I'm still a school lunch novice, but I'm learning the ropes quickly as my oldest just started kindergarten. The important thing to remember is that kids don't need Pinterest worthy lunch boxes, rather they need healthy lunches that are easy to navigate, fun to dive into, and most importantly will provide them sustenance throughout the long school day. Like I said, I'm still new at this, (and I hope you'll share your tips with me), but here are 10 of my best tips:
#2 Leave a Fun Note - It doesn't need to be elaborate (a sticky note will due) but a little pick me up in the day is always nice no matter how old you are. Download these cute ones free from Oakhurst!
#3 Chose a Lunchbox That is Easy to Navigate and Helps Make Lunch Fun - My kids LOVE the Bento box style, and I find they eat more variety that way with all the fun compartments.
#4 Use Colorful Containers and Make it Fun - Things like silicone muffin liners make great storage for loose snacks or Itzy Ritzy Snack Happens bags are great for snacks and sandwiches. They cut cut down on waste because they are reusable, and they make the lunch box a little more bright and cheery. These vegetable cutters are great for making fun shapes with vegetables, some fruits and cheeses, and these fun food picks are perfect for securing roll-ups or as an easy way to eat fruit. Also mixing up the food, adding the occasional treat, and creating options like DIY lunchables can be really fun.
#5 Make a Lunch Station - To keep organized and inspired, create a special space or cabinet for all your packing supplies. There are lots of tutorials and ideas out there - here's one to check out. You can keep it simple, just create something that works for you.
#6 Fun With Dips - There's something about dipping your food that makes it taste better and it makes eating fruits and veggies a little easier. My kids like to dip carrots, crackers and apples in peanut butter. Other dipping favorites include veggies with hummus, sweet potato chips and black bean and corn dip, all kinds of fruit and a creamy lemon fruit dip (the possibilities are endless).
#7 Work Together - Involve your kiddos in the process and chances are they will eat more. Work together to make a list of lunch items for the week and put together a shopping list. Even have them help with food prep and packing.
#8 Don't Introduce New Foods - While it's important to pack a variety of healthy foods, be sure to pack things they'll actually eat to keep them well nourished throughout their busy day. Try out new foods at home.
#9 Skip the Juice Box - Juices don't offer much nutritional value and can fill little ones up. Instead, pack a (leakproof) water bottle your kiddo can sip throughout the day and if they are a milk drinker, let them buy a milk at school. Our lunch room offers small perfectly sized containers of Oakhurst milk
#10 Pack an Alcohol Free Sanitizing Hand Wipe Just In Case - Kids should be washing their hands with soap and water before eating (and that's certainly the preferred method for cleaning hands) but just in case that doesn't happen and your kiddos find themselves at the lunch table ready to dive in, it's always nice to know they can still de-germ their little hands. I've just been sticking one in the outside pocket of my son's lunchbox. I look for alcohol, paraben and artificial fragrance free wipes like these.
Bonus tip and probably the best tip of all; remember you're doing the best you can. Some lunches will be better than others and some Mondays will arrive and you haven't yet made it to the grocery store. Our parenting is not judged on the elaborateness of the lunches we pack. Pack what you have and do what you can. Keep some ready to eat favorites on hand and have a back up plan like a go-to "Hot lunch" (ours has a decent Bento box and a few other options) for when you're out of steam or running late.
Looking for food ideas? Check out some of our favorites!
Homemade granola and yogurt
Apple Slice Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Sliced roll ups
Organic sliced ham & cheese roll ups
Smoothies served in an Original Squeeze Pouch
Super Healthy Kids
"My Mom's Muffins" from the Pioneer Women (I make them as mini muffins)
Whole Spelt Pumpkin Muffins from 100 Days of Real Food
Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars from Weelicious
Veggies & Hummus
Crock Pot Apple Sauce (can be served in the bento box or in a reusable pouch)
Ants on a log (celery topped with peanut butter and raisins)
Thanks again to our friends at Oakhurst Dairy for sponsoring this post! Be sure to print out their lunch box notes to leave in your little one's lunch box. Hope everyone's transition back to school is going smoothly! Thanks as always for stopping by!