Life Back to School
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As a parent, there’s nothing worse than spending all evening packing what you believe to be an amazing school lunch only to get it returned home the next day with nothing but the cookies eaten. If this is becoming the rule rather than the exception in your household, you’re not alone. Packing the perfect school lunch is a fine art, and without first mastering it, you’re destined to be disappointed. But don’t despair and stock up on those $2.00 Lunchables yet, because we’re here to help. If you want your parenting dream of having a totally empty lunchbox returned home to you become a reality, then follow these tips.

Get on the Bento Box bandwagon

If you’ve ever looked to Pinterest for school lunch inspiration, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “bento box.” These nifty all-in-one lunch box containers divide up a whole meal into organized, separate compartments. What’s the point? Well, on top of being good for the environment and encouraging portion control, bento boxes mean that kids only have to open one container to get at their whole lunch rather than several separate ones. And when the minutes on the clock whiz by during lunchtime, this could make all the difference in getting them to finish the whole thing. Plus, they just make lunches look so much better!

Let them do the assembling

If you want to get those lunch boxes returned home empty, you gotta start going DIY-style. As J.M. Hirsch, author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go!, says “Lunchables aren’t popular because they taste good. Kids like them because they like building their own lunches.” So instead of packing a finished product, give your little tinkerer their very own meal kit. Pack a few tortillas, slices of turkey, chopped veggies, shredded cheese and let them do the rest. Or give them some mini pitas, tomato sauce, sliced pepperoni, and mozzarella for a build-your-own pizza. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes when you let them have a little bit more control.

Give them some eye-candy

We’re not the only ones who like seeing our food presented nicely. Kids eat with their eyes more than anything, so it’s crucial that your packed lunches make the grade in the appearance department. Get creative by whipping out the cookie cutters and cutting fruit and sandwiches into different shapes. Or go kabob-style by spearing food onto sticks. And don’t forget about colour! One study at Cornell University found that children are more attracted to plates of food that include six different colours.

If you’re feeling particularly inspired, why not try to unify the lunch under a theme? Think along the lines of animals, movies, books, holidays, seasons – the options are endless!

Keep it simple, keep it quick

During lunchtime, kids have other things on their mind besides food. As teacher Paul Finkelstein writes, “lunchtime is a social time for kids and food is not the focus. Their goal is to eat quickly, then get outside to play.” Try to avoid foods that require more effort to eat such as fruit with peels, intricately-packaged snacks, and whole sandwiches. Instead, slice, cut, and peel all their food in advance so they can be easily munched. “Make it easy to eat; otherwise, you’ll see it left untouched when you empty their lunch bag at home,” Finkelstein says.

Don’t forget the treat

As much as you’d like your child to be satisfied with a hearty sandwich, a fruit salad, and a handful of almonds, the truth is, children love sweets. There’s just no getting around it. You can however use this to your advantage by including a small “treat” that has actual substance to it. Think zucchini muffins, nutty banana bread, or even a protein-rich creamy chocolate smoothie. And if you do decide to pack them a more traditional dessert, be mindful of the size and the quantity. Former Yahoo! Parenting Editor Charlene Prince says, “they don’t need 15 miniature cookies; just give them one because they’ll eat the 15 over the sandwich.” That way, if they decide to eat the treat before the rest of the meal (because let’s face it, that’s what kids do) they’ll still have room for the good, nutritious stuff.

Now that you know the ins and outs of making an irresistible school lunch, check out these kid-friendly recipes to get you inspired to start prepping!