How to Get Your Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches
Posted: Sep 5, 2018
With kids across Canada heading back to school, many parents are faced with the prospect of adding one more task to their daily to-do list: Packing school lunches. If the very thought of this makes you cringe, it might be time to delegate the task. Below are five simple steps to get your kids packing nutritious, balanced lunches they’ll actually eat.
- Develop a Meal Template: Nutritionally balanced meals have three components: protein-rich foods, some fruit or vegetable, and a high quality starch. Protein-rich options include meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils. Opt for whole grains and root vegetables as your quality starchy choice. And take your pick from the produce section for fruits and vegetables. Using this simple framework will help kids understand how to fuel themselves for life. Protein is important for growing and repairing tissue like muscle. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients that protect against disease. And starchy foods provide energy for learning and play. Ask your child to make choices that fit within your template. For example, does your child prefer chicken or egg salad on his sandwich? Tzatziki or hummus for dipping veggies?
- Seek Your Child’s Input: Kids, like adults, are happiest when they have some say in matters that concern them. Set aside time to gather your recipe books and mark your favourites together with sticky notes. Brainstorm ideas based on lunches your child enjoyed in the past. Create a Pinterest board for snack ideas. These ideas should act as a starting point as you create your weekly grocery list.
- Pay Attention to Prep: To save time, consider preparing some items ahead of time - like when you first get home from the grocery store. The easier it is to fill a container, the smoother the lunch packing process will be. While younger kids might need help slicing, dicing and portioning, older kids can tackle food prep from day one.
- Make it Routine: Decide on a time when lunches will be prepared and and stick to it. If mornings are busy, set aside 10-15 minutes after dinner or before bed. Some families find it helpful to designate a particular space for lunch prep, like next to the cupboard where school day snacks are kept.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Expect hiccups as you develop a routine. Does your child want to eat the same thing for lunch five days in a row? That’s okay! We all have our favourite foods. If you’re concerned about nutrition, return the recipe books together and see if there is anything else that strikes your fancy. Remember, meal prep is a skill to be developed and it’s okay to provide some gentle direction when needed.