Perfectly Acceptable School Lunches

There is no shortage of ideas on the internet of what to pack in your kid’s school lunch.
I confess, when my daughter started school last year I eagerly pinned all the cute, Bento-box lunch ideas on Pinterest.

I bought silicone baking cups, and colorful BPA-free containers and 100 different cookie cutters (literally) and little mini cookie cutters and a vegetable spiralizer to assist me in my task of packing the most adorable, healthy, amazing school lunches ever.

As it turns out, it takes a freaking long time to make a sandwich look like a panda bear, and five-year-old’s don’t like black olives even when they are served as a bear’s eyes.
(Which actually sounds super creepy now that I write that. Good call kid.)

So today I present to you:
PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE SCHOOL LUNCHES THAT YOUR KID WILL ACTUALLY EAT! 

There are a few things from my ideal-school-lunch-gear shopping spree I actually use a year later.

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I talk a lot with my daughter about food groups and how there needs to be something present from each food group in her lunch. She’s five, so I break food groups down like this:

  • Protein (nuts/seeds, nut/seed butter, meat, cheese, beans)
  • Vegetable
  • Fruit
  • Grain (crackers, pasta, bread, etc.)

She helps me choose one item from each group for her lunch. I use the silicone cups to portion out servings of fruits and vegetables. Four cups fit nicely inside the yellow container, and it keeps her food from mixing together (the horror).

I try not to be too picky or critical of what we’re packing for lunch so long as she chooses food from each group. Would I like to be the mom who packs her kid homemade organic quinoa-kale-hummus wraps fashioned to look like Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar?
eats-amazing-very-hungry-caterpillar-book-themed-lunch

Sure, but…

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via GIPHY

Lately, some of my daughter’s top choices have been:

  • Peanut butter and jelly rolled up in a sprouted grain tortilla, with carrots and a clementine.
  • Baking cups filled with carrots, hummus, cherry tomatoes and crackers, with an apple on the side.
  • Cheese quesadilla made with a sprouted grain tortilla, with cheery tomatoes, corn, and a clementine.
  • Leftover pizza (Costco take-and-bake, hey!) cut into sticks, carrots, and applesauce.

Sometimes it feels like I’m packing the same thing over and over and over again, but does my daughter care? Nope. 

I have this theory that all these “4,000 creative lunch ideas” and “How to make your lunch look like every animal in the zoo” posts have a lot more to do with parent’s being bored of packing the same thing every day than it does of kids being bored of certain foods.

My advice for beating the lunchbox blues without losing your mind? (or spending a fortune…)

  • Stock your fridge with simple, healthy foods your kid already likes. I keep carrots, cherry tomatoes, frozen corn and seasonal fruit around at all times. I also keep single-serving cups of hummus from Costco on hand. Quick and easy.
  • Help them learn basic nutritional breakdown (like the food groups above). I explain to my daughter that the vitamins in carrots help her eyes stay strong, or that the protein in hummus helps her have energy all day long. It’s rare for her to complain about including vegetables in her lunch now, because she’s learning the benefits of healthy food in a way she can understand.
  • Encourage their input. My experience has been that if my daughter chooses what’s in her lunch she’s more likely to actually eat it.
  • Remember, lunchtime is not a contest. If your kid eats Disney-themed-Bento-box creative lunch stuff? Rad!  More power to you.  If your kid eats peanut butter and jelly roll ups with carrot sticks and apple slices? Rad! My kid does too.The important thing is that our children are eating healthy, balanced lunches and that’s not that hard to do.

And with that said, I’m off to make *another* peanut butter and jelly roll up with carrot sticks for my kid’s lunch.

 

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Megan Westra is on the pastoral staff at Transformation City Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She also blogs regularly at http://www.crazylovemke.com. Megan lives with her husband Ben, and her daughter, Cadence Grace in the inner city of Milwaukee as part of an intentional relocation movement within her church.  Megan recently began studying at Northern Seminary, pursuing a Master of Divinity.  She loves to read, run, practice yoga and she’s an unapologetic coffee snob.

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