Learn how to fall in love with the lunchbox again. I’ve narrowed it down to three easy steps, but you can’t do this alone, it’s got to be a team effort. You need to get your kids on side….
It’s September, and the kids are going back to school. Parents are anxiously labeling uniform and buying last minute plimsolls, protractors and pencil cases.
What are you dreading most about the return to school this September?
Well, I’m a teacher, and believe me, teachers are just as fearful of the September return as many children are. One of the things I most dread is getting back into the routine of school, and not just for me, but my children too.
Routine is good, but it’s really hard to get back there when you’ve enjoyed six weeks of lazy mornings and late sun drenched evenings, a daily ice cream and picky-picky meals because it’s just too hot to even think about cooking, let alone eating a hot meal.
It will be kind of nice to get back to a structured day, and to seeing friends and colleagues we’ve not seen over the summer. I miss my students and look forward to seeing how much they’ve grown up over the summer. Many of my students will be taller than me when we return… I hope that’s because they’ve been eating their greens!
There is one part of the routine I’m really not relishing getting back to, I wonder if you’ll agree.
Hands up if the thought of starting back with the monotonous task of packing the same old lunches for your children day in, day out makes you shudder.
The very idea of a lunch box being monotonous and repetitive makes me think that perhaps our packed lunches are not as ‘healthy’ as they are cracked up to be. Are we deceiving ourselves into thinking that because we lovingly prepare a packed lunch it is in some way healthier?
School dinners have come under a lot of scrutiny from the press, parents, headteachers and government lately, packed lunches have been a somewhat invisible sideline. I know a lot of schools offer guidelines on packed lunches and some have strict rules which must be adhered to. However even if a ‘no chocolate, no sweets and no drinks apart from water’ rule is in place, it doesn’t always follow that the lunch will be nutritionally balanced or wholesome, or varied for that matter.
Children are notoriously fussy eaters and it is so easy (I do this myself) to fall into the parenting trap of sticking to what works day in and day out because we know little Johnny will definitely eat it and therefore not go hungry.
However, I am certain that this approach of the same packed lunch every day with very little variation will in the long run do Johnny more harm than good.
Why? Because he will not be getting the variation of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that his body needs. Many children are undernourished because they do not eat a wide enough range of foods.
A packed lunch should NOT be the same every day!
I’ve put some thought into this, and I think this has to be a team effort. If you want your children to eat the (healthy, balanced) packed lunches you prepare for them, you need to get them involved too. Make them know they are listened to, make them invest their ideas into striving for variation, balance and nourishment in their packed lunches.
Balance your box…
We need to educate our children about what a balanced diet looks like. Take a look at my Eatwell guide video – here. It should be easy enough for your children to understand too. Either let them watch the video, or show them a printout and explain it to them yourself. You could even print off a blank guide for them to draw on.
Use the Eatwell guide as a point of reference, check you are including foods in the correct proportions and different foods from all sections each day.
Pick n Mix your lunchbox
Next sit down with your child and write a list (to be pinned on the fridge) of all the packed lunch suitable foods that you can think of that fit into each section of the Eatwell guide. If you get stuck, or are short for time, download my easy Pick ‘n’ Mix list
If you’d like a printable version of this Pick n Mix lunchbox list designed especially for your use with your family when planning packed lunches, just click above, you’ll be able to sign up for my monthly newsletter at the same time.
How to use the Pick ‘n’ mix sheet for a varied lunchbox:
Ask your child to highlight the things they like, underline the things they definitely DO NOT and get them to put a star next to the things they are willing to try out once in a while. Set a target with your child – maybe to try one new thing from the starred items each week. See if you can convert some starred items into highlighted ones.
Get inspired! Just look at those lovely lunchboxes
Now take a look at my Pinterest board there are hundreds, probably thousands of different ideas here that might spark your imagination. I recommend you do this WITH your child, if they are involved, and if they invest some time in thinking about this your chances of success are going to be much greater. But one word of warning, don’t set yourself up to committing to anything too fancy such as carving carrots into Elsa from frozen! Remember this is supposed to make your life easier as well.
Keep it simple
Keep going – don’t give up at the first hurdle
Don’t expect massive changes straight away, keep encouraging and inspiring your child to try new foods, whilst still allowing some old favourites alongside the new.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. I’d really love to see some pictures of your revamped lunchboxes, or maybe even completed planners. You can add comments below here and pictures to my facebook page. Let’s share some inspiration.