The end of August — it means so many things. It is the end of summer – not technically but figuratively given school starts. And it is time to start to get back into a routine with everything.
School starting forces us to to get back into the swing of early bedtimes (and early wake ups), and of packing a lunch every day for school. I have to be honest here and tell you how much I dread packing lunch. It is not because I don’t know what to pack, and I completely believe it’s in my daughter’s best interest to pack a lunch. It is more just the fact that I have to pack lunch. It’s another thing on the daily to do list.
Eating lunch at school has never been an option for our daughter. They just do not have the kind of offerings I know will give my daughter the energy and nutrition she needs to get through a day.
Or through life!
Truth be told I don’t think they offer it for any child and it is a blog topic for another day (and an issue on my list for me to take up with the school). So packing a lunch – while an added task that is quite rote at this point – is a non-negotiable task for the health of our family.
There are benefits to the added work. Not only does it give me a sense of control (to know what she will eat) but it gives her a sense of empowerment as she now builds her lunch. And this makes her feel more proud of what she eats and how she eats.
I know parents have a hard time conceiving of doing this daily, in part, because they don’t know what to pack. And it is not because they aren’t smart. There are a few different parts to a lunch and each can feel like a job in itself of which to conceive.
So I thought I would share what I do. It isn’t perfect — nothing about eating healthy is about perfection — but it gives me great peace of mind. And these days, any peace of mind I can get – from any where! – is welcomed.
To start, you need the right tools.
Just like any system, the more appealing the tools of the system, the more likely you are to use it. This lunch box from Planet Box was one of the first things I bought when I was gathering my “tools” for my daughter to go to school.
My daughter loves it – loves the color bag she chose (a new one for a new year), loves the matching water bottle, and loves the magnets for the front of the box. The inside allows me to separate her food easily which happens to be important to her. And it is made of sustainable materials. Good for us. Good for the environment. Win-win!
From there it is about building the lunch. This is what I do.
Building a lunch in our family always includes the following: water, a vegetable (i.e., carrots, cucumber, salad, cabbage), a fruit (i.e., strawberries, blueberries, clementine, cantaloupe) and some protein (i.e., tuna, eggs, grassfed/finished bolgna, nut butter on paleo crackers). My aim is to set the standard on that having those things at lunch that will give her nutrition, and energy to help her get through the day. She has come to expect each component in her lunch box.
The vegetable is of course always the hardest part for parents. A little tip: whether your child is in the habit of eating a vegetable at lunch or not, the more you put a food in front of a child the more likely they are to eat it. It’s how I got my daughter to find a love for some vegetables.
My daughter knows now what to expect from lunch and that kind of consistency helps her in it’s own right.
She also knows what she won’t find in her lunch box or for snack.
Truth be told, we don’t eat processed foods, or many treats at home (unless I have made them like these, or these, or these). I reserve the time after school for the kinds of snacks and treats that, by their nature, will give her a spike in energy (sugar, even non-refined, does that). It tends to affect her focus (as I think it does for most people). And if she is going to lose focus at all, I’d rather it be at home than at school – where she needs all the help she can get to stay in focus.
I believe lunch should be seen as an important component of the day – for everyone.
It’s a time to replenish energy, and take a break from the rigors of school/work. We don’t tend to give it the top billing I think it deserves. Which is evident by how much time we allow children for lunch in school (and adults at work!).
At the least, when you aim to make the components of it as healthy as possible, you give your child, and yourself, the best chance at thriving throughout the day.