Ask any mom what are the parenting-related chores she dislikes most, and “packing lunchboxes” is sure to be mentioned, maybe right after “changing diapers.” Packing lunchboxes often feels futile, because you put so much thought into it, trying to pack a healthy, well-balanced lunch, only to discover when your child comes home from school that she has barely touched her lunch.
The secret to packing lunches that are actually eaten? Make lunch fun. Sure, it can still be healthy, but don’t make it LOOK healthy. Make it look FUN.
Here are a few tried and tested lunchbox ideas:
1. Add dips. Use little plastic Ziploc-type containers to store small amounts of dips such as ranch, ketchup, lowfat sour cream or yogurt, or even a little lowfat mayonnaise. Veggies are often ignored, but the combination of veggies and a dip can be quite irresistible.
2. Use a cookie cutter to cut otherwise-boring sandwiches into fun shapes such as hearts and teddy bears.
3. Make-Your-Own-Sandwich. You don’t need to buy the sodium-laden prepackaged stuff. Pack all the ingredients your child will need separately and let him assemble his own sandwich. The excitement of making it may entice him to eat it too.
4. Kids love variety. Instead of using the same white bread every day, try using different kinds of bread, including whole wheat, raisin bread, bagels, mini bagels, wraps and pita bread.
5. Make variations on the classic (some kids say boring!) peanut butter and jelly sandwich by substituting cream cheese for the peanut butter, by using different jelly flavors (my kids love grape jelly) and by trying almond and cashew butters.
6. Lunch doesn’t have to be about a sandwich and sides. Homemade muffins are fun to bake together and are fun to eat for lunch. One of my kids’ favorite lunches includes applesauce mini muffins, cubed cheddar cheese and grapes.
If you’ve tried all of these lunch box ideas and your child still leaves her lunch uneaten, try not to fret. Kids are often simply too busy playing to take the time to sit down and eat a full lunch. Just keep trying, and make sure she eats a nutritious snack when she gets home.