Ending the Lunchbox Battles

 Looking for new lunchbox ideas? Are you having trouble packing lunches and are looking for new, healthy ideas for lunches?

Perhaps it’s time to share the responsibility of packing lunches by having your child pack his or her lunch. Even young kids can pack their own healthy school lunches.

It might be a struggle to pack a healthy school lunch, but it is worth it—most school-produced lunches are shamefully unhealthy, loaded with fat and salt. More than that, packing lunches teaches children about healthy eating, safe food handling and responsibility. Plus, children who are involved in the lunch-making process rarely get caught up in “lunch swapping;” since they had a say in what they eat, they’re less likely to trade away their midday meals.

The Time Crunch

lunchboxbattlesThe key to success is to designate a set time daily for lunch making. If you leave lunch preparation to the last minute, the parents are left with the task as the kids are rushed off to bed. Determine what time of day works best in your household for lunch preparation and make sure your children are available to help. If your children are involved in nighttime activities, lunches can be made before dinner; likewise, if the time after school is hectic, schedule time directly after supper.

Hand it Over

The responsibility for lunch shouldn’t fall solely on mom or dad; a big misconception is that children lack the knowledge and skill to create a healthy lunch and handle food safely. Regardless of age, all kids can be taught to contribute to the lunch ritual.

 Elementary and Middle School. Young children (say, those four to eight) are usually keen to assist in the kitchen. They can help choose their lunchbox contents from parent-approved selections and are capable of making sandwiches, placing cut fruit into containers, and wrapping snack items. Tweens and teens from nine to 12 are old enough to choose their lunch contents (with parental approval,) assemble the entire lunch and store it in the fridge. In addition, this is a great opportunity to teach young children about healthy eating and what foods are recommended to help them grow.

 High School. This age group can be somewhat difficult to involve in the lunch making process because they may not want to bring a lunch to school at all, particularly if their friends are eating cafeteria food. At this age, you may want to reach a compromise. If your child is very reluctant to participate, you might consider striking up an arrangement – four packed lunches per week in exchange for one purchased cafeteria lunch.

 The adolescent age group is more than capable of making their own lunches; however, some parents will create excuses as to why they are still making lunches for them.  Your involvement for this age group should be to provide nutritious and appetizing choices for your child to choose from. You can’t expect your child to choose healthy foods if the cupboard is stocked with unhealthy choices.

 Lunch Box Offerings

Lunches don’t have to be limited to sandwiches: De creative with different kinds of breads, fillings and accompanying snacks. Tortilla wraps are kid-friendly and can be stuffed with leftover chicken or beef, tuna, eggs, vegetables, salad, and cheese. A tossed salad, fresh or dried fruit, veggies and dip or a carton of juice are smart, nutritious choices to balance it out. A quality insulated bag will keep the lunch contents fresh and chilled until lunchtime. Also, consider investing in an insulated jar for hot meals such as stew, soup and casseroles.

Unfortunately, some healthy food selections may not suitable for lunch due to time constraints.  Over the years, the allotted time in which children are given to eat their lunch has been reduced. In some schools without cafeterias, children are allowed 20 minutes to consume their lunch pack contents and are forbidden to bring food out into the playground.  A younger child may require extra time to consume certain foods, such as apples and oranges, and they may end up unfinished in the garbage can. Inquire as to the lunchroom policy of your child’s school and determine which healthy foods can be consumed quickly if the allotted lunch time is short.

With proper guidance, your child can be an active participant and contribute to the creation of a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunch.

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