I love this book: “The Healthy Lunchbox – How to Plan, Prepare & Pack Stress-Free Meals Kids will Love” by Marie McClendon and Cristy Shauck. They give so many practical no-nonsense tips on how to get started & create a gameplan for packing your kids lunches. Here are just a few of the great tips I picked up along the way…
1. Find out what your kids like/dislike. When I first started packing the kids’ lunches, I had grand ideas of all the cool, nutritious things they would try and how much they would love them. As if overnight, the healthy fairy visited them in their sleep and *poof* just like that they were transformed into non-junk food eating kids. Yeah, right. Though I don’t hesitate to introduce 1-2 new foods into their lunch each week, I try to pay close attention to what they love and the things that they may not like.
2. Don’t get discouraged. Even if they don’t like it I try not to give up, I just reintroduce it at a later time and maybe in a different way…with a dip (ranch always makes things better!) or even steamed or raw. It may take 10-12 times for a child to be introduced to something for them to try it and even more exposure to it for them to like it. Buy in small quantities and if you want to avoid waste, try new foods at dinner so if they don’t like it, you can finish it for them!
3. Choose your timing wisely. I’ve also learned that I’m more successful introducing new foods after school (when they’re hungry) and we’re out and about running errands or at their activities. They will try just about anything when they’re hungry, especially when that’s the only thing mom brought to eat. For that reason, they look forward to our after school trips to the grocery store because they LOVE trying the food at the Cooking Connection at HEB and beg me to make it when we get home. Another fun game we like to play is letting them pick a new fruit or vegetable to try that we don’t normally eat…that’s how they discovered their loves for kiwi, sugar snap peas, artichokes, avocados, yellow bell peppers and tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and bean sprouts. We’re looking forward to trying star fruit, pommegranate, jicama, papaya, and perhaps one of these days we’ll get around to brussel sprouts!
4. Make their food look fun and exciting! Now’s the time where it’s ok to play and get creative with your food! My kids love fruit/veggies cut out with cookie cutters, julienned, skewered, or made into a creature with eyes, mouth and a smile! Making lunches has been just as fun for me and my husband as it has been for the kids to discover it at lunchtime. There are tons of neat tools and accessories out there that you can use to prepare and serve food:
I spotted these on Etsy and surprisingly, the shipping from JP is pretty reasonable!
These came from Amazon.com but I’ve also seen similar shape cutters at Target and the grocery store.
I picked up some sandwich cutters at HEB for $2 but have also seen these online.
One thing to note, you don’t have to buy accessories to make food fun…you can use your imagination! Make faces using olives, peas, beans as eyes & noses…use a thin slice of orange to make silly teeth & mouth. Introduce a variety of colors, shapes, and textures to make their lunches interesting. Use ordinary objects in unconventional ways!
Photos courtesy of Disney Family Fun site: http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/cooking-with-kids/making-food-fun-photo-gallery-848181/view-all/
5. Be inspired! I subscribe to lots of food newsletters and FB groups for ideas and inspiration. Here’s just a few that I love:
It’s not as hard as it looks, trust me! And though we do run our dishwasher more frequently, it doesn’t take that much more time preparing our food. I often make my kids lunches the morning of school in less than 15 minutes! It just requires a bit of planning, thinking ahead, or having a quick go-to backup plan. If you don’t know where to start your planning, “The Healthy Lunchbox” offers rotation menu charts with quick fix lunches, combinations that take less than 10 min and also recipies you can prepare overnight. [Not to mention, they have an excellent Lunchbox-Packing Blueprint guide which lists dozens of options for the balanced lunch: Main Dish (protein), fruit, vegetable, and snack/dessert.] But I have to add, packing their lunches the night before is a good way for me to relax…I sometimes would rather spend an hour being creative in the kitchen preparing our meals instead of spending an hour unwinding in front of the tv. A couple of great resource for just starting out: http://www.anotherlunch.com/p/how-to-start.html and http://wendolonia.com/blog/2010/08/16/back-to-school-back-to-lunch-lunch-box-ideas/
Keep in mind that while these ideas work great for my family, they may not necessarily fit with your family’s lifestyle. But don’t let that be an obstacle to trying out 1-2 new ideas out and experiment with what works best for your family. I’d love to hear what works for you!
Ok, time for another giveaway…just a couple of teasers to entice you to start packin’! Last week I had the pleasure of receiving some sweet notes of appreciation and encouragement (which I am forever grateful for!) so I thought I’d return the favor to my blog readers and share the love! I have two sets of “love notes” for you to include in your kids’/husband’s/friend’s lunch or even just to surprise them with throughout the day! One is the “mini lunch notes” featured in Parents Magazine and the other is “Lunchbox Love for Thanksgiving”. The Thanksgiving notes (geared toward older kids or adults) would be perfect to set your table with for your Thanksgiving meal or to include with a bottle of wine or flowers when visiting family or friends.
TO ENTER: Just visit one of the links listed in this post and leave me a comment about something neat you discovered there or want to try out, only one comment per person please. The winner will be drawn using random.org, this time using their true random number service. The cutoff for entries will be Sunday, November 14th at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced next week. Make sure you enter your email address so I can contact you and find out where to ship your prize! Good luck!