October has just passed and you're already dreading packing school lunches. My son started kindergarten this year and I feel your pain. I thought I’d be incredibly creative and enjoy filling up the collection of tiny containers each morning. But I’ve quickly come to realize this is a challenge I am going to have to really dig deep in order to succeed.
Whether you are packing lunches for your school-age child, preparing lunch for a daycare toddler or headed out on an adventure with your little one, creating a healthy, nutritious and interesting meal-to-go can be an ongoing challenge!
Let me help you out, I’ve compiled 8 quick and easy tips to help you on your way to being the master-chef behind the portable meal.
- Start with creative packaging- find a variety of small, reusable containers in various shapes and sizes. You can use seasonal stickers to add colour and images or a little masking tape with your own doodles or messages to personalize. Little ones love to open up these surprises!
- Use a variety of colours as a guide to selecting lunch contents. Red apple, blue blueberries, green cucumber rounds, yellow peppers, orange carrot sticks, purple grapes- the more colour the better!
- Incorporate shapes- a sandwich will always be more interesting in the shape of a star, halloween pumpkin or christmas tree. Use a selection of cookie cutters to create this effect or tools like a mellon baller to add excitement to your preparation.
- Think outside the Sandwich-Wraps, skewers, dips and spreads all provide a chance to add variety and interest. Recreate leftovers into something new for lunch, yesterdays chicken stir-fry can be todays quesadilla. Don't forget about bulk favourites that pack a protein punch like nuts and seeds. Homemade trail mix is a real winner in our house! I give my little guy the container and he joyfully browses the pantry filling it up.
- Inexpensive Basics- rice, whole-grain pasta, wraps or beans can all go a long way to satisfying your child. Pair them up with superstars like nut butters, cheese ( hard or soft) pestos and salsa and you have something sensational out of your pantry staples!
- Hands On- involve your child whenever possible in the creation of these meals. By providing them with options to choose from and including them in the preparation you are not only creating opportunities to teach healthy life skills but boosting their interest and confidence in the kitchen. They are far more likely to gobble it all up if they had a hand in its creation. You may need to pack the night before when you go this route, so it doesn't become a time crunching stress in the morning for your little one!
- Kid friendly- try to pack a meal that will be as easy for your munchkin to access as possible (this is a lesson I am learning the hard way). Lunch time is often a social whirlwind with chatter, activities and excitement! Limit their peeling, unpacking, cutting up etc. If it's ready to go, it will go in their belly!
- Share your success- don't stray away from talking with other caregivers about what works for them and what you have found is a home run. A couple new ideas can help you spice things up, without a lot of cost or time!
- A Note--telling them how much you love and miss them with funny pictures is lots of fun for both of you, not just making their day, but yours too!!
Here’s to happy, healthy lunching and hopefully less anxiety over packing the little brown bag!