Though we parents are busy and it’s all too easy to beef up our children’s lunch accounts and send them on their way, the food our children fuel their bodies with deserves our attention.
For while schools seem to be improving the quality of school lunches, under most circumstances, a homemade lunch can be vastly more nutritious than the stuff being dished out in cafeterias.
We don’t need to aim for Pinterest-worthy bento creations, just simple and healthy lunches. With a little preparation once a week and some smart choices at the grocery store, lunchbox filling can be a breeze.
Try these five tips to make school lunch preparation easier for you.
Schedule a Prep Day
Schedule a day you’ll do your food shopping and then process the food you’ve purchased all at once. As soon as you get home, rinse and chop vegetables. Cook and store lean meats. Prepare all that you can in advance to pull from during the week. If you can, get snacks and sides into individual containers or baggies so that they’re ready to go. Doing this once in a week, instead of at five separate times when you’re busier, is much more efficient.
Choose Only Water
When it comes to what your child is drinking, the best choice is water. Juices and soft drinks are both packed with sugar and provide little to no nutritional value. A whole piece of fruit is much more nutritious than its processed juice counterpart. Ease the decision of what drinks to buy and go for water every time.
While a lot can be accomplished in your weekly prep, some items, sandwiches or berries won’t stay fresh for more than a day. Make final preparations before bed to ease the flow of the morning routine.
Aim for Whole Foods and Low Sugar Choices
As much as possible, fill your shopping cart and their lunchboxes with real foods.
If you’re making a sandwich, instead of highly processed white bread, consider an organic sprouted grain bread or lose the bread and make lettuce wraps.
Things like apples, bananas, grapes, berries, pears, orange slices, celery sticks, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, cheese slices, cheese sticks, and no or low sugar yogurt make for great snacks on the side. Much of this can be prepped in advance.
Put the Kids to Work
Even young kids can be taught to pack their own lunches, especially if a lot of prep has been done in advance. Empower your children by involving them in the preparation and packing of their own school lunches. You’ll be teaching them lessons in nutrition, preparedness, and self sufficiency.