Quick & Healthy Lunches

Whether you sent them off with a tear in your eye (moms and dads of pre-schoolers and kindergarteners) or a jump in the air (parents of high schoolers), kids are now back at school. The biggest benefit to busy parents: settling back into a nice routine. However, it also means the dilemma of packing daily lunchboxes have returned.

The morning rush is difficult enough to get through, between showers, breakfast, last minute scrambling to find the soccer cleats, all while getting them out the door and you off to work without being late. It can be tempting in our fast-paced world to throw in those convenient, but poor nutritional choices, just because it’s faster in the moment. But quick and healthy doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. A few simple organizing tips can put you on the path to packing healthy lunches efficiently.

Alicia on “Lists & Limits”

“Successful lunches start with successful grocery shopping. You should always go to the store with a shopping list, a full stomach, and if possible, without the kids. In a previous career I worked as a marketer in the food industry. Unfortunately, it is true the food industry targets children with fun characters and strategic eye level shelving. The items most aggressively marketed to children are often ones high in sugar and fat, and they’re much easier to avoid if you don’t have a four year old latched on to your leg screaming for those sugary, fatty, super special cartoon character treats. Prepackaged treats also take a large toll on your wallet as they are premium priced. With that said, eliminating treats altogether often backfires. So instead of “banning” foods, help your children learn moderation. Offer them the choice of one indulgent item for lunches each week, whether it be a Rice Krispy Treat®, a mini bar of chocolate, or something else. Limit them to just one.”

Sarah on “An Apple a Day”

“The school cafeteria can be a minefield for parents trying to instill healthy eating habits. It’s not out of the question you’ll hear “but Timmy gets a full sized candy bar in his lunch” or “Jenny eats pizza everyday. Why can’t I?” Even worse “I traded my orange for THREE chocolate chip cookies today!” First and foremost, we have to lead by example. If they see you are healthy and have good eating habits, they will be inclined to follow in you footsteps. It also helps to use their activities and emphasize that a healthy body works better than a junk food body. For example, if your child loves to play softball, explain how the protein and good carbs in their wheat bread peanut butter sandwich will help them pitch better in their games. Children respond positively to explanations so the more they understand about a healthy body, the more they will want to eat healthy foods.”

Here are three ways to make lunch prep less stressful.

#1 Start on Sunday

Prepare as much of the lunch items as possible for the coming week – and enlist your children’s help in the process. That means having the older kids slice carrots, watermelon or having the younger kids wash the fruits and veggies, or all helping to make trail mix and then dividing it into individual baggies for the week ahead. Anything you can get ready at the bringing of the week will make your mornings quicker.

#2 Have a Morning Checklist

Create a Lunch checklist for each child and post it on the fridge so that they can review it each morning. Have four or five check-offs such as “Milk/Juice, Fruit, Sandwich, Veggie, Treat” and get them to help pack their lunch in the morning. This will take the item off your morning to do’s and give them a sense of independence.

#3 Make Healthy Fun

There are ways to make healthy food more fun, like cutting watermelon slices into stars with a cookie cutter, for example. The more fun the food, the more likely they will be it eat it. Alicia’s daughter Lucy dislikes milk, but when she packs it in the Hannah Montana thermos, she drinks it every day.