A Stress-Free Lunch
Thoughts & Reflections
At the start of the year, there’s so much enthusiasm for even mundane tasks. What am I going to wear?! We plan outfits for the whole week. A few weeks in, “not jammies” can feel like a success.
Same with lunches. The first weeks we’re full of ideas, meal-prepping, making extra dinner for “plan-overs” (rather than LEFT-overs, see, cause it’s on purpose! That makes cold food more delicious, right?), turkey and cheese pinwheels with decorative toothpicks or sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Every lunch is worthy of the pages of a glossy magazine. Be sure to snap a photo for Instagram before sending it out the door!
We can’t be the only people who, just a few weeks in, dressed in our not-jammies, hop in the car before remembering, lunch! Why is it we have to eat lunch every day?!
There are two really important qualities every lunch must have. Ready?
- It’s food.
- It’s at school.
Point 1b is “mostly nutritious food,” but that metric varies from family-to-family. In my family of origin, salad was a dinnertime staple, whereas meat was not. Now that I live in the Midwest, that standard is a bit different from many local dinner tables. Nutritious is based on perspective, and we can’t really be judgemental of something that is so personal, cultural, and no one else’s business.
When there’s ever pressure to create a social-media-worthy lunch, remember: broccoli tastes the same if it’s part of a forest vignette complete with a unicorn sandwich, or if it’s in a plastic baggie. If a side of ranch helps it come home in your child’s tummy instead of still in the lunch bag, that’s just fine.
There are about a hundred things a lunch DOESN’T have to be, but here’s a small list.
- A source of stress or anxiety.
- Novel or exciting.
Where can the stress be reduced? This is one of those times when having a routine in place is helpful. A little bit of preparation leads to smooth sailing. In order to eat lunch, we have to pack a lunch and remember it, we have to have food in the lunchbox.
How can we set ourselves up for success? Spend a few minutes, figuring out your necessities for a nutritious lunch. Maybe it’s a few categories, such as protein, produce, grain. Okay, so what goes in those lists? Here’s an example:
Protein: hard-boiled eggs, greek yogurt, jerky, deli meat, left-overs, milk
Produce: seasonal fruit, cut up veggie sticks, defrosted vegetable medley, raisins
Grain: farro, rice cakes, tortillas, granola
Whatever your list is, it’s a good one as long as it fits your family’s nutritional needs and it’s manageable.
When you go to the store, keep this list in mind. Have a few options from each category available for this week’s lunches. When possible, provide choices or keep your child’s preferences in mind. Maybe your child loves grilled chicken, or shepherd’s pie, or bok choy. When that’s on the dinner menu, make a bit extra, and put it directly into containers that can go in a lunch box. You’re doing a favor for your future self, and your future self will be very thankful.
“When a child has some say in what goes in their lunch, there’s sometimes a willingness to try new things, or more enthusiasm around eating, which can be a challenging area for some families.”
Maybe your child accompanies you on the weekly grocery run, and can play a role in helping to choose lunch. Maybe they can pick five yogurts, one for each day of the week. What does lemon yogurt taste like, well, I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out! When a child has some say in what goes in their lunch, there’s sometimes a willingness to try new things, or more enthusiasm around eating, which can be a challenging area for some families.
Social media can be helpful though. Maybe you’re in a bit of a rut and forgot about, or didn’t even know about lunch options. Every year, the weather starts to change and I remember, oh yeah, soup! We tend to pack the same few things over and over, and if that’s boring rather than easy, the internet is a great place to look for a few more options to add to the regular rotation.
We hope this helps take a bit of pressure off this necessary but sometimes challenging part of the day. Keep in mind that list of a lunch’s necessary qualities, and figure out ways to help yourself be successful. There’s a saying, “You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.” Every lunch doesn’t need to be perfect, and whimsical, and seasonally-appropriate; just be sure to pack an extra when it is.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder