance it out with healthy choices the rest of the day. Feeling overwhelmed with all of your to-do’s? Balance it out with some quiet time to yourself. School lunches are like that. You don’t want your children to eating all grains and nothing else, because they won’t stay full for very long. Too much protein and no carbs? They might be lacking the energy to ace that test in the afternoon. You want to try to cover all of the food groups, but don’t stress yourself out over it. Again, balance means that whatever they didn’t get at lunch, they can get at dinner. Here’s a little formula for you:
protein + whole grains + fruit + veggies + healthy fats = healthy lunch
You’ll notice I left dairy out of there, but feel free to include it if your family eats dairy. We love our cheese and milk, but I don’t always include it in lunch because my son typically gets it for breakfast and snack.
*Take a step back. *If your children are old enough, why not allow them to make their own lunches? Not only will it give you a break, but it will also give them pride and ownership. When children take part in packing their own lunches, they are more likely to eat it all up with no complaints! You’ll have to give them guidelines, of course. Chances are they already know what is acceptable for their lunch, and they will know what types of foods to choose from. All you will have to do is help them make sure there is a good balance of nutrients. If your children are still young, you can allow them to help you with certain parts of their lunch. Check out this post for more tips on that.
I know I can always use more lunch ideas, so here are some great photos from 100daysofrealfood.com:
- School Lunch Round Up
- School Lunch Round Up II
- School Lunch Round Up III
- School Lunch Round Up IV
- School Lunch Round Up V
I hope these tips can help make your mornings a little smoother! It is possible to pack healthy lunches for your children and still have time to get dressed in the morning. A little planning goes a long way.