First up, here are my lunch packing guidelines
Lunch Packing Rules
1. Drinks will be 100% juice, Milk, or Water (excluding the occasional treat, like smoothies or eggnog!)
- Drinks are one of those things can be a great part of a lunch or empty calories. I have no problem at all with the occasional treats. Eggnog, Cocoa, Smoothies...they're all fun things to share with our kids. Smoothies especially can be full of great nutrients! I want to make sure that I am helping to power up my daughter with her lunches not just pumping full of sugar with no nutritional reward.
2. Grain, Protein, Fruit, Veggies, and Dairy will ALL be present.
- One thing I noticed when reviewing my old lunches and lunch menus... sometimes there would be fruit and sometimes veggies, but rarely both! At the time I wasn't feeling issues with that, but now that I have reflected on it, I want her to have BOTH veggies and fruits in each lunch (unless I am out of course). Trying to hit all the food groups is important for a balanced diet and getting all our nutrients each day.
3. Try using leftovers and portioning yourself.
- A common misconception is that packing your child's lunch will be more expensive than letting them eat school food. Not true! With a little bit of planning it doesn't have to be more expensive. Especially if you don't rely on individually packaged foods for your children's meals. In general I like to buy larger containers of things like yogurt, applesauce, fig newtons, etc... and then portion them out myself. You get more for the money every time! Leftovers are GREAT material for packing lunches. I try not to use them the very next day, but wait a day or two so that my daughter doesn't feel like she's eating the same thing over and over (I hate doing it) and it's never an issue!
4. Quantity Control
- One thing that I noticed was that occasionally some of the portions got a little large. I plan to keep food in better portion sizes this year! I think this was partially because of the large main space in the container that I for some reason felt needed to be full. Negative space is okay!
5. Try to keep it fun!
- Lunch packing can be a chore or it can be something to look forward to. By doing it the night before and letting yourself get creative, lunch packing can be fun...and something you child looks forward to eating and showing off!
Lunch Packing Tips and my Process!
1. Prep as much as you can ahead of time. Try washing and cutting up fruits and veggies after you bring them home and it saves you time when you're in the moment of lunch packing. In general, I try to pack lunches the night before so they have a chance to get nice and frosty cold in the fridge overnight and then I can toss in the ice packs in the morning. I also ''prep'' by making myself a calender for the month. I like to do it for dinners as well so I can coordinate leftovers for lunches. I don't have to stick to the plan, but it's nice to have a go-to guide there so I don't have to come up with something in the heat of the moment, which never turns out as good as the planned ahead stuff!
2. Make a list of what you know your child WILL eat. I take a piece of paper and make columns for: Grains/Carbs, Fruits, Veggies, Protein, Dairy. Then go through and write down what you know your child likes. I also like to write down things they MIGHT eat. I try not to include foods I know she hates unless I know I can think of a way to present it that she'll enjoy. Once you have made your lists, you have all you need to start mixing and matching and coming up with your meals! [This is a great starting point if you're just starting to pack lunches and aren't sure what your first step is]. Here is a guide you can use to get started.
3. It doesn't always have to be pretty. Sometimes just having packed a lunch is more than enough! I know for myself I get wrapped up in the cute shapes, picks, cutters, skewers, and molds people use! I get totally jealous of how cute their lunches are and feel like mine are lacking because they aren't the beautiful masterpieces I see other people posting. The reality, well balanced meals are enough! Plus using a sandwich cutter or cookie cutter to shape sandwiches, cheeses, or fruits doesn't take very long. A little goes a long way. They don't have to be food magazine ready!