Packing an Irresistible School Lunch

When I was in elementary school, I used to dread lunch time. My mom always packed my lunch and although she was well intentioned, her lunches were…well, I hate to say it, but they were gross. My lunches were always some version of a soggy sandwich in a plastic bag, pressed up against a wet juice box and some unappetizing snack, like the fruit cups drowned in sugary syrup. My stomach turns just thinking about it. Sorry, Mom. My mom was a great cook. Whether baking or cooking, her meals would make my mouth water, but somehow these delicious meals never made it to our lunch bags. My lunches never managed to get eaten, instead on a daily basis I would make a generous donation to the circular receptacle and my mom was none the wiser.

So, what is the solution. Should our children buy lunches at school? Heck no! In my opinion, one of the best things that you can do for your child before school, is pack them a delicious and healthy lunch, made from the heart. That, way your child will not be subjected to eating pizza and chicken nuggets, week in and week out, as so many children do in schools today. I believe, and I have seen, that if you learn to pack your child’s lunch the right way, your kids will finish their lunches and be more energize and focused because of it. Here are my five rules for packing a healthy lunch that your children won’t be able to resist.

1) Get a Thermos

This is a game changer people and by far the most important element of packing a great lunch. Your children want to have a warm lunch just like their friends. Buying a thermos, or even more than one, means that your child can have hot creamy pasta dishes, soups, chilies, or whatever wonderful leftovers may be in your fridge from the night before. Even desserts like warm apple pie, or hot cocoa can be stored in a thermos for dessert. If your kids complain that their food is not hot by the time they get to school, its because you are missing a crucial step in prepping the thermos. Fill your child’s thermos with boiling hot water first. Cover the thermos and let it stand for a few minutes while you warm up the food that you are going to put inside. After about 5 minutes, pour out the water, and fill the thermos with your child’s hot lunch. I guarantee that this small step will make such a huge difference in keeping the food warm until lunch time.

2) Ditch the Plastic

Plastic containers have become the status quo, they are light weight, the are versatile and the are convenient. Unfortunately, they come with a lot of health risks as well. Many people are familiar with the hormone disrupting, toxic effects of bisphenol A (BPA) and the opt to buy BPA-free plastic containers, but BPA is only one of the many harmful chemicals that are found in plastics. Researchers are starting to look at the effects of phthalates and bisphenol S as they have also been found to leech into food from plastic containers and then into our children’s bodies, potentially causing damage to the reproductive, pulmonary, immune and central nervous system as well as the liver. These are known carcinogens and pro-inflammatories. It is expected that as research continues the discovery of other potentially harmful chemicals will be discovered in our plastic containers. For now, the dangers of BPA. BPS and phthalates are reason enough to find a plastic alternative.

3) Invest in Stainless Steel

Although glass containers have been proven to be very safe in holding all types of foods at different temperatures without leeching contaminants, they are not as safe or as convenient to send to school. Most schools ban glass containers for fear that they will break and become a hazard to children. Glass can also be heavy. A great alternative for glass is stainless steel. Make sure you get a stainless steel thermos (This is the one I use). Plastic is porous. It tends to absorb smells over time and can get stained no matter how much they are washed. With stainless steel containers you gain a durable, non-porous, non-leeching container that will last for years with everyday use. If you are packing a lunch that doesn't need to stay warm, try these ECOlunch food containers. For smaller snacks you can get these great little Klean Canteen containers, which come with a lifetime warrantee.

4) Keep Cold Items Cold and Hot Items Hot.

If your child’s lunch contains lasagna and a salad, keep both items separate. Use and ice pack to keep drinks, dips, yogurt and fruits cold at the bottom of your child’s lunch bags and keep the hot things in a thermos at the top of the lunch bag.

5) Make it Special

Make your child’s lunches something to remember. Make it as colorful as possible, and I don’t mean with candy and foods that contain artificial dyes. I mean, fill your child’s lunch with fruits and vegetables of all different kinds cooked and raw. This will help to ensure that the lunch is packed with nutrients. Prepare your child’s lunch with food that you know she loves. Does your child like ranch dip? Then add some dip to the lunch in a little container with some carrot and celery sticks for a snack. Add your own personal touches. Some parents cut their children’s sandwiches into shapes with cookie cutters, or write their children personal notes on a napkin. These special touches will remind your child how much she is loved and will help her to look forward to eating her lunch every day.

With these guidelines in hand, you will have endless possibilities for your children’s school lunches. Nobody wants to eat a cold, soggy meal, so make sure you have the tools you need to ensure that your children has the healthiest, most delicious lunches in the whole school.They will be developing eating habits that will last them a lifetime and they may even hold your packed school lunches as a cherished memory for many years to come. Go ahead mom, have fun with it! I know you can do it!

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