Packing school lunches can be a huge source of anxiety and stress. It can be quite the challenge to ensure your child is getting the right nutrition, especially if they are a picky eater, have dietary restrictions and/or have developed a daily ritual. Lunch is an extremely important meal because it provides your child with the energy they need to attend and have a successful afternoon at school. Below are some tips for decreasing stress while preparing a well-balanced lunch that will satisfy everyone!
Plan Ahead of Time
Create a school lunch menu for the week. This will help with shopping lists, budgeting, time and prep work. Once you have a few meal and snack ideas that work for your child, you can easily rotate them throughout the week. Be sure to keep the menu visible just in case someone else has to prepare lunch.
Furthermore, prepare the parts of the lunch that can be done ahead of time to eliminate morning stress.
Empower Your Child
The more input your child has, the more excited they will be to eat their lunch. Don’t give your child free rein to pick whatever they want, instead provide them with pre-selected choices. By pre-selecting the options, you retain control while your child feels empowered. Use the actual items or visual supports to support your child’s decision-making skills. Children are more likely to eat something they created opposed to something that mom or dad said they had to eat, so let them make their sandwich or cut their fruit! It’s ok if it doesn’t come out perfect!
Make Things Quick and Easy
Make the food as easy and ready to eat as possible. Children are hungry at lunchtime and want to start eating as soon as they sit down at the lunch table. Pre-peel and cut fruit and vegetables, unless peeling and cutting is a targeted skill for your child. Use easy to open containers and make sure they can be closed again. This will allow your child’s teacher to send home the leftovers in a clean and easy way.
Always Have a Back-up
For those especially hectic days when everything seems to go wrong, keep a prepared lunch in the freezer. This will allow you to take an extra 10 minutes for yourself while still being able to send your child to school with a nutritious lunch. Things like spaghetti and meatballs, english muffin pizzas and chicken nuggets are all great meals to freeze and go.
Include at Least One Protein
Protein is critical to support brain function and should be incorporated into your child’s lunch every day. Sources of protein include deli meats, chicken, tuna fish, peanut butter, almond butter, boiled eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts and peanuts.
Include Fruits and Vegetables
It is important to pack a fruit with every lunch. Alternate between packing whole fruits and sliced fruits. Try including yogurt or peanut butter to add some extra flavor. Incorporating vegetables is also a good way to help your child meet their nutritional needs. Include vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes on sandwiches. Put cut-up vegetables, like cucumbers and baby carrots, into small snack bags.
Choose the Right Beverage
Certain beverages can pack extra calories, sugar and fat into your child’s lunch. Avoid beverages that are high in sugar and calories, such as soda and fruit juice. When choosing a fruit juice, make sure that the juice is 100 percent fruit without any added sugar. Avoid juices that contain grape juice as a sweetener because it is a concentrated source of sugar. If milk is your child’s beverage of choice, pack low-fat or fat-free varieties.
How to Make Healthy School Lunches for Your Children
How to Pack a Better School Lunch
GFCF School Lunches for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
7 Essential Resources for Stress Free School Lunches
Healthy Lunch Maker