One packed lunch mistake you are probably making and three things you can do about it right now!
I’ll just start by saying, well done Mama, you’re great. I know you’re a wonderful mum and you really care about doing the best for your child(ren). That’s why you’re reading this after all. Because you care, and you want to do your very best for your family.
The mistake I’m going to tell you about, I think we’ve all done it. Many of us still do it, day in and day out.
But the fact of the matter is, by repeatedly making this well meaning mistake, we’re probably denying our children access to a wide range of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
So what is this terrible mistake I hear you mutter.
What am I doing so wrong that will cause my child(ren) to become malnourisehed?
You probably go to great lengths to make sure that you include foods that you know your children will like and eat so that they don’t spend the afternoon hungry and unable to concentrate. Am I right?
That’s because you are a great mum. You really care, and you do your best, and it’s not easy, right?
I know, I’m there myself. Like many of you I have two daughters, I’m a single mummy, it’s all down to me, and I care. I really, really care about the food my children eat. Yet for years, I’ve made this terrible but well meaning mistake too, and one more than one occasion. It got us into a terrible rut. So terrible in fact that at one point I gave up on packed lunches altogether. I’ve never been much of a fan of school dinners, but at one point I thought it was for the best. We’ve been on a journey of discovery since then now we’ve reached a happy medium. We’ve mixed it up a bit and now we do a bit of both.
Anyway, back to this terrible mistake. The one that most of us make at some point when feeding our families, is ….
Feeding your kids the same stuff, using the same formula.
Sandwich, veg, fruit , yogurt, biscuit.
Is this how your kid’s box looks?
For years I stuck to this formula.
It makes our lives easier…… Tick
It’s a way of making sure our children will eat their lunch without complaint. Tick
You can do it in your sleep without too much bother. Tick
We can shop for the same things week after week. Tick
My packed lunch making is like a well oiled machine. Tick
We don’t have to worry about the moaning or whimpering “but I don’t like…..” If we dare to try something new. Big tick!
It’s just easy right? The same sandwich on the same type of bread, same filling, same yogurt tube product, same two or three types of fruit on rotation. On the face of it most packed lunches pass muster, they are balanced, contain some fruit or veg, no products too high in fat or sugar. The primary school lunch box police keep us on track in that respect.
We know what we have to do so we figure out a formula for a balanced lunch box that works well for the kids and us. It meets nutritional guidelines, AND our kids will eat it. Right?
Sorry, lovely mama, it is wrong.
I use the Government’s Eatwell guide as a basis for my meal planning, and I think most of your lunch boxes probably meet the model more or less too.
However, by picking the same foods from each section of the Eatwell guide every day, we are limiting access to the many many vitamins and minerals out there. For example – sticking to cucumber, cherry tomatoes and grapes as the vegetable part of the box. Always using white wraps. Always slipping in a yogurt tube and a biscuit. They are the same. Each day. The sandwich filling may change daily, but that’s it.
We are allowing our children’s finicky opinions to limit their diets.
By expanding our children’s repertoire we are giving them a far wider access to the goodies that will nourish them. We are also giving them a gift for life – the enjoyment of great food!
If you’re interested in a more detailed look at children’s nutrition and dietary reference intakes, check out this article by the British Nutrition Foundation You can also look up the Nutrition requirements as revised in 2016 here
The main thing we can do to improve our children’s lunch box content is to vary it.
But what about fussy eaters?
Many children are fussy. I get it!
I work with many, many fussy children. Most families have at least one one. Catering for them is a nightmare.
It really is.
I have a semi-fussy child myself.
But by drifting along accepting this and doing whatever we can to keep the peace, we are doing our children a disservice. It’s our jobs as parents to guide them and not to pander to them. This is not the kind of thing we can change in a day. This is a drip feed change. We can do it little by little one week at a time.
Here’s what I did:
I started implementing packed lunch changes within my family unit about a year ago. I committed myself seriously to it and within three months we were seeing changes – positive ones. Big ones.
It’s kind of hard work, but it is rewarding and engaging.
You have to commit yourself to make the changes, but the benefits will outweigh the efforts you put into it. I promise!
- Your child(ren) will become more open minded.
- Their vocabulary and eloquence will improve.
- Your relationship with them will improve.
- Things will begin to work like clockwork again, just a different type of clockwork – one where everyone is involved.
So what can I do to make a change?
I have been busy, busy, busy putting together a package of a guidance, inspirations and resources so that you can try my approach. It’s nearly ready. I just want it to be perfect before I release it!
So in the meantime, I’ve decided to give you some tips to get started with now.
Talk about it.
Ask your children questions about packed lunches and school dinners. What works, what doesn’t, who has the best packed lunches in their class. Do they think their packed lunch is healthy? What improvements could be made? What are the school rules about packed lunches? How does it feel at lunchtime? Do they have enough time? Does their box work o.k? Is it easy to open and close?
By opening up a discussion forum with your family you’ll gain a greater insight into their mind, how lunchtime at school feels for them, and what the hurdles and problems there are to overcome.
They’ll be so pleased that you’re interested and you might be surprised by some of their answers.
Try including one new change a week.
These could be tiny changes – a slightly different bread, a wrap instead of a sandwich, a different type of cheese, A different or novel way of presenting veggies. Talk about the changes with your children, before and after. Make sure they know you’re listening and responding to feedback.
Why not have a baking session on a Sunday afternoon. Save some of your produce for lunchboxes. You could make mini quiches, biscuits or muffins. Let your children help with the baking – this in itself will mean they are more likely to want to eat it.
Feedback from my own children (the guinea pigs)
What I noticed with my own children is that they are pleased and grateful now not to have the same packed lunch day after day.
They are enjoying the variety.
They also know that if they don’t like something one day, it’s ok, because the chances are they’ll have something completely different the next day anyway!
I hope this has inspired you to embrace change in the packed lunch department! If you’re interested in finding out more about my online package (nearly finished!) Click here for more info