Other Good Things
So, your child will be staying at school full-day. How exciting! Whether they are 16-months or 6, if they’ve been in full time care since they were an infant or if this is the first time they’ll be eating a meal away from you, this is a wonderful experience for children.
Apart from having the opportunity to share a meal with their friends, which is fantastic, there are amazing things happening during Lunch together.
Children are learning social graces, learning how to ask for and offer help, to problem-solve, to use polite manners.
Children are learning about what different families eat, and about nutrition.
Nutrition is a loaded subject, and very personal for individuals and families. Research sometimes supports or refutes traditional views of health, and families need to make decisions that are in line with their beliefs about food.
There are a few guidelines we like to follow, and suggestions we’d like to provide, if you’re finding yourself staring in the cupboards wondering what to pack for your child’s lunch.
The Mayo Clinic has a few recommendations about food groups to include or exclude, as well as calorie needs based on age, which can be found here. Of course, these are general recommendations, and if you’re concerned your child is ingesting too much or too little, your pediatrician can provide more personalized recommendations.
The Mayo Clinic recommends nutrient-dense proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy, with limits on added sugars and saturated or trans fats.
What you pack is really up to you!
Does your child enjoy left-overs? They make a wonderful lunch, as well as often providing opportunities to use a utensil and the microwave to heat food. Package up leftovers and put them right in your child’s lunch box, ready for the next day.
Sandwiches have fed school children for generations, and are still a tried-and-true, simple solution for what to pack.
You can incorporate leftovers in sandwiches by putting a bit of the meat from dinner in a wrap, roll, or bread slices, perhaps with a favorite condiment. This can make your life easy, while also giving new interest to last nights meal.
A deconstructed sandwich is also an interesting take on an old favorite. Instead of making the sandwich yourself, put the bread, meat, cheese, or nut butter in a container, and your child can eat them separately. The nutrition is the same.
Children love snacks, and this is a great opportunity for those bento box style lunch boxes. Put a few almonds, grapes, carrots, hummus, and cauliflower in each section. Chopped salads and crackers, yogurt and fruit. They’re all just a bit more charming when each has its own spot.
It can be helpful to have your child help pack their lunch. Decide which categories you’d like to use to meet your child’s nutritional needs, and have them help you decide what they will eat. Your child might even be interested in helping to shop for, prepare, and cook foods for their lunch.
For instance, are you going to have a whole-grain roll, rice, quinoa, or crackers?
Will your protein be nuts, shrimp, deli meat, left over steak, or beans?
Are you going to choose carrots, a brussels sprout salad, or asparagus spears?
We have cantaloupe, apples, and grapes, which would you prefer?
You can pick kefir or a cheese stick.
Before you know it, you have a lunch!
If there are nutritious options your child likes, try to keep these on hand to help make packing a lunch simple. Speaking of simple, if there are combinations your child enjoys that also meets their nutritional needs, feel free to pack that lunch again and again. Adults like variety, but children can sometimes be overwhelmed by too many choices.
Here are a few options we like. What’s your favorite?
Tuna, whole-grain crackers, broccoli, tangerine
Cooked egg, black beans, berries, yogurt
Sliced apple, nut butter, celery, cold grilled-cheese sandwich
Beans and rice, vegetable medley, strawberries
Ham and cheese sandwich, raisins, grapes, baby carrots
Written by:Charlotte Wood