*This post first appeared on BirminghamMommy.com September 2008
So, it’s time once again for lunchbox packing to resume. With summer over, we don’t have the option of throwing leftovers, a waffle or any other random food that can masquerade as lunch on the table and call it quits. No, we have to step it up and we have to pack LUNCH! And, while prepackaged food is fine and all, we pack fresh and we pack right. I for one have decided that my child’s diet has a direct impact on her attention and behavior so I’m going for the gold in her little lunchbox this year!
So, in order to help you out in this department, we’re preparing a packing guide full of ideas to to take the guesswork out of what needs to go in!
As with any endeavor, plan and prepare. Pack meals the night before so you can grab-n-go! Also, have all of your supplies ready. Nothing starts the day off wrong like being late because you have to stop at the grocery store on the way.
First off, the container. For the younger set, a divided plastic container works best. We’ve found many options out there so just look around. There’s the bento type like this one . This type of box (shown here from the Container Store) can be found anywhere from Tupperware parties, to retail stores to grocery stores. The benefit of such a container is that you can see what your child is eating and what she is not.
Don’t forget to pack these inside of her groovy new lunchbox as we all know that’s part of heading school!
Moving on, what to put inside the box? We take a “If you pack it (or put it on the table) they will eat it” approach to food. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot and say “Oh, he won’t eat that” – give them a chance. Fresh fruit and veggies are a great place to start for lunches.
Take your little one to the grocery store and let him pick out two fruits and a veggie or two that he’d like to eat. When you get home, go ahead and wash everything up (and slice it if it will last) and you’re already way ahead of the game. For example, if you’ve purchased baby carrots, grapes, apples and strawberries, go ahead and julienne the carrots, slice the strawberries and cut the apples (if you’ll be eating them within a day – just don’t forget to toss in some lemon juice to avoid browning).
Entree’ Time! You’ll need to know about classroom allergies – as Peanut Butter may not be allowed – but it’s a staple for us. Also, look around as there are many different nut butter options – we love Almond and Sun butter. Another favorite at our house is the mini-sandwich. A pack of dinner rolls (whole wheat) or a slice of bread quartered is the perfect place to begin. Now, include your favorite meat or cheese and you’re off!
Now, just one more thing. I always stick in a treat. It can be healthy or not-so-healthy – just as long as it’s good. We love yogurt-covered raisins, blueberry chips or banana chips.
As a favor to her teacher (and sometimes a requirement) we avoid pouched drinks, applesauce bowls or pudding cups. Those things are just fine for the older kids who can handle the mess, but we’re not there yet!