Sack Lunches can be tough to pack when you are looking to keep things healthy. Kids come up with many reasons for their finicky preferences, and parents want to keep things as easy and mess-free as possible. The older my kids get, the less they want to bring a lunch with containers or bags that need to be brought back home. For several years my oldest child has preferred a brown bag that he can throw away when he's finished. He doesn't want to have to keep track of anything during lunch recess. Here are a few ways I've made a brown bag lunch work in our family.
1. Let them pack it themselves! Once my son traded his entire lunch for ONE candy corn. True story! Apparently whatever I had packed for him wasn't as desirable. From that day forward, my kids have packed their own lunches. This way, they eat what they bring because they chose it all. Kids as young as kindergarteners can do this, I promise!
2. Get Clever with Bread. We've used:
- Whole wheat pita pocket
- Whole wheat mini bagels
- Whole wheat wraps
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat dinner rolls
- Panini bread
- Hoagie roll
- Whole wheat English muffin
- French bread
3. Get Creative with Spreads:
- Hummus (usually chickpeas)
- Veggie mayo, or light mayo
- Refried beans (pinto beans puréed)
- Light cream cheese (My personal favorite!!)
- Nut butters
- All fruit jams
4. Go Crazy with Fillings. Parents often lose the brown bag battle because of fillings Kids usually like their sandwiches simple, so don't pack too much in there. If there the sandwich is so big they can't wrap their little mouths around it, it will likely end up in the cafeteria garbage. Whatever fillings you choose, remember to keep the sandwich thin!
- Sliver of lettuce and a small slice of mozzarella cheese
- If using nut butters, add sliced bananas, apples or raisins.
- Shredded lettuce or carrots
- Sliced lean meats.
5. No Bread? No Problem! A sandwich doesn't have to be the center of lunch. Here are alternative options to sandwiches:
- Baggie of whole grain cereal
- Trail mix
6. Keep brown bag snack foods in a single location. Make sure your kids know these are reserved just for lunches. Some ideas for bag lunch sides can include:
- Homemade granola bars
- Single serving string cheese
- Single serving yogurt tubes (store them in your freezer, pack them in the lunch sack in the morning and by lunch they are still cold and ready to eat)
7. Save disposable containers such as from sour cream, spreads, yogurt, etc. Use these to send dips or tender fruits to school. Your child can dispose of the container after lunch (If you're lucky, they'll bring it home and you can reuse it. If they don't, no sweat). Some school cafeterias even have recycling bins for plastics.
8. Don't forget the veggies. Send:
- Cut-up carrots
- Dried veggies, such as dried green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots and squash
- Broccoli salad in a container
- Vegetable juices
- Sliced peppers
- Celery with peanut butter
- Shredded cabbage salads
- Just include veggies in the sandwich
9. Don't over-pack. Kids don't have much time to eat lunch at school. I've witnessed kids eat one or two things from their lunch and toss the rest. Don't go overboard with several courses. It can be overwhelming and it's wasteful.
10. Include a drink!Often I'll include an 8 ounce water bottle filled with homemade juices. I've also sent it empty and my kids just fill it up at the drinking fountain. Sometimes my children want to bring a quarter to purchase a milk carton in the cafeteria.
These ideas and practices have helped make brown bag lunches more successful at my house. I hope you found something you could incorporate into your family's routine. Remember that we fuel our kids' learning and growth through the food they eat. Let's do our best to make it healthy!
Check out Super Healthy Kids for additional brown bag lunch ideas as well as Healthy meal Plans for the entire family. There you can also find Smoothie Recipes for Kids and kid-friendly MyPlate for Kids.
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