5 Simple and Healthy Back to School Lunches – and how to pack them

It’s almost August, which means it’s almost September, which means it’s time to think about back to school. Or in our case starting school. They weren’t kidding when they said time goes by fast when you have kids. As I was thinking about Bear starting school he walked in to show me he lost his first tooth. I could feel my hair going gray. When did he get so big?

Anyway. Bear is also starting kindergarten in the fall. Full day kindergarten with a bus pick up and everything. Not sure how I will do with this but it’s time. I know I won’t be able to control who he sits next to at lunch or pretty much anything about his day, but I can send him out with a good meal and maybe a nice note. He also started reading just to make my wrinkles come in too.

So I figured a few of you might be in the same boat as me and might want a few ideas. I’m not saying school lunches are bad, I just think they are given the short end of the funding (like art and gym) but that’s for another time. School lunch programs help a lot of kids get access to food they might not otherwise get. It’s a sad reality but food insecurity effects about 13 million kids in the US. Schools step up to help them and their families. So I am in no way mocking or knocking down the school lunch program when I say, ketchup isn’t a vegetable. Plus Bear eats a lot and I can only imagine what the bill would be if I let him run free at lunch time.

I know it can seem overwhelming to plan, shop and make lunches for a kindergartener but trust me you can do it! You just need a follow a few steps.

Step one: Set up a prep station. We have a huge island in our kitchen now but you can use any cleared off space. A dinning room table works great.

Step two: Gather all your equipment. By that I mean get all your ziplock bags, tupperware containers, lunch boxes, utensils and anything else you will need to pack up the lunches. I decided to go with the Sistema Plastics line. I like them because they are easy for little hands to open and dishwasher safe. Plus Hubs has been know to use them from time to time when our containers are no where to be found.

Step three: Create an assembly line. Lay out all your containers and start filling them with the main lunch. This will avoid the urge to overfill with snacks and treats. There’s no perfect lunch plan so just do your best. If you fed your kid, you win! Once you have the main lunch in add in snacks and treats. Don’t forget the drink!

Step four: Store it. I cleared off a shelf in our fridge just for packed lunches. It makes it easy to find in the busy morning shuffle. From there it’s as easy as grab and go.

Now reading this you might think, well that sounds easy but… And I get it. There are always things that pop up and sometimes it’s hard to get things done with little ones underfoot. So here are few tips and tricks to help.

Include your child in the process: From meal planning to meal prep, include your child. Don’t let them go to the grocery store alone but ask them what they want and take them with you. Make it a game. Let them “find” the lunch stuff.

Make it the highlight of their day. Maybe it’s a cool now lunch box. Maybe it’s a fun note. Make lunch something they look forward to at school. Make your own version of Lunchables for them to assemble at the table.

Stick with it. It might seem like its not worth it, or it would be easier to just let them buy lunch, but there is so much value in teaching your child how to plan and create a meal.

Many adults today do not know how to create a balanced meal. There’s no “right” way to eat. There are plenty of wrong ways. But let’s focus on some of the things the “right” ways have in common. Minimally processed foods, a good amount of fresh veggies and a reasonable helping of fruit. Every diet (I really don’t like that word btw) will tell you different concepts of this simple idea. Eat real food. Ok I’m getting down from my high horse and finally giving you what you came here for.

5 Simple and Healthy Back to School Lunches:

  1. Caesar Salad wrap with fruit, yogurt and popcorn
  2. Hard boiled eggs with cheese and tomato kabobs
  3. Ham and Cheese on homemade bread with red peppers, pepperoni and a banana with fruit snack (big hit!!)
  4. Salmon Patties (or tuna) with veggie sticks and dip
  5. Last Nights Dinner (with a few additions)IMG_2988