By: Kayla Mangione of @thefamilyfoodproject
Back-to-school season ushers in a more predictable routine that comes with mixed reviews for kids and adults alike. But can we all agree that being prepared with some quick and healthy school lunches is key in making this transition easier on the whole family? Great!
Sure, food in packages and pouches is fast, but I’m here to show you that it’s possible to make nutritious, fun, plant-based lunches that don’t require any cooking at all either! Kids need fresh, wholesome meals to fuel their growing bodies – and hey, so do adults, so you can easily pack yourself a similar lunch at the same time. Sometimes the difference between kid meals and adult meals is really just a matter of plating. Here are some top tips for keeping the lunchbox peace with kid-approved options this school year:
- Make it appetizing: We all eat with our eyes first. Think about adding lots of color and texture to each meal. Eat the rainbow every day! Also, kids love finger food and bite-sized pieces.
- Make it ahead of time: Don’t wait until the last minute to pack a lunch. Carve out some time during the weekend to prep a few commonly used veggies, snacks or baked goods. Stock your freezer with muffins, protein/nut-butter energy balls, pesto or whatever else you can make in advance. Remember, most everything you can find in the freezer section of a grocery store can be made and frozen at home!
- Make it a group effort: If your children are old enough to help pack their lunches, encourage them to create a balanced lunchbox with you. If they are too young, talk to them about what components make for a nutritious lunch. Empower your child to collaborate on food ideas, but keep in mind for most kids, “What do you want for lunch?” is too big of a question and ultimately not their responsibility. A better idea would be helping them choose between two things (ie: pineapple or strawberries, or snap peas or celery sticks).
- Make it reasonable: Set yourself up for success. That includes not comparing your lunchbox packing skills to anyone else’s, or to lunches that you see on Pinterest or Instagram. You are your child’s hero and your best effort is good enough!
- Make it PART of a great diet: Lunch is just one opportunity for fueling our bodies. If your child doesn’t have enough time to eat at school, gets nervous to eat in front of peers or provides you with any other reason why their lunch comes home mostly full, don’t sweat it. Remember that we can veggie-load breakfast, snacks and dinner too! Your job is to provide the healthy food and their job is to decide how much of it to eat. Additionally, leftover lunch can be served as an afternoon snack (no need for your hard work to go to waste, right?)!
Now that you have some lunchbox ideas and tips, you are ready to conquer the lunchbox game. Happy back-to-school season, you’ve got this!
Kayla is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Art Therapist turned stay-at-home mother of two. After healing her own autoimmune disease through diet and lifestyle changes, she developed a passion for cooking at home and sharing her family meals on social media in an effort to inspire others. She practices what she preaches and encourages her kids to help with meals. Time in the kitchen is meant to be fun!