Among the many things I love about summer holidays is taking a break from the never-ending lunch routine!
With a new school year upon us, we are getting settled back into a familiar rhythm. It is time to rethink lunches! With a focus on simple + variety, combined with yummy + healthful, here are a few suggestions for school friendly lunches to get you kickstarted for back-to-school 2018.
#1 Involve your kids!
Invest extra effort now, to make things easier for the rest of the year. Start by planning a kid friendly grocery trip dedicated exclusively to buying food for lunches… But first, sit down with all involved to discuss guidelines for making lunches, and to make a list of what they can and will eat (that you agree are good choices). Next, wander the aisles of the grocery store together, looking for and discussing different ideas. When I am not rushing him around I am always amazed by what my son finds that I don’t consider! It is a great way for kids to learn about reading labels and planning a balanced meal. And I find that they are more willing to try new things when they are part of the decision-making process.
You might think you don’t have enough time to set aside for this activity, but remember that multitasking normally makes us less efficient in the long run. Focus on your task and your children. The result is a much more satisfying experience than trying to meal plan + grocery shop for the week, while keeping the kids in line, while racking your brain for some lunch ideas. Be kind to yourself, and stop feeling harassed by trying to do it all at once!
#2 Create a Menu of staples This is kind of like advice for wardrobe planning. Based on what you and your kids have chosen from your shopping tour, you can create a menu of anchor pieces, and then mix and match “unlimited” combinations. It really helps with the challenge of creating variety day to day! My staples fall into three major categories: The main course, which includes the protein; Fruits & Veggies; Snacks. Below are my 10 anchor options for each category, which I now automatically replenish when grocery shopping. For 2 weeks your kid won’t eat the same main meal twice, and when combined differently with a variety of snack and veggie/fruit options, you will have months of meals that are never the same!
- Sandwiches… obviously! (choose just 2 favourites to keep shopping simple)
- Leftover GF/AF Pizza (usually have these in the freezer on standby)
- Pea Hummus + FreeFrom Turkey Pepperonis + Olives
- Sushi (In a thermos-bot to keep it cold)
- Baked Beans (so full of fibre and protein!)
- GF Pasta-Simply mix in some olive tapenade, diced tomatoes, diced meat
- Chicken or Tuna Salad
Fruits and Veggies
The rule is simple… there has to be at least 3 Fruit and Veggies in every lunch +these are the only things that must not come back home… if they ever do, they are eaten as the after-school snack. The options here are limitless and simply depend on what your child likes…. But it still helps to make a list that you can add to your menu of options, because it is easier to choose from a list then to try and think clearly at 6:30 am. Here are some ideas that go beyond the usual Banana, Carrots, and Apples
- “Apple Sauce” (unsweetened and mixed with various Fruit and Veg)
- Mini V8
- Organic unsweetened Fruit Cups
- Snap Peas
- FreeYumm Bars and cookies x8 (Well of course! But what is important to think about here is the quality of the ingredients, the flavour options for variety, and of course the fact that it is safe for school.)
- Rice Chips, Quinoa Chips, or GF Pretzels
- GF/AF Banana Bread
- Celery with Sunflower Butter
- Trail Mix (Pumpkin Seeds, Raisins, & Sunflower Seeds mixed with AF Chocolate Chips)
- Parfait- Yogurt + Nut Free Granola + Berries (There are so many good AF Yogurts now, it is awesome!)
- Smoothie (Available in the chill juice section, or a little leftover breakfast smoothie is even better)
- Chia or Rice Pudding
- Rice cracker & sunflower butter sandwiches
#3 Involve your kids
Have I mentioned that you should involve your kids? ;o) It might seem easier to do it yourself, but again this is short term thinking. Our goal as parents is to give kids the tools they need to succeed in life. And that starts simply with learning about healthy eating, and tasks like planning and making lunches at home! Start small by teaching healthy eating “guidelines”; then as they grow, gradually get them more involved with the planning and shopping and eventually lunch making; they can decide the night before what they are going to have the next day and do some prep. They can also be in charge of unpacking their backpack and washing out the lunchbox when they get home from school. Slowly build the knowledge, habits and routines until they are almost fully independent and you can sit back and watch with pride…. Nice!