For many of you, sending the kids back to school means packing a lunch box every day. The thought of having to pack five lunches a week for 9 months straight can be daunting. In the past, I know I would quickly run out of school lunch ideas. I would get bored packing the kids' lunches so, I could understand why my kids would bring home a lunch box full of wasted food.
But, I figured out that getting my child to eat his or her lunch just takes a little fun and creativity, especially if you pickly eater that limits your food variety.
Here are 7 ideas to make school lunches the highlight of your kids’ day:
1. Shake it up.
Prepare the same old food in a new way. Instead of a regular peanut butter and jelly on white bread (ho hum), make Pinwheel PB&Js by rolling up the PB&J in a flour tortilla and slicing it into pinwheels (fun!). Try a peanut butter and raisin or banana sandwich for kicks. Try dark chocolate peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter. While some kids freak out when they see a new “food form,” as kids get older they will be willing to try more things, so don’t be afraid to shake it up.
2. Get ‘em to pitch in.
Getting your child involved with the meal preparation is a great way to help ensure that they eat their lunch, not trade it away. Try filling one of each of three plastic baskets with fruits, vegetables and snacks. Then allow your child to pick one item from each basket for their lunch. Add a sandwich and a drink, and you’re done. They might actually eat all of their lunch if they got to choose what’s in it.
3. Order at the lunch counter.
For siblings who like different foods, make a chart of favorite foods with the child’s name at the top and foods they like and will eat for lunch underneath. This will serve as a menu for your kids. Make sure there are vegetable and fruit choices, as well. On Sunday, ask your kids to put in their order for a week's worth of lunches in advance. They will feel like they are ordering at a restaurant and you have the plan for the week which makes shopping and prepping easier.
4. Theme of the week.
Surprise your kids by incorporating a new lunch theme every few weeks, such as serving all red foods. Pair a strawberry jelly sandwich with cherry tomatoes and low-fat ranch dressing with cherry Jell-O for dessert. Meals could be all round foods (a bagel with cream cheese sandwich, an orange, and carrot rounds) or a backwards lunch (a sandwich with meat and cheese on the outside and a note written in reverse telling your child to eat dessert first).
5. A rose by any other name might be worth eating.
To make those healthy greens more interesting for your boys, label your food with a gross name. Cooked spinach could be Sea Monster Hair. Snow peas are the Fingers of an Alien. Broccoli are mini trees from the Haunted Forest. They’ll look forward to your creativity.
6. Cookies Cutters are your friends.
Cutting up your kids food is a fun and easy way to add a little surprise to your child's lunch box. I've used cookie cutters to cut out sandwich shapes, fruit, brownies, lunch meat, and cheese. You can surprise your kids or I like to use the cookie cutters with my daughter. I love to see her creativity, and if she helps create the food, she's more likely to eat it.
7. Lunch box notes.
Slip a little note into your child's lunch box to let them know that you are thinking of them. You can simply say you love them, encourage them on an upcoming test, or tell them a joke. Here's an article with a ton of ideas for lunch box love notes.
Yes, some of these ideas take a little time and preparation. But remember; planning it on Sunday night for the weekdays will save you precious time on weeknights from trying to think of new lunch ideas. Or, just throw in the fun randomly when you have time. Your kids will never know what they’ll find that way.
What do you get your kids to eat their lunch at school?
Check out my Back-to-School Pinterest board for some additional school lunch ideas.
Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.