Packing Healthy Lunches

For many parents, the happiest time of the year is when the kids return to school after summer holidays. However, the daunting task of packing healthy school lunches - that the kids will actually eat - may put a damper on your enthusiasm.  As a school mom who has packed thousands of lunches, let me offer you some tips for quick lunch bag ideas:

  • Organize your kitchen so lunch gear is easy to find. This means having one cupboard where you keep your insulated lunch boxes, stainless steel water bottles, thermos, reusable containers, plastic cutlery, etc. Get reusable containers for items like pears or plums, which tend to get squished in bags. Not only will the kids refuse to eat the fruit, it will make a mess in the bag that you will have to clean.
  • Involve your kids in making lunches. The older they are - the more they should help with packing their own lunches. They are more likely to eat what you give them if they had a say in what is packed. Ask your kids what they like and don't like, and plan your shopping list accordingly (provided they have selected healthy alternatives).
  • Buy and prepare ahead of time. Wash and cut veggies, or buy bite size ones - like baby carrots, grapes, cherry tomatoes or pre-cut veggies. Cut cheese into cubes; hard boil some eggs, pre-cut fruits.
  • Have healthy snacks, like whole wheat crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix, etc. in the snack cupboard. These tend to keep longer, so you always have some healthy snacks on hand when you don't have time to run out to the grocery store. Buy individually wrapped items that are ready to throw in the bag, or get little baggies or reusable containers to hold snack items.
  • Make extra food at dinnertime and keep leftovers to heat in the morning and pack in a thermos. Foods that work really well are pasta, chilli, soups, stew, etc. Throw in a whole wheat roll, some pita wedges or crackers, and you have a meal. (Don't forget to add fruits and veggies for snacks). Leftovers from meals can also be frozen and used for future lunches.

Prepare what you can the night before, and avoid foods that are messy, have a strong odour or get mushy. Neither you nor your child will be happy if most of the lunch ends up in the garbage. Planning and organization are the keys to packing lunches that your kids will love.