tips for school lunches

by gurumommy on August 31, 2010

in from the desk of

All the controversy over chocolate milk in school lunches lately has made me realize that the only real way to control what your kids eat for lunch at school is to pack them yourself.  But how do you make your kids eat healthy when they are away at school is a conundrum?  I found these great tips from Tanya Wenman Steel, the author of Real Food for Healthy Kids:  200 + Easy Wholesome Recipes.  Tanya gives the following planning & packing tips:
•   Think Like an Accountant
Budget your time—and money—by creating a spreadsheet that will detail the daily school-day lunches for that month. Make use of Sunday leftovers and use fresh produce as soon as you buy it. Create a weekly shopping list to reduce trips to the store, and allocate healthy prepackaged snacks for days without fresh fruit.
•    Act Like a Chef
Cut your lunch-making time in half by creating an efficient assembly line of materials. Get out everything that you need, from bread and meats to wrapping materials and utensils. Place it all on the counter in the order you will use it. This will speed up the process when you’re pressed for time.
•    Keep It Hot/Cold
If you’re sending your kid to school with something that needs to stay cold, include a cold pack—if your child is like most, you might want to tape the cold pack into the lunchbox, so that it doesn’t accidentally get thrown out or left behind. For foods that must be kept warm, like a veggie stew or noodle soup, heat up the food in the morning. Pour boiling water into a thermos, let it warm up the container for a few minutes, and then tip it out before you add the hot food. This will help retain warmth.
•   Looks Count
The way food is presented affects how a diner perceives flavor; this is true even for kids. Make an effort to keep dishes looking attractive, wrapped and served in cool containers, and packed in lunchboxes that reflect the personality of your child.

tips for keeping picky eaters happy:
•    Give Jr. Power
Before you plan the weekly lunch menu, ask your child to identify five favorite food items that he or she would like to see in the lunchbox. Then encourage your kid to participate in the planning, preparing, and packing of the rest of the meals, creating a balanced menu of protein and complex carbs. Including them in the decision—and preparation—improves the chances that the lunch will actually get eaten.
•    Vary the Menu
Even if he or she requests the same ham and cheese sammie every day, it’s important to provide at least one or two different items in the lunchbox to expand a picky eater’s palate. However, throwing in a food your young food critic claims to hate will backfire, as they are likely to throw it out before trying it. Introduce those new or controversial foods at dinnertime, when your kid is presumably hungry and under your watchful eye.
•  Never Too Cool for School
No matter how old your child is, include a sweet, encouraging note, a cartoon, a picture of the family pet, or even just a silly drawing to make them smile and be reminded of how much you love them.

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