Packing lunch for your kids is almost a rite of passage of parents. It saves money, ensures your kids get a good lunch and provides a little reminder of home when they’re away. But, as any parent who’s ever had an entire lunch come back home uneaten can tell you, it can be a little challenging too!
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Here are four easy tips to make lunch preparation simple while ensuring your child eats what you packed.
1. Think Outside The Lunchbox
All those great things manufacturers make, like hummus cracker and dip combos or celery and ranch packs, can really eat away at your budget. Make your own versions to save yourself a bit of cash while giving your child a snack you know he or she will enjoy.
You can pick up reusable dip or sauce containers at a local grocery or department store, and some manufacturers even make containers that already have slots for the different items and liquids.
Allow a bit of creativity. For instance, if your child doesn’t like sandwiches, you can create a mix of crackers and meats and vegetables for him or her to make up, like a homemade Lunchables option.
You could include wraps instead of regular sandwich bread. Even if your child likes sandwiches, you may want to switch it up occasionally so he or she doesn’t get tired of eating the same thing on a daily basis. Ask your child what they would like to get an idea of what types of lunch items you could create.
2. Use What You’ve Got
Your child’s lunch might just be the perfect place for left-overs. If you’ve made a meal your child loves, use some of the leftovers in their lunch afterward. For dinners that are always a hit with your child, you can even make a little extra at the time of cooking so you’ve got a sure-fire lunch selection to use during the week.
Dress up the leftovers to give the food a bit of new life. If you have rice, for example, add a favorite vegetable to it to get both flavor and extra nutritional value out of it.
3. Balance It Out
It can be challenging if your son or daughter is very particular about what he or she eats, but with a little planning, you can pack all the nutrients into a lunch they won’t mind eating. If your child doesn’t go for raw veggies, try a sweeter and softer kind, like sugar snap peas, with a dip they favor to encourage eating.
Introduce jam with bread sticks or crackers for a child with a sweet tooth. Use themes, like Greek food one day and Polish the next, especially if you’ve got a child who is a bit adventurous and willing to try something he or she is surprised with.
Don’t forget to get them involved in the lunch process, especially if you’re having a hard time figuring out how to encourage them eat a more balanced lunch.
4. Keep It Cool
Don’t freak out about making the perfect lunch each day. There will be times your lunch doesn’t meet all the nutritional standards or your child just doesn’t feel like eating most of what you packed. Work with them so you have a list of foods you know they really like that you can mix together on a daily basis.
If you’re experimenting with hot items, play safe and make sure you do a prep run first so you know how hot the items will be by your child’s usual lunchtime.