Other Good Things
It’s the first week back to school, and we could hardly be more excited! It’s so joyful to see new faces, and to see how children have changed over the Summer. Some of us have haircuts, or have grown taller, or are showing off a few new accessories, like a lunchbox or backpack.
Already, though, we sometimes find ourselves at a loss for what to put in that lunchbox. The first day lunch might be planned well in advance, packed the night before, ready to go with perfectly balanced nutrition, carefully cut up fruit, sandwiches cut in triangles not rectangles, no crusts, and perhaps even a colorful cocktail toothpick. The second day might be a bit more like everyday life, I need to pack a lunch every day?!
Lunch doesn’t need to be challenging. It can be as elaborate or as simple as works for your family. If packing a lunch is fun and exciting, wonderful! There are pages of ideas all over the internet, and if it brings you joy, you could pack a different lunch with an exciting theme every day of your child’s school career, including college! If lunch causes a bit of stress, we’re here to help!
“Lunch doesn’t need to be challenging. It can be as elaborate or as simple as works for your family.”
Many children bring left overs, and, here, children have the option of reheating for a short time. Try making just a bit extra and setting it aside while preparing dinner, and lunch is ready for the next day with only incrementally more effort.
Every day doesn’t need to be elaborate and exciting. Perhaps the first day of school, or a birthday, gets a special lunch, but nutrition is the biggest aspect. We’ve seen many lunches with very little variety throughout a child’s time at school, and often there’s not much fuss. We emphasize, your number one job at lunch is eating, and the main role of lunch food is nutrition. If a simple sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a few raw veggies meets the nutritional expectations of your family, it qualifies as a healthy lunch, and you can feel confident and proud of yourself sending your child off with their needs met.
Perhaps you like some variety and have some wiggle room to prepare a bit more, or your child likes to contribute to what they’d like in their lunch. It’s a great opportunity to include your child in conversations about nutrition, meal planning in making a list and even perhaps going to the store together, and maybe even delegating some responsibility to your child to help prepare lunch!
“When a child is expressing choices, it’s often an indication that they’re ready to play a greater role in helping with this responsibility.”
This requires a bit of forethought on a parent’s part. What are your family’s nutritional expectations and culture? Perhaps create a list of foods that would be acceptable to you in various categories, and your child can pick one from each category for this week. Here’s an example.
- Grains: pita, tortilla, rice, quinoa, pasta, crackers
- Fruit: banana, apple slices, berries, grapes, melon
- Vegetables: steamed broccoli, cauliflower and dip, carrots, celery sticks, cucumber rounds
- Protein: beans, deli meat, nut butter, fish sticks, hard boiled eggs
- Dairy: cheese, yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese
Of course, some of these might not fit with your family’s nutritional expectations, so this list is just an idea. What are acceptable options for your family? Perhaps your family is gluten free, or follows a paleo lifestyle, or eat vegan. Different families make different choices, and we’re the richer for seeing a variety of lifestyles represented at the lunch table. It’s natural for questions to come home, such as why don’t I have sushi for lunch, or my friend’s family sends rice cakes and I don’t eat those. When those questions emerge, it’s a lovely time to have a conversation about choices your family has made, or religious or cultural expectations for food, or dietary restrictions or needs. We’re all different, and it’s wonderful.
When a child is expressing choices, it’s often an indication that they’re ready to play a greater role in helping with this responsibility. We all have dietary preferences, and that’s okay! It’s great you tried olives a couple times and just prefer your pizza without them, or that hummus and celery is your favorite lunch ever. I’m glad you tried that, gave it a chance, and perhaps in the future you might change your mind. When we invite a child into the decision-making process, we’re also honoring the growing independence. This might even be the start of one less task for a parent, and a moment of proud responsibility for a child!
Written by:Charlotte Snyder