The school year has barely begun, and you may already be wracking your brains trying to come up with ideas to send in your child’s lunch. If only you could pack them a peanut butter sandwich and an apple everyday and send them on their way. With all the severe allergies that exist and the extreme pickiness of children, it can be very difficult to pack your child a variety of healthy and balanced meals for school.
You may have found one main lunch meal that your child enjoys and have hoped to send it to school often. The more you send the same snack, sandwich, or other food, the more likely your child will become bored of it. I ate jam sandwiches almost every day for several years while I was in school and let me tell you, I am STILL sick of them. It is best to discover a variety of different foods that your child will eat at school and then rotate these foods so that they are not offered too frequently. Here are a few simple ideas for you to add to your list of child-friendly lunches that will actually get eaten and enjoyed while at school.
Let’s start with what you CANNOT send in your child’s lunch. Anything that contains peanuts or tree nuts, or has packaging that has a ‘May contain peanuts, tree nuts’ warning written on it, are not allowed to be sent to school in a child’s lunch. This means no peanut butter sandwiches or pesto sauces, and check the labels of all granola bars, candy, and other snacks. I know it can be a pain to be so conscious of food labels when purchasing items for your children’s lunches; however, please consider the child whose life is at risk if someone does make the mistake of packing a food product that contains nuts. Also keep an eye out for newsletters that go home regarding other severe allergies in your child’s classroom.
|Main Lunch Meal|
|• Wow Butter and jam sandwich (*Wow Butter is a nut-free alternative to peanut butter)
• Cream cheese bagel
• Sandwich/ sub (with deli meat, tuna, egg salad…)
• Grilled cheese
• Pinwheel sandwiches (meat and processed cheese rolled into a tortilla and then sliced into bite-sized pieces)
• Wraps/ pita
• Bread and butter
• Soups, chilli
• Cheese and crackers
• Cereal (milk can be packed in a clear bottle to be quieted in the cereal)
• Cold pizza
• Chicken nuggets
• Quesadillas, tacos
• Pita and hummus
• Spaghetti (cut up so it’s not too messy)
• Pasta salad, potato salad
• Pasta and butter
• Alphagetti, Zoodles
• Cold hot dog/ hamburger
• Rice, cooked vegetables, and chicken/beef/pork pieces
• Eggs (boiled, scrambled)
• Nachos, salsa, guacamole
• Anything leftover from the night before
|• Sliced apples with lemon juice to keep from browning
• Cut up banana slices
• Assorted berries, with optional yogurt
• Grapes (sliced in half if very large)
• Watermelon, cantaloupe, or honey dew pieces
• Fruit cocktail cups
• Sliced oranges
• Cut up peaches or nectarines
• Sliced pears
• Apple sauce
• Baby carrots
• Celery, with optional Cheese Whiz or Wow Butter
• Baby tomatoes
*all veggies can be paired with salad dressing to increase likelihood of being eaten
• Yogurt tubes, YOP, yogurt with optional granola
• Cheese, cheese string
• Crackers, goldfish crackers
• Healthy granola bars
• Veggie chips, snap peas, etc.
• Raisins, craisins, dried fruit
• Cheese and crackers
|• Bear paws
• Fruit Roll Ups
• Joe Louis
• Passion Flaky
• Mini Donuts
• Crispy Minis, rice cakes
• Mini chocolate bars
• Welches/ Fruit snacks
• Animal crackers
• Rice Krispies
• Baked dessert breads (banana bread)
As for drinks to pack in your child’s lunch, I suggest always packing a water bottle and one beverage to drink with their lunch. This could be a juice box or, juice in a water bottle, milk (some schools have a milk program so that your child is provided with milk everyday), Kool-aid Jammer, flavoured water, etc. Do you have a picky eater? A child that turns their nose up at all sandwiches, soups, pasta and everything else you can think of, can be very difficult to pack a lunch for. Do not fret, you’re not alone. Instead of packing a main meal and two or three snacks, try taking out the main meal entirely and providing many healthy snacks and one or two treats. When you pack your picky eater’s lunch, you can also try adding a nutritious supplement drink geared towards children.
How much food should I send to school with my child?
Typically, schools provide children with an opportunity to eat a morning snack, their lunch around midday, and another snack in the afternoon. Not all children eat the same amount; therefore, you may have to experiment with portion sizes and snack quantities. I would advise that you begin by providing your child with one main meal and drink, two healthy snacks, and one treat. Remember, schools usually only allow for 5-10 minute snack times and about 30 minutes for lunch. If you have a slow eater for a child, take that into account when you are considering portion sizes. Your child’s age and body size will also need to be considered as you pack their lunch. You may not want to send an entire banana to school with your kindergarten child because chances are, half of it will end up in the garbage. Similarly, if you send more than 6-10 baby carrots, all will likely not be eaten that day.
If you are finding the main meal you send for your child is never being finished, try only sending half a sandwich or half a thermos of pasta, for example. If your child is skipping most of their lunch to eat their delicious treat you have packed, try numbering your child’s lunch containers. I’ve seen teachers requesting that this be done because we all know how easy it is to get distracted by the most delicious and unhealthy item in your lunch bag. What you do is label each food in the order that you would like your child to eat it. For example, you may label grapes “1” to eat at the first snack, a sandwich “2” and cucumbers “3” for lunch time, and a brownie “4” for last snack. You will have to explain to your child that he/she has to eat each food item in order, saving the best for last.
Hopefully, this article has given you some new food ideas to pack in your child’s lunch. If you have any other ideas you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment!