Guest Post. All opinions are mine and mine alone. Received compensation to share.
If you have kids in school, you know that one of the essential parts of their day is lunchtime. In fact, most children will tell you that lunch is a treasured time of day, second only to recess. In large schools, the time allotted a class to consume the midday meal is rather short, sometimes as little as 15 minutes. This barely gives a child enough time to go through the hot lunch line, let alone enjoy eating it.
While the hot lunches that schools provide for students have taken a turn for the better in recent years, many families still choose to send their children to school with a lunch from home. Kids who pack from home have more time to eat, and they feel comforted knowing their parents carefully packed food they enjoy.
There are downsides to packing school lunches, though, and chief among them is the boredom factor. Moms and dads get bored packing the same old thing day after day, and kids get bored eating them. What to do? Read on for a few helpful tips to make packed lunches more fun.
Only Pack What Your Kids Will Eat
You may tempted to create school lunches you would enjoy, but it is important to remember your child’s preferences. If you think your son or daughter should enjoy sushi with rice and a salad, but he or she won’t touch it with a ten-foot chopstick, don’t send sushi to school. Other lunch items that are taboo in school lunchrooms are anything that stinks or looks freakishly weird, such as egg salad, liverwurst, and beef tongue, even if your family enjoys them at home.
If you are hoping that your kiddo will dive into a pile of carrot sticks and snap peas, don’t offer something more tempting, such as chips or cheese puffs. After all, if you’re not there to police your kid’s consumption, he or she will probably choose junk food before healthy food.
The desire to be sure your child isn’t hungry may cause you to pack too many items to consume in one short sitting. If half of what you packed is coming back home in the afternoon, you will know you’ve sent too much food. Check with your child’s teachers about the classroom snack policy; it is possible that your child may be able to eat items that aren’t messy, such as pretzels, after the last recess.
Presentation is Everything
Ask any chef how to make ordinary food look delicious, and he or she will tell you it’s all in the presentation. A simple white plate, space between items, and a lovely garnish are standard in restaurants. However, kids appreciate a little more pizazz.
Bento boxes made of dishwasher-safe plastic are widely available for the purpose of packed lunches. They are very handy, because they have multiple compartments of various sizes, are easy to open, and hold just the right amount of food. If you take time to artfully arrange a sandwich on one side, fruit or veggies in one corner, and a treat in the other, your child will find it simple to consume items from each compartment, rather than scrounging through multiple sandwich baggies.
Speaking of presentation, this is where you can allow yourself a bit of creative license. Children adore cute shapes, bright colors, and fun textures. If you have a collection of cookie cutters, put them to use on your child’s sandwich. Who wouldn’t love to eat a PB & J that’s shaped like a racecar, a dinosaur, or a gingerbread man? Don’t stop with sandwiches, though. Apple slices, melon, and cheese all succumb well to the superpowers of cookie cutters.
Treat Them Right
Treats, treats, everybody loves a treat. Naturally, you want your child to eat the healthy part of the lunch first, but every good kid deserves a treat. The trick is to keep it small, rotate through a variety of favorites, and limit the options to ones that are easy to eat. Instead of a big piece of cake with chocolate frosting, send a small, unfrosted brownie. In place of candy, send a cookie. If you don’t have time to bake at home, there’s no harm in sending store-bought. In fact, some cookie producers, like Hampton Creek, make healthy, natural cookies that are just as good as homemade.
With a little bit of planning and creativity, any parent can make packed lunches fun for their children. Only send what they will eat, package it well, and include a delectable tidbit. Your child will be healthy and happy, and will look forward to lunchtime day after day.