Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief among parents (and grandparents!).
School and kindy is back! Yay, you say, until you remember you have to send them to school with food.
Do you find yourself throwing the same sandwich and piece of fruit in every day? Does it come back half-eaten, or worse, do you find it squashed three weeks later in the bottom of their bag?
The smell of rotten banana still takes me right back to the primary school playground!
My two boys aren’t at school yet, but my eldest has just started kinder and my younger fella takes a packed lunch to his family day care. So it’s a battle I face most mornings too.
Ideally, we all want our kids to be eating well-balanced wholefoods, with limited processing, packaging, sugar and to be easy on the gluten. But we still want to fill up their insatiable tummies and appetites.
Here are my tips and recommendations on making the school lunch easier, healthier and less daunting.
Firstly, you need to have the right equipment! The best things I have found is having a great, segmented lunch box, so you can pack a platter-style lunch. That way foods don’t have to touch each other (god forbid) and juicy foods don’t leach and make other dry food soggy.
These can be found online and in wholefoods stores. I think Tupperware may do one too.
We use a stainless steel lunch box with a lid (PlanetBox and LunchBots are to school brands that come to mind).
Kids love choice and variety. Sure, we can’t offer a smorgasbord every day, but variety certainly makes meals more appealing. Think berries, boiled eggs (if allowed at your school), veggie sticks and dip, meat balls, crackers, cheese sticks and homemade gelatin jellies, cold meats, the list is endless.
If you have the sorts of kids that tolerate gluten and rice and like to have something to stuff these goodies in, you can send a packet of wraps or rice cakes to assemble.
Alternatively, lettuce leaves make good vehicles for meat and salad, even last night’s leftover fried rice.
If your school allows a Thermos, soups and dinner leftovers make great lunches.
If so, make extra to allow for lunches. Filling, warming on cold days and nutritious.
Try and steer away from packets – using occasionally is ok, but homemade is always better. Muesli slice (if your school has a no-nut policy, use seeds instead) with dried fruit and honey. Homemade biscuits using whole foods ingredients.
Get the kids involved, they are so much more likely to eat food they have helped make.
Once your kids are old enough, give them the task of putting their lunch together. They get some say in the matter and delegating will save you time!
Obviously for this process to run smoothly, the fridge and pantry need to be stocked with plenty of fresh foods and proteins, which is not always possible, but I find a trip to the shops every second or third day keeps things stocked.
That way, produce is fresh, vibrant and abundant.
Some of this might seem idealistic, but given enough time and preparation, it is totally reality.