Our good friends and super mammas – Cara and Monica at Freshmade NYC – have graciously given us some great tips on making school lunches that much less stressful. Check out the tips below to ensure your kid isn’t trading his carrots for a twinkie in the lunchroom……
The school year has begun, pumpkin spice lattes have returned, apple picking season is in full effect. But amongst all these wonderful Autumn traditions looms the topic that can cause daily stress: packing our kid’s lunch.
It’s 7 AM, you haven’t had coffee yet and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator, desperately trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes, wondering where summer has gone, and you’re panicking about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox.
Our parents had it easy – they would shove a sandwich in one of those super fancy brown paper lunch bags and send you on your way. Maybe a juice box, maybe a cookie. There you go kid, piece of cake, out the door. You just prayed it wasn’t bologna again…
No…these days it’s all pressure. Can your child’s school have nuts or seeds? Will they get made fun of for bringing a quinoa salad to school? How do I pack a healthy, delicious meal that will keep until my kid has lunch? Are they going to eat what I packed? If they throw it out, will I even know? Will they have enough energy to last the whole school day?
Turkey rollups speared by little heart shaped toothpicks with cheese cut into little flowers, cherry tomatoes on a skewer shaped like a sword with dip, watermelon cut into heart shapes, a rainbow of options that fill their 9000 compartment lunch boxes. Are we overachieving because of Pinterest? Damn those bento box mamas. Ain’t nobody got time for that! How DO you do it?
Well, we are here to inspire some lunchbox creativity that will make your lunch packing job easier. Take a look at Freshmade NYC’s Top 10 Lunchbox Tips and let’s celebrate healthy, energized kids who look forward to their lunchbox meal (and to Moms who have one less thing to worry about).
1. Get your children involved: Whether it be shopping for the food, meal planning or actual cooking, getting your children involved in the process will make them more likely to eat the foods you pack for them. Talk to your kids, find out what they enjoy eating. Use our meal planner to help plan the week’s meals together. Try to do this weekly throughout the school year and keep communication open to what your child is trading or throwing away!
2. Stock a healthy fridge, freezer and pantry: This is key to pulling together a quick, easy, healthy, stress-free meal. Here are a few healthy fridge, freezer and pantry staples we recommend:
- Canned Tuna: Tuna is a great lunch option, you can serve it in a wrap, with crackers, or even veggies. You can toss it with pasta, make it into burgers, or stuff in in a tomato or avocado. Tuna is high in minerals and omega 3‘s. Buy tuna that is stored in water rather than oil, look for wild caught tuna that is hook & line trolled, this means that it is caught and immediately brought on the boat and fresh frozen. Try: spend the extra $ and go for quality when buying canned tuna, we like the Wild Planet brand, they have a no salt added option.
- Dried Fruits: Kids like dried fruits because they are sweet. Some dried fruits have sugar added to them in the process, fruit is naturally sweet and therefore don’t need added sugar. Look for no sugar added, organic & sulfite-free options. Sulphur is used in many dried fruits as a preservative however according to the FDA 1 in 100 are sensitive to sulfites. Reactions such as headaches, rashes and breathing problems are often triggered by this preservative. Add them to oatmeal, breakfast quinoa, make your own trail mix, add them to baked goods, etc. Try: dried cranberries, goji berries, apricots, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, etc.
- Pasta: We know, what child can live without pasta? Pastas are a great source of carbs that kids love and provide them energy they need to make it through a busy school day. Pasta is great because it is versatile and can be eaten hot or cold. Luckily, these days there are so many options besides “white” pasta – pastas are now made with rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, etc. Pasta comes in lots of fun shapes like farfalle (bow ties), roetelle (wheels), gemelli (twists), and more. Choose whole grain pastas. Try: Soba noodles tossed with veggies and tamari, “caprese” pasta tossed with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil, pasta tossed with white beans, chicken and spinach, or whole grain spaghetti and mini turkey meatballs.
3. Recreate leftovers for lunch: It’s nothing new, it’s not rocket science – we all know an economical (and super time saver) way to pack lunch is to use what you have had for dinner the night before. This can be boring for kids so jazz up your leftovers and use them in a new way. Last nights roasted chicken can be tossed with pasta, veggies and dressing for a jazzed up pasta salad. Shred the same chicken and toss it with rice and cheese and top with avocado and tomatoes. Roll out some pizza dough, spread some hummus and add last nights roasted veggies and wrap up like a calzone and bake! Leftover rice? Add some veggies, egg, and tamari and make your own fried rice.
4. Reusable containers. We’ve come a long way since smushed lunches in brown paper bags, who wants to eat smushed berries and a wet sandwich? Today there are so many great options for reusable containers in all price points. You can even save plastic containers that have a lids like sour cream, butter, or yogurt containers – they are perfect to send dips or tender fruits in. We love this simple bento from Laptop Lunches, (it has only 4 compartments, not 9000). These types of containers keeps food separate from each other, keeping it more edible looking.
5. The surprise factor. Try and include one new thing each week, a new seasonal fruit or vegetable, a new cracker, a new cheese, or a new dip. Over the course of a school year your child can learn to love so many new foods. Build their curiosity and they will build their palate.
6. Pack reusable utensils. No need to add more plastic utensils to our landfills. There is a wide array of cute reusable utensils for your kiddo to have fun with at lunch. We just love Love LOVE the ECOspork by ECO Lunchbox! Perfect for little hands and made with bamboo.
7. Funnies a day. Add a note with a kid friendly joke on it. Your kiddo can share with the lunch table and add some laughter to their day. Not clever enough to come up with one on your own? Search google for a vast array of food funnies or check out Lunch Box Notes.
8. The BFL (Breakfast for Lunch). Breakfast for dinner is so much fun, why NOT try breakfast for lunch? There are tons of fun ways to incorporate breakfast favorites into nourishing lunches. Try a protein-packed oatmeal bowl, fruit and yogurt parfait, a toasted whole grain waffle sandwich with almond butter and jam or sliced bananas, a biscuit and egg sandwich and more! Go for it…breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner – go crazy!
9. Bread Variety. Does your child love sandwiches? Change up the bread. Have you had almond butter and jelly on toasted challah? A little pita stuffed with hummus and cucumbers? A pretzel bun? Need we really say more? Kids love bread, the carbs fuel their little bodies, let them eat the bread. No we aren’t talking about mass produced bread with HFCS and loads of other sugars, source out some good local bread from bakeries that pride themselves on using good quality, natural ingredients. Think outside the box on this one. Kids aren’t used to eating sandwiches the way we were growing up. Try these kid-approved fillings like bananas and almond butter with honey, sliced cucumber and grassfed butter, organic sliced turkey with cream cheese and raspberry jam, hummus with baby spinach and shredded carrots, sliced avocado and egg and more. Don’t forget to get rid of the crust! Man, kids really hate that crust!
10. Don’t overpack. Kids don’t have much time to eat. Limited options means they are more likely to eat the “healthier” options. These kids spend so much time chatting in the lunchroom they scramble to eat what they have. Pack three good options in small portions.
We hope this gets you through the 2nd month of school and so on!!!
We’d love to hear what you think – chime in on social media: