We are definitely back to school with a bump this year. With everything that has gone on, it has been a year full of change to say the least.
Today two out of my three have flown the nest so that just leaves the youngest at home, in need of fresh lunch ideas.
The change of seasons with the kids is a funny one, as they move through the school year. And for me, Back to school or starting back to school after any kind of break is always a time of mixed emotions: the excitement of seeing the old class mates again, but maybe mixed up in to different classes, coupled with new beginnings, maybe new teachers, and then the constant backdrop of change that we live in. Then it is so easy to slot back into old lunch packing habits and slide into the lunch box rut. The big yawn of same old same old. The lunch box coming back half eaten. It is soul destroying. I hear you. Same routine, or rather the same resistance to smoothly gliding back into that slick routine!
Now to avoid the lunch box rut, we’ve come up with some handy tips. As it is all too easy to fall into that rut, so below there are some easy tips you can follow:
How to Avoid the Lunch Box Rut
1 Don’t pack too much
– too much in the lunch box and you will overwhelm them
2 Keep it simple, keep it easy to eat
– if it’s apple, cut up into pieces to make it easier for them to eat. To avoid the browning of the apple, put a few drops of lemon juice in the snack box along with the apple
If they are young, make fairy bites or finger food, it just helps them eat it quicker and more easily. Psychologically it seems to work.
3 Kids have limited time, before they are encouraged to go out and play
– so make sure the boxes are easy to open. If the lunchbox is too difficult for little people to open, it’ll act like a barrier. And with little Johnny or Louise saying “come and play!” they’ll be all too keen to just up and off outside with very little in their tummy. And we don’t want them coming home hungry or as mine invariably do, with food rage!
So again, make it easy for them to eat and check before you send them into school, play group or wherever they are heading to be sure that they can open the lunch box themselves. You might think there are teachers on hand, but they may be too shy to ask for help, so make it easy for them so they can get eating!
4 Kids eat with their eyes first
If it looks pretty and there’s lots of different textures, they’ll be more likely to eat it.
So try and set aside the time to think presentation. Think what goes together visually, colour wise and texture. There are a great range of compartment lunchboxes out there, so do take a look. Compartment lunchboxes have many different sections to compartmentalise the food. So instead of putting sandwiches together, you could de-construct it, put all the elements in the lunchbox, but leave it for the child to assemble. That way they think they’re in control!
Kids love dips and chopped up veg. Well mine do anyway! They love that crunch from carrots and celery or breadsticks. And dipping it in a healthy dip is a bit like chips into ketchup (although it isn’t!)
5 Pack a balanced lunch box
Think the eatwell plate – try and make sure the lunch covers the essential elements for a balanced meal – protein, carbohydrates, dairy, one piece of fruit and veg, water or something to drink
6 Try not to worry too much
This is just one meal out of three in the day. When they are at school, you are handing over control of your child, and increasingly so as they get older. All you can do is do your best with what you put together in the lunch box, but ultimately it is down to the child as to what they actually put in their mouths from the packed lunch you provide.
So in addition, try and be sure to give them a good breakfast before they head off to school and a healthy snack when home from school, finished off with a good dinner to round of the day. That way you know they have topped and tailed the day well!
7 Pack a smaller lunch first and if necessary increase the size
Obviously you have to use your best judgement for how much to pack, but do remember the size of their tummy and not to over pack the lunch box. Older children are more likely to use up more energy running around at break times, so may need a larger lunch than perhaps a child in reception. You know your child best, but at first, if they are new to school, don’t over pack, it is a big adjustment for them, and the last thing they need is the big pressure of a big lunch to wade through, when all they want to do is play with their friends!
8 It’s all about balance
We are often asked how to transport milk to school and how to keep it fresh. For us, we have milk at breakfast and then a milkshake or smoothie when they come home from school. Mine prefer milk to be ice cold. You have to do what works best for you and your child, so as mine have so much milk throughout the day, I do not worry about milk at lunch. They have water instead. But you can always decant milk into a water bottle, and be sure to pack in an insulated lunch bag with icepack to keep the milk chilled. You could partially freeze the milk, or send in a frozen yoghurt tube. This should be defrosted by lunch time.
Now for treats, we always put in a special treat on Friday to mark the end of the week. So when Friday comes it’s FUN FRIDAY for us. But a treat is only a treat if it is occasionally given. It’s all about the balance.
9 Swap foods in and out
Variety will help you avoid the lunch box rut. Swap foods in and mix it up. Mine love a tortilla with melted cheese, tomato and ham. Kind of like a pizza. It’s just a spin on a ham and cheese sandwich really but with a difference. So think of pitta, muffins, wraps, rolls. There are so many bread alternatives. All different shapes and sizes to help make it FUN! And remember you can freeze all of these so have a constant fresh supply of bread alternatives. And if you are looking for more lunch box ideas, do check out our You Tube channel too. Lots of fresh lunch box inspo there.
10 PLAN PLAN and PLAN some more!
Finally you have to PLAN! For me it is all in the planning. If I haven’t planned the lunches, the lunch box rut re-appears. I find myself slipping back into familiar well tested lunch box ideas, and unfortunately the yawn factor returns.
I try and keep a fresh supply of celery, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, a variety of fruit, that can be chopped up or mixed for colour, to give them those options.
If you are looking for more tips and advice then do check out our Lunchbox World You Tube channel. To start you off, this video covers off a lot of lunch box ideas – no bread.
I hope this helps you to avoid the lunch box rut.
If you’ve some top tips to share, please comment below.
And here are some other posts I think you might like:
Top tips for fussy eaters and well basically, check out the Hints and Tips section – lots more over there.
And if you want more ideas like this then please let us know!
We love hearing from you! And we love helping you put the FUN back into packed lunches! Until next time…
The Lunchbox Lady x