I know some parents hate packing lunch boxes for their kids. There are millions of Pinterest boards dedicated to kids lunch box ideas and 1000s of Instagram accounts focusing on it, and on that note of course I’ll be adding my Kids Lunch Box Ideas to the mix too
But first some truths about packing a school lunchbox.
Stop overthinking lunch box packing!
Personally, I think sometimes we can overthink the school lunch box, making it more of a worry than it needs to be.
Below you will find my 6 tips, don't panic if you don't understand my infographic, I explain my thoughts on lunch box packing for kids in a bit more detail below.
6 Tips for Packing Lunch Boxes for Kids
1 | Aim for Balanced
Don't aim for gorgeous, don't aim for amazing, just aim for balanced and you will be doing well.
By balanced I mean, try to ensure that most days you are including food items that cover the main food groups
- Vegetables & fruits
- Protein & fats
- Grains & carbohydrates
2 | Reduce expectations
Reduce your expectations, school/preschool/play dates are different to home.
- Kids could be distracted
- Kids could be keen to get to the playing as quickly as possible
- Everything you pack doesn't have to be eaten for the lunch box to have been a success
- If you have a picky eater, school lunches may not be the time to try unfamiliar foods. Kid food comfort zones don't have to be tested at every meal. The school lunch box may just not be the best time to get your little one to try new food.
- If you ticked off tip 1 and you have aimed for balance, then lunches can be similar or the same every day. You have covered off variety by providing a variety of food groups. The lunch itself doesn't have to be different every day. If your kid is happy with it, and you are happy with it then that is fine
- Be realistic
3 | Send what YOU WANT THEM to eat, not what THEY WISH to eat
Always remember you are the parent. Which means you set the standards, you set the boundaries and you are the role model. Keep this in mind when you are packing a lunch box.
Make a list of YES foods. These are foods you are happy for your child to eat and foods you know they will eat. Have a good think about it and create the list thinking about all the food groups. When you are stuck check the list and start filling the box with items from there. You can find more information about the Yes list in my tips for a picky eater article
My lunch box snacks list of snacks you can get from the supermarket could be useful too.
4 | Keep everything visible and accessible
This is particularly true for younger kids. Make sure your kid can open all containers and any packets you send with them. Also make sure they can open the lunch box itself. Test it at home, make them packed lunches and just observe how they cope with everything in the lunch box.
I really like bento style lunch boxes because once a kid opens the box they can see everything inside, nothing is hidden and nothing needs to be wrapped. A bonus for the environment as well.
So my top tip for this is to choose a lunch box that will suit your specific kid.
5 | Less Can be more
So, your kid is not eating their lunch. Sometimes this makes us go a little crazy, sometimes this can make us worry, and sometimes this can make us worsen the situation by sending more and more food, more and more options, to hopefully tempt said kid.
Try the reverse. If your kid is not eating their lunch. Try sending less, not more. Try fewer options and smaller quantities. If lunches look more manageable and not so overwhelming a kid who before didn't bother with any of it before, might just give it a shot.
Yes, I am sure the idea of sending your child off to school with a small or even tiny packed lunch might seem to go against everything you should be doing as a parent. But if they were coming home with untouched lunch boxes anyway, then it is worth a whirl. Once they start finishing the fewer items you send, once they get into their 'eating lunch groove'.. then you can start increasing the quantity and variety again.
6 | One Third, ⅓, 33% Keep this in mind
I look at this from two perspectives.
1. A kids lunch box can account for up to ⅓ of their daily nutrition intake
Therefore it is worth it to revisit tip one. It is worth trying to send a balanced lunch box with most if not all food groups covered.
On the other hand.
2. When is A Third not a Third?
When it's a school lunch box!
Yes kids can eat up to one third of their nutrition requirements at school. But if you have a non school lunch eater, you don't have to resort to filling their lunchbox with junk just so they will eat something. There is still ample time in the day for them to catch up. Just give them a great afternoon snack, maybe two, and a great dinner, and all will be fine.
So that's it. The 6 things I think parents should keep in mind when packing their kid's lunch box, Now we will get on to my Kids Lunch Box Ideas.