Over the years packing lunches for my picky eaters has felt like a chore. The things they willingly eat will suddenly change, and it is usually right after I purchase that new favorite food in bulk size. What works for other kids, does not always work for mine. Only this year, one of my kids accepted ketchup and ranch as allowable dunking tools. Both of my kiddos’ natural eating habits are more like grazing than eating a full meal. All of this makes lunch planning stressful. But now I have a much simpler way to create lunches my kids will really eat.
For background, besides being picky, my kids also cannot have artificial dyes, need high protein, and we must limit their dairy. This limits their already condensed food repertoire. I’d love to be able to let my kids order anything they want from the school cafeteria, but without me there to read every single label, they can (and they have) ingest something that will be unpleasant later. Packing a lunch for school is a must for us.
Here’s how I learned to make lunch PLANNING easier:
CREATE A LIST OF FAVORITES
The first thing I do is create a list of things my kids willingly eat. I list each protein, fruit, veggie, and carb individually. I include all their favorites and most importantly things I know they will eat. This gives me a great a visual of items to choose from, and it helps me see just how many foods my picky eaters are already eating. My kids have been picky for so long that I was surprised by the length of the list! Next, I use this list to create balanced meal combinations that includes one protein, one veggie, one fruit and one carb or treat. I try to make as many nutritious combinations as I can using this list of trusted options to create a variety of meals my kids will eat.
Now that I have a list of meals my kids will eat, I write it on the lunch menu on the fridge so my kids can see what they will need to pack each night. If it is a hot lunch option, I will make it for them in the morning before school but have them pack up their water bottles and extra snacks inside the bag at night. There’s no shame in reheating leftovers they ate the night before and sending in for school lunch.
I noticed one thing that was contributing to my kids rejecting their packed lunches, I was over serving the same items. Whenever my kid suddenly fell in love with a new food, I served it so frequently that the novelty wore off quick. It became boring fast. Planning lunches ahead of time helps me see where I can space out those favorites to keep things from getting too repetitive.
Grab my FREE LUNCH PLANNER —-> HERE!
Here’s how I’ve learned to make PACKING easier:
THINK INSIDE THE BOX
I use a Bento box style lunch container that helps my kids see what they pack. There is a section for some fruit, a veggie, and a main food item. Hot lunches I make in the morning and put in a thermos, but I’ll have the kids pack up their water bottles and extra snacks in their lunch box the night before.
PUT THE KIDS IN CHARGE OF PACKING
Having my kids see what is going into their lunchboxes eliminates the surprise at lunchtime. There was a time the lunch box came back untouched because my kids didn’t like a single thing I packed inside. Getting their input and having them pack their own lunches, helps avoid any rejections later.
Does this sound easier for you? I know not everyone is a planner, but I feel like having things like meals and lunches planned saves me so much time (and stress) when I need to do the packing. It takes a lot of the thinking out of it because I thought about it and wrote it down three days ago. I also like to have grab and go options available for my kids to make it easier for them to pack lunches on their own, which is also a big-time saver in my week. I keep things like protein bars, 100 calorie packs of nuts or trail mix, individual pepperoni sticks on hand for them to toss in for snacks.
How about you? I’d love to hear in the comments below what you do to take the stress out of packing your kids school lunches!