There’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when your kids come home from school and empty out their backpacks and lunchboxes and you find that they didn’t eat the food that you lovingly packed for them that day!
Except maybe that crazy rushed and stressed out feeling that you get on a school morning when you sleep through your alarm and then try to hurriedly throw together lunches for your kids before the bus shows up. Yikes!
Both of these feelings can be avoided with a little bit of planning ahead and getting your kids involved in the process. In our family, we have found that it works best to pack snacks and lunches the night before school. And I do my best to shop ahead of time at local farmers’ markets, farm stands, and the grocery store so that our fridge is already stocked with lots of fresh (and local, when possible) fruit and vegetable options. I also bake muffins about once a week that are loaded with fruits and veggies so that I can include them as a healthy snack option.
If you find that you’re already tired of your lunch packing routine, try out a few of my ideas for how to make this school year more enjoyable for you and your kids! You might be surprised how much your kids enjoy baking muffins or helping out with the packing process. And older kids can even help cut up the fruits and vegetables with you!
Tips and Tricks for Packing a Healthy Lunch
֍ Plan ahead! Set yourself up for success by stocking your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies each week.
֍ Chop or prep fruits and veggies ahead of time and keep in the fridge until time to pack lunches.
֍ Bake muffins on the weekends and store them in the freezer until ready to use – they will thaw out in time for lunch. (Try to include at least one fruit or veggie in your muffin recipe – here are some muffin recipes that use local ingredients.)
֍ Pack lunches the night before – or even the weekend before – to take the stress out of your school morning routine.
֍ Involve your school kids in the packing operation – you’ll be amazed how much more they eat when they are the ones that pack the food!
֍ Make a few extra servings of dinner and pack the leftovers for lunch the next day – kids usually don’t care if it’s heated up or not – this works well for meals like pasta, tacos, salads, or pizza.
֍ Mix it up – try to think outside the box! If you’re used to packing sandwiches every day for lunch, try a salad or even a deconstructed sandwich instead (rolled up or cut up pieces of meat and cheese, a container of hummus, and a hunk of bread). Check out these salad vinaigrette ideas that use local ingredients, such as maple syrup or kombucha.
֍ Pack small quantities and large varieties of foods – kids love choices and it’s much easier to expect them to eat 3 carrots sticks + 3 cucumber slices + 3 apple wedges than it is to eat 9 carrot sticks in one sitting.
֍ Include love notes, words of encouragement, or a joke of the day in their lunch box – this gives them something to look forward to every day and can be a talking point for their lunch table – you can search online for an endless supply of jokes.
֍ While you’re packing lunches (especially if the kids are helping you out), throw some ingredients in the blender and make a smoothie that they can enjoy as an after-school snack – it’s so important to stay fueled up throughout the day and this is a great opportunity to fill their bodies with fruits and veggies and even greens. Check out these smoothie recipes for inspiration.
What are your secrets for packing healthy lunches for yourself or your kiddos? We’d love to hear from you!
[All of the photos in this post were taken at or for our Lil’ Locavore Lunchbox event at the Emmaus Farmers’ Market this past Sunday. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table! Keep us updated on how it’s going with your lunches at home!]