I've spent many years packing lunches for my kids. I enjoyed packing their lunches and would often ask how they liked it when they got home from school. Don't get me wrong, there were days where I threw together items that didn't take much effort...like a yogurt, an apple, some triscuits and a health bar (yes, that was it). I know not every mom or dad is a lunch-packing whiz, which likely has more to do with time constraints than ability. What I do know for certain is most parents care about their kids eating right and making good choices at home and away from home.
First things, first.
The lunch box: it has to be acceptable to their fleeting taste, and if you're lucky, it holds up into the next school year. Could be a super-hero or flowers, whatever it is, let them pick it out.
The water bottle: I get some say in this ever since BPA became an issue. You can find BPA-free bottles everywhere now. The good thing is, they held up 3 to 4 school years! Since the beginning of pre-k through high school, they always took a reusable water bottle filled with purified water (I'm a big believer in filtered water). They never asked for anything else. Now, it is their preferred choice with meals to this day.
Appearance: This is probably the most important. Say you made a stew or a stir-fry that was delicious. But the next day, in a bowl packed into your child's lunch box, it sort of looks like a pile of mush. Well, chances are they don't eat it based on what it looks like. The trick here (it doesn't always work, but bear with me) is to pack it in a way that looks appealing. For instance, arrange the stew or stir-fry over brown or white rice or pack it in a sectioned container separately (Bento box style is very appealing). Maybe your child loves eating with chopsticks but if that's too weird for school, don't bother. If your child "visually" likes what he or she sees, there is a better chance that it's going to be eaten.
|Bento Box Style|
Pack it well but not too much food: Over the years I've found out that if I wrap a sandwich or pita securely sitting on the bottom with lots of extras on top, they eat all the top items first, and don't even get to the main course. So, as simple as it may sound, I try and arrange it where they see it all at once or at least put the main course on top with the other additions below or at the side.
Interestingly enough, my kids always ate salads. I made them with chopped romaine (stays crisp longer) or spinach, chopped bell peppers, sliced almonds, chopped apples, dried cranberries and croutons (for the crouton lover). I used a small, lidded jar or mini Tupperware and combined olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of oregano for the dressing.
I found pita to be the most versatile lunch prop. You can basically put anything in it your child likes. It's fast for me and more or less easy to eat for them (once you teach them HOW to eat it).
Pack something sweet and healthy. Of course I had no say in what they would acquire at school, but at least I tried!
Goji Bites made with dates, goji berries, cashews and coconut. Yum!