Packing lunch five days a week every week for the next 9 or 10 months is a task of biblical proportions.
It should be homemade, but easy; tasty, but nutritious enough for the Canada Food Guide; sensitive to classmates’ food allergies, but sensitive to your kid’s likes and dislikes; sanitarily packaged, but eco-friendly. Have faith and obey a few of our lunch commandments; you’ll be saved from the sin of lunch frustration.
Thou Shalt Not Go It Alone
Involve the kids’—even the young ones—in what they are taking for lunch and they’ll be more likely to eat it. They can help with the shopping list or choose their favourite snack to take. If you keep all the lunch-approved snacks in one place, just ask them to go and choose one for that day. With older kids, try keeping a container in the fridge full of sandwich fixings—sliced tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, cheese, meat—and get the kids to make up their own sandwiches.
Thou Shalt Not Assume a Sandwich Is the Only Kind of Lunch
A whole sandwich can be daunting for little ones, while bigger kids can get distracted easily by all their friends (and forget to eat). A variety of ready-to-eat finger food often goes over better than a sammie. Offer bite-size bits from a few different food groups, and they probably won’t come back home in the lunchbox:
- Fruit – fresh fruit cut into cubes, wedges, balls or segments (removing pits, stems and skins as needed), dried fruit (fruit bars, cranberries, apples, raisins, apricots) or apple sauce (in tubes or single-serve cups).
- Vegetables – cut into slices or spears if needed, sent along with a small container of salad dressing (try carrots, cucumber, sugar-snap peas, grape tomatoes or edamame).
- Dairy – yogurt (tubes, tubs or drinks), cheese strings or other pre-portioned cheese or cubes of cheddar.
- Grains – crackers, air-popped popcorn, mini-muffins and rice cakes are a nice change from bread. Leftover rice or pasta (heated and stored in a wide-mouth thermal container) is good for a cold day.
- The ‘meat’ – slices of pepperoni sticks or turkey hot dogs, cubes of lean ham or turkey breast, bean dips, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, leftover pizza or quesadillas (cut into small wedges)
- The ‘dessert’ – a few animal crackers, oatmeal cookies or a granola bar.
Thou Shalt Limit Your Eco-Impact
Reduce the use of disposable wraps and containers by stocking up on a variety of reusable containers like the LunchBots containers or this reusable sandwich wrap in different shapes and sizes. Make sure that the lids can be easily removed and replaced by your kids (or they will quickly turn into disposable containers). Rather than using individually packaged juices, fill a reusable drink container such as a Kleen Kanteen from a larger juice container at home.
And just like that, you’ve got lunch in the bag. And we say amen to that.