A frequent question that comes up during client sessions is “What do you pack your kids for lunch, Caitlin?” While this doesn’t directly relate to weight loss that most of my clients seek, it does have to do with their daily life and an area that can cause stress. I mean how many times can you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your adult life?
So in this “Kids’ Focus” post, I wanted to show some examples of what I make for my kids’ lunches. When talking with clients about making lunches for their kids, one of the first things we do is have them sit down with their kids and ask their child what THEY want in their lunchboxes. Sometimes, they can really surprise you! For example, I had one client discover her child really likes fresh cherries when they are in season. Apparently another child had been sharing theirs with her child and she loved them! You won’t know unless you ask. (and yes, they were pitted cherries – easy to do with one of those OXO cherry pitters.)
Then, post that list on the fridge, dividing it up by proteins, carbs, and fresh fruits and veggies. Then when you make your grocery list, you will have some sources of inspiration which came directly from your child! Your child will love knowing they had a say in what they get everyday and you’ll be glad knowing that their lunch does not end up in the trash.
If your child is old enough, they can start making their lunches by themselves. I suggest monitoring what they put in there though! Eating lunch with one of my children one day at her school, I noted her friend (who makes her own lunch) had put 1/2 a large bag of mint M&Ms in her lunch, as well as about 40 ‘Nilla wafers. No fruit, no veggies, no protein? I’m all about choices but I also want my child to stay focused while in school!
Until my kids are old enough to make their own, I don’t mind a little prep on my part because I know my kids are eating foods they like (because of that list we made together) that are also healthy for them.
What about treats? I’m in the camp that treats are sometimes foods. We dedicate Fridays as “treat” day in their lunchboxes. So they know on Friday they’ll get a little something sweet and decadent in their lunch box.
I prefer making their lunch versus buying a premade lunch-in-a-box type of lunch because those tend to be loaded with sugar, sodium, and ingredients that I can’t even pronounce. I can fit fresh fruits and vegetables in their lunches, too, by making them myself.
The first lunchbox below is for my youngest. She likes variety and this lunchbox allows me to put a lot of little, different things in so she can choose a little bit of everything. This lunchbox comes from Yumbox, and while they are a little pricey, they are super-sturdy and can keep things like yogurt and applesauce from seeping into other compartments. It also has little pictures for each compartment reminding you to include fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy. Nice touch!
So in her lunchbox, you’ll see clementines, celery, whole grain (gluten-free) crackers, pepperoni (nitrate-free), and a mix that contains nuts and roasted chickpeas. Her treat that day was chocolate covered cashews (must have been a Friday lunch!)
The second lunchbox below is for my older one who loves a good turkey and cheese sandwich. Her lunchbox comes from Easy Lunch Boxes and I love these too. They are a great price, and you get a set of four when you order. They are not seep-proof, but I’ve found that you can stick “Press n’ Seal” around the edge of the smaller compartments and contents stay put pretty well.
This day, she got a toasted turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce, pepperoni (nitrate-free), celery, clementine, and her treat was also chocolate-covered cashews. For drinks, I usually do water, or Honest Kids’ lemonade.
During colder months, my kids love getting tomato soup in their thermos and a grilled cheese. I don’t add an ice pack on those days so things stay at room temperature. Food safety can be an issue but since my kids eat lunch pretty early, I know their food is still safe by the time they eat it.
For additional ideas, see my post on Real Food Snacking. While I wrote that post with a focus on weight loss, the ideas listed there are just real foods, perfect to put in your child’s lunch, too. There a lots of ideas to add to a lunch, just make your portions a bit bigger since you’re creating a meal instead of just a snack.
Pinterest is a great resource for kids’ lunch ideas, too. What are some of your kids’ favorites?
Caitlin Russell MS RD LD