I have been asked by quite a few people recently, how I keep my daughter’s lunches nutritious and convenient, without resorting to processed and packaged foods. I have to admit, I was pretty stumped when I first started preparing my daughter’s school lunches. There certainly was a learning curve and it took me nearly two years to get it down to a science.
I have been a stay-at-home mom since the summer before my daughter was born. Mr. Bear and I talked extensively before Allie was eating solid foods that we wanted to give her a great start with her eating habits. When Allie was a year old, I made her baby food from scratch. We worked very diligently to limit or avoid processed foods altogether. I have had to teach myself about nutrition and health in my adult years, by reading anything I could get my hands on. Mr. Bear taught me a lot about creating balanced meals. It was imperative to me that Allie was given the tools to make healthy choices later in life, by hopefully not creating bad habits in the first place—the way I had in my younger years.
When Allie went to school, I had a difficult time trying to figure out what healthy choices I could send to school. I needed something that wasn’t perishable. I needed something that was nutritious. I needed something that wasn’t processed. Hmmm. What could I send that served both convenience and healthy eating? How could I send perishable items without them spoiling by lunch time?
It hasn’t taken much preparation to get better at homemade school lunch, but there are some tools I have come to depend on:
- Little lunch love notes: There is nothing like sending a little love with a healthy and well-thought-out lunch. I love to think about the smile it puts on Allie’s face when she reads my little love note. I found some cute ones at the dollar store, but of course you can make your own. If I was a better artist, I’d probably draw a cute little picture to include.
- Fit and Fresh lunch kits: At Christmas the year before last, my mother-in-law bought me this amazing lunch bag that has an ice pack to keep your lunch cool, in addition to having this ingenious little lunch pod that has an ice pack in the lid of the sandwich container. Get out of town! This thing is amazing! They also have containers of varying sizes that include these fancy fandangled containers that sport the ice pack in the lid. Fit and Fresh is one of my very favorite companies. They have the most amazing products. I ordered a bunch of these babies on Amazon and I can’t get enough use out of them.
- Bento lunch boxes: I LOVE these from Pottery Barn! I haven’t tried them, but I’ve been wanting to try them. Maybe next year’s lunchbox?
- A little planning ahead goes a long way: I will prepare small snack size bags on Sunday night and put them in a container so it’s easy to grab a pre-portioned bag in the morning. I might make tuna salad or hard-boil some eggs the night before so everything is ready to go.
- Don’t cave in: The more practice I’ve had with preparing lunches, the better I have become at it. I gave up for a while and let Allie eat that gross food they serve at the school cafeteria. She hated it and always came home hungry.
Now, for the fun part! Here’s a list of the foods I have sent my daughter to make lunch yummy, healthy and not a big time consuming pain to make:
- Apples cut into slices. I have learned you can dip them in lemon juice or orange juice and they don’t turn brown before lunchtime. The other day, we discovered Ginger Ale will also work. Yummy!
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Tuna salad and crackers
- Carrots with hummus or ranch (okay, ranch dressing isn’t the healthiest, but it does make carrots tasty!)
- Celery and peanut butter
- Seaweed snacks: I buy these in bulk. They are a yummy little snack
- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- Homemade fruit roll-up/fruit leather Check out Our Best Bites for a great recipe for fruit roll-ups/fruit leather. They are a good healthy choice that will stay fresh.
- Cheese: I cut up my daughter’s favorite cheese into cubes and send it in one of the Fit and Fresh containers with the ice pack. It doesn’t get all gross and melty that way.
- Soup in a thermos: When I make homemade soup or chili, a thermos is the perfect way to keep the leftovers hot for a those blistery cold days.
- Nuts: A handful of almonds or macadamia nuts make a nutritious and delicious snack. Just be careful you know the school policy about nut allergies.
- Yogurt with granola or bits of fruit
- Pineapple chunks (don’t forget to send a fork/spoon!)
- Honey, almond butter banana sandwich
- Bell pepper
- Trail mix: If you’re really fancy, you can make your own.
Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list and I am sure there are some savvy moms out there that can add to my list. I learned yesterday that the kids at school are trying to trade my daughter’s healthy snacks for their GoGurts and other processed foods. Funny, don’t you think?
What do you pack for your kids’ healthy lunch?