Back-to-school time means a return of the daily chore of sifting through backpacks, homework and packing lunches. As much as I would love to be one of those Pinterest moms who can create amazing bento box lunches for my kids, it’s just not going to happen. My kids will never know what it’s like to have cute animal creations made out of exotic fruits and cheeses in their lunch. I’m confident they will survive. What I can do is try to provide a lunch that can be made quickly, is packed full of energy to get them through the afternoon, is easy to eat quickly and is tasty enough that they won’t throw most of it away. Here are some tips to make the school lunch experience less painful for all parties involved:
- Prep cold veggies and fruits (carrots, sweet pepper, celery, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, etc…) on Sunday night and portion into the snack size Ziploc bags. This makes it easy to just grab and add to the lunch box through the week.
- Cheese cubes are a great protein source! And, they amazingly come in pre-cubed bags that can be easily portioned out for the week in Ziploc bags. If I happen to have a bit of extra time, I will take a more economical approach and buy the block cheese and cube it myself. Again, no fancy cheese shapes at our house, but the kids will survive.
- My kids tire of sandwiches pretty quickly, so we often opt to roll up deli lunch meat and portion in bags for the week. I’ll usually add in a roll or two of swiss cheese as well. Add a baggie of pretzels along with a fruit or veggie, and you’ve hit all the food groups!
- Freeze yogurt tubes/pouches. These make a great ice pack for the lunch box and typically thaw by the time lunch rolls around. This gives an additional protein source which is great for energy and brain power.
By doing this simple prep at home, you are going to save money, and the kids will get a nutritious lunch that will fuel them through the afternoon. The best thing about pre-prepping and portioning everything at the beginning of the week is that the kids can help pack lunch. If they are old enough to open the refrigerator door, they are old enough to help pack their lunch. To add a little fun to the lunch, add some fun character themed napkins. I try to stock up on these when they are on sale in the party supplies isle. You also can find cute notes to add to the lunch. My kids love little notes with jokes or riddles, and they are easily found for purchase or to print out yourself just by searching “lunch box riddles” on the web. This may not be as fancy as a Pinterest-worthy home-prepped bento box, but if my kids eat a nutritious lunch and get a giggle, we all win! This article was written by Cristina Shaw, Ph.D. and Licensed Certified Social Worker. The director of the St. Bernards Eating Disorders program, she holds graduate degrees from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Gannon University in Erie, PA. She sees patients at the St. Bernards Counseling Center at 615 East Matthews.