In most places around the country, school has already ended or is just about to end. That means that all around the country, parents are checking one thing off their daily to-do list for the summer: packing their kids' lunches.
Over the course of the year, parents have packed dozens of lunches for their kids to eat every day. That means they've had to do some serious nutritional gymnastics to keep finding ways to give their kids healthy food that they actually want to eat at lunchtime.
Finding a way to balance healthy and fun five times a week is not easy. Here are five ways to make sure your kiddos will be happy when their lunch period comes.
Remember who you're making food for
Kids do care about what they eat at lunchtime, but I promise that they're way more worried about who they're going to play with at recess. And that's fine. You should care a lot more about what they're eating than they do. They don't have the "burden of knowledge" that you do on what certain foods might do to their bodies. For the most part, they're pretty happy with whatever you make them. Use this time in their life to introduce them to different types of food and get them to try new things, but remember not to overthink it.
Establish a "leftover-friendly" culture
Tired of starting from scratch for your kids' lunches? Then don't. Using the previous night's leftovers is a very easy way to control what your kids are eating while also saving you time. Go a little over on your portions for dinner the night before, and use that for their lunches the next day. People sometimes have issues with eating leftovers all the time, but if you set a precedent with your kids that leftovers are okay, then it'll become part of their "normal". And if they liked the food once, chances are they'll like it again, and it'll save you that much time to do whatever else you need to do.
Be smart with ingredients
Choose the foods that you send with your kids wisely. They probably won't have access to a microwave, which eliminates a lot of foods that you might be cooking for dinner. But you also shouldn't just send them with a sandwich and potato chips every day, either. Choosing foods that stay fresh for a long time, like potatoes, beans, pasta, nuts, and rice, will expand your options for your child's lunch without making them unhealthy or getting them sick.
Bring the kids grocery shopping with you
Do you know what kids love more than almost anything else? Feeling like they were part of making a decision. They love getting to feel like a grown-up. And they love getting to come on errands with mom and dad. If you bring them on the grocery run with you, they can be a part of the decision-making process for what's going to go in their lunches. Being able to take ownership is a big deal for kids. When it comes time for them to open up their lunch on a given day, they can remember how awesome it was to get to shop for what's in it with their parents.