This is the time of year when back-to-school tips and tricks are everywhere. We are bombarded with beautiful pictures of backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies, organized desks, freezers full of already prepared lunch foods, and the list goes on and on. It is enough to make anyone feel like a complete slacker.
And while I actually love all of those posts for the ideas and approaches they share, I think it is also important to acknowledge that sometimes (or all the time) the lunches we pack for our kids or ourselves will not be that beautiful and sometimes not as healthy. And that is ok!
In my progression as a lunch packer for all three of my boys, I have come up with a couple of guidelines that help me to stay sane, pack lunches quickly, and still feel pretty good about what is being sent, so I thought I would share those with you:
1. A fruit and a vegetable in every lunch. Yes, it is true, I try hard to pack both a fruit AND a vegetable in every lunch. I do this so that the kids (and my husband) get a nicely balanced meal, but also because even if my little one, who often turns his nose up at vegetables, only takes one or two bites of his vegetable, a bite here and a bite there add up to at least something by the end of the day, and I don’t want to lose that opportunity.
Some of our favorite fruit options are: Berries, apple slices (rub some lemon juice on them if their turning brown is an issue), cut up kiwi, grapes, plums, cut up melon, pear slices, nectarines, pineapple chunks, orange slices and clementines.
Some of our favorite vegetable options are: carrot sticks, cucumber slices, edamame, salad, sliced bell peppers, leftover vegetables from the night before, frozen peas, frozen corn.
2. Spice it up! I have found, after much trial and error, that cucumber slices that are sent with salt and pepper on them are much more likely to be eaten than plain ones. And this rule of thumb holds true for lots of foods from vegetables to fresh mozzarella balls to hard-boiled eggs. The point being, just as bland food can bum us out at dinner, it is also less appealing at lunch. So sprinkle on some salt, pepper, paprika, herbs, balsamic vinegar, whatever appeals to those who will be eating the lunch.
3. It doesn’t have to be a sandwich. While I do often send sandwiches in lunches, I am also a big fan of crackers with cheese, waffles with cream cheese, leftovers, soup in a thermos, pita with hummus, tortillas wraps, quesadillas, and yogurt with granola and/or frozen berries.
4. If there’s extra, freeze for a later date. If I am making a food that freezes well and would be good in lunches, then I sometimes make extra and freeze it in small containers to pull out when I am feeling uninspired at lunch packing time. Examples include, muffins (like these, these, or these), waffles, pancakes, soups, and stews.
If you would like more ideas/inspiration and are in the DC area, join me on Sunday, September 13th at Third Space Wellness for a kids-welcome workshop Lunchbox Foods Anyone Can Make (scroll down to the Wellness Education section to register). We’ll be making some lunchbox friendly foods for you to try that are fun, easy, and healthy. Hope to see you there!