This post is a part of Baltimore City Public Schools’ Great Kids Farm Back to School Healthy Lunch Campaign! This post may contain affiliate links.
I don’t know about you, but we fall into lunch ruts really easily. Sandwich, bag of chips, chocolate milk. Or I shrug in defeat and let them buy whatever is in the cafeteria that day (typically they choose pizza most of the time) It’s not terribly healthy and I end up kicking myself for letting them eat crap all the time. But what’s the alternative? Sure, I could pack them a healthy lunch, but it would just come back home, uneaten.
I had an epiphany one day. Why do they need a sandwich? I don’t eat sandwiches, why do they HAVE to have one? Lunchmeat is so processed anyway.
I bought one of those sectioned bento boxes on amazon for each child. After agonizing over choices, we ended up getting the Yumbox. I LOVE the YumBox, because each section is labeled with a food group, so there’s no arguing. Veggies go in the veggie section. Fruit, Dairy, Grains, Protein. And there is a cute little unlabeled section that can be used for little desserts, dips, or dressings.
Each week, when I go to the grocery store, I ask the kids: what do you want in your lunch? They tell me what sort of fruits and vegetables they want. I give them some flexibility: if they want cold canned green beans, I don’t try to negotiate for fresh ones. If they want Pirate’s Booty for the grain, I make sure we have it that week. Each night, after dinner, they pack their own lunches. With the decisions in their hands, the lunches are eaten more often.
If I’m feeling motivated, I’ll roast up a chicken and cut it up into nugget sized pieces for the week. Or I will compromise a little and buy lunchmeat for them because at least now they are eating vegetables. Again, the choice is in their hands, whether that’s salami or prosciutto, or filling the container with cashews.
Think outside the sandwich. Frozen peas work great in a lunchbox. They are defrosted by the time lunch rolls around. Celery sticks, sugar snap peas, carrots. Spring mix or even baby spinach leaves make a great salad, and raisins or craisins in the fruit side can be added on top.
Shredded cheddar in the dairy section can top the salad. Or fill it with yogurt, a cheese stick, or just regular sliced cheese. The box doesn’t leak as long as nothing is thinner than a ranch dressing consistency.
My kids have come up with some interesting combinations, but they actually eat them! (Canned green beans, a mini bagel, raisins, prosciutto, and greek yogurt… but hey, the box came home empty so that’s a win)
Another idea for a healthy lunch is leftovers! If you had a mommy-win with dinner that night, heat it up in the microwave the next morning and toss it all in a thermos. (Assuming your kids don’t mind if food touches) I layered Cracklin Chicken over a chunk of sweet potato with some green beans on top and they devoured it. I would only attempt this with favorite dinners, though. Something tried and true, and I always double check before they go to bed to make sure they will actually eat it at school.
Their vegetable eating has dramatically increased once I put the choices in their hands. Even if your kids will only eat one vegetable, having that every day is better than no vegetables at all. And you never know… stick with it and they may become more adventurous.
Friends of Great Kids Farm is a 501(c)3 foundation partner to Baltimore City Public Schools’ Great Kids Farm. Friends financially supports, enhances, and promotes the Farm’s experiential gardening and nutrition education and career training programs to benefit as many of Baltimore City Schools’ 85,000 students as possible. In 2008, an overgrown, unused property owned by City Schools was transformed into a working farm and dynamic outdoor classroom. This unique facility now provides: a working farm where students connect with healthy foods through cross-curricular, hands-on learning activities; fresh produce for school cafeterias and nutrition education programs; a professional kitchen where students cook and taste Farm produce guided by a chef educator; classrooms for healthy food demonstrations and tastings linked to core instruction; internships for high school students in agriculture and the culinary arts; and support for the development of schoolyard gardens throughout the district. The Back to School Healthy Lunch Campaign seeks to bring attention to healthy eating and support innovative education with local creativity. Click here to learn more about the Healthy Lunch Campaign!
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. Making purchases with this link earns me a small commission.