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The count down to the first day of school in on! This will be my first year packing lunch for a full day. The lunch you pack your child provides the energy and nutrients he requires to learn and play at school. Without adequate nutrition he may feel tired and struggle to concentrate. That puts a lot of pressure on us, parents, who pack the lunch.
What will I pack? How will I pack it? Will it be enough? Will it fuel him all day? Will he eat it?
I have been mulling over these questions for weeks. I needed a plan. Stat!
I looked at MANY options. I didn’t want a bunch of small containers. They seemed too tedious to wash every night and the risk of loosing containers was assessed at highly probable. I narrowed it down to an all-in-one system. But there were still choices (PlanetBox, GoGreen, LunchBots and Goodbyn). My next concern was the lid. Would my children be able to take the lid off and put back on? Because our school operates on a Balanced School Day, the children will be opening and closing their lunch containers two times a day. If they do not secure the lid after the first nutrition break, they risk a leaky lunch mess at the second break. Not appetizing. After weighing pro and cons, I settled on the GoGreen lunch box. Right now, it suits our needs best. An all-in-one system, a snap top lid, a carrying case, and all components are replaceable.
Choose a lunch system that suits your needs.
For this part I mapped out the lunch box and assigned a title to each compartment, as a way to direct our menu planning.
Then I recruited my top food critic, my first grader. Include your children in the menu planning. Allow them to choose their favourite foods, so you can be assured that they will eat their lunch. I started by making a table with the five columns representing the five compartments and then added five rows to each column, so we could add five options for each compartment. My intention is that each day my son will choose one food option from each column to create his own lunch.
This is the largest compartment and will include a protein source and a whole grain.
Protein is required by the body for the growth, maintenance and repair of all cells. Protein is vital for metabolism, digestion and transportation of nutrients and oxygen in the blood. It is also necessary for the production of antibodies, which fight against infection and illness.
Whole grains are rich in fiber, B vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that help children build muscles, bones and are important for cognitive function. Fiber and complex carbohydrates in whole grains help regulate satiety and blood glucose levels throughout the day.
Vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other phytonutrients that are imperative to good health. School aged children should eat 3-5 servings (1/2 cup is considered a serving size) of vegetables a day. When choosing vegetables remember to incorporate vegetables of all colours and aim for one orange and one dark leafy green vegetable every day.
Fruits are packed full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other phytonutrients that are essential to health. Fruits are also an excellent source of soluble fiber. School aged children should eat 2-3 servings of fruit per day.
When choosing snacks for school lunches be mindful of sugar content and portion size. Make baked goods yourself and then store in the freezer for quick packing.
This compartment is flexible and may change depending on the activities during the week or school year. For example, you may need to pack more hydrating foods in the fall and spring when the weather is warmer. This compartment can be used to pack an extra snack for your child to each after school on the bus ride home, to fuel up before an after-school activity. If you have a picky eater, use this compartment to explore new foods and flavours.
Download and print this School Lunch Menu Worksheet and plan a lunch menu that works for your family. Then hang it in the kitchen for easy reference.
My children can eat their body weight in humus and babaganouj. I predict that both these options will be frequently packed in school lunches, so I purchased a set of the Kinderville Storage Jars for serving humus. As an ‘extra’ I plan to serve green smoothie ice pops in the Kinderville Ice Pop Molds (a great way to sneak in that dark leafy green vegetable). And finally, I also purchased a spork for salads and bean dishes.
Store all lunch supplies in a child accessible drawer or cupboard for quick assembly. Encourage your children to help you or do it themselves by choosing one food item from each column.
This might be my favourite part;) Once the menu is finalized have it laminated and then let your child use a dry erase marker to circle his food choices. This can be done as part of your bedtime routine, that way you can prepare lunch the night before or first thing in the morning.
Now that you have a menu in place, make a list, grocery shop, and stock the kitchen. By providing five options for each compartment there are endless lunch combinations. There will be no need to change the menu week to week. Just grab your list and go!
Bottom line: Pack whole foods that offer a variety of macro and micro nutrients to provide your child with the physical and mental energy he requires for a day of playing and learning.
Operation school lunch complete!
I will post our menu soon…for those who are curious.