NETfacts: Self-care

Tips for packing healthy school lunches

Facing the “what to pack for school lunch” dilemma is back. To ensure that your child’s lunch doesn’t go straight to the trash or get traded for something a whole lot less nutritious, parents need to approach this nagging problem with a strategy.

A balanced packed lunch should contain:

  • Starchy foods. These are bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, and others.
  • Protein foods. These are meat, fish, eggs, beans and others.
  • A dairy item. This could be cheese or yoghurt.
  • Vegetables or salad, and a portion of fruit.

Here are some tips on planning and packing healthy school lunches.healthy lunch ideas

1. Plan, plan, plan…

Make use of leftovers as much as possible and use fresh produce as soon as you buy it. Create a weekly shopping list to reduce trips to the grocery store. 

2. Mix it up

Even if your child requests the same ham and cheese sandwich every day, it’s important to offer variety and provide at least one or two different items in the lunchbox to expand a picky eater’s palate. However, throwing in a food that your child claims to hate will backfire, as they are likely to throw it out before trying it.

3. Let your child be the chef

Before you plan the weekly school lunch menu, ask your child to identify five favorite food items that he or she would like to see in the lunch box. Then encourage your child to participate in the planning, preparing, and packing of the rest of the meals, creating a balanced menu of protein, complex carbs and fats. Including your child in the decision and preparation improves the chances that the lunch will actually get eaten.

4. Keep it hot/cold

If you’re sending your child to school with something that needs to stay cold, include a cold pack. For foods that must be kept warm, like a beef stew or homemade soup, heat up the food in the morning. Pour boiling water into a thermos, let it warm up the container for a few minutes, and then tip it out before you add the hot food. This will help retain warmth.

5. The element of surprise

Using an element of surprise in the school lunch box keeps kids interested in eating. The surprise doesn’t have to only be about food. Include a sweet, encouraging note, a cartoon picture or write a note on the skin of their banana to make them smile and be reminded of how much you love them.

Remember … you’re also leading by example. If kids see you packing your lunch each day, it could become a habit that follows them through their lifetime.

Have fun on packing those healthy school lunches’ self-care lovers!