Tuesday, December 1, 2015

School Lunch Extravaganza!

We are into our second year of packing lunch for Monica every day for school, and have yet to wish we could just pay for hot lunch provided by the school. In part, because its just not an option! My husband volunteered weekly last school year to help prepare and serve lunch for Monica's school, and he was dismayed at what the kids were being served, its unappetizing and unhealthy lack of freshness and variety.  I wonder how often we would buy hot lunch if Monica didn't have LPLD! But just because hot lunch isn't an option, doesn't make packing lunch every day an easy task.

A lot of my inspiration for these ideas has come from Kitchen Stewardship. She has many posts on how to make school lunch healthy and easy, but I found this post the most helpful.

Bran muffin, jelly, sliced apples, almonds, yogurt in a Squooshi!
My #1 tip is: Don't let your child throw anything out! No trips to the trash at all. This is threefold: one, because for the sake of the environment we use all reusable lunch ware and it is so expensive, you do not what anything thrown out by accident! This way, we don't even risk the container being thrown out with the uneaten food. Two, you get to see exactly what your child ate, which is super helpful for estimating their fat intake for the day (and guessing as to whether they can have a slice of avocado on their taco for dinner, that sort of thing.) Three, your kid gets that much more time to eat instead of having to spend time at the crowded trash can with everyone else. I don't know about you, but my five year old cannot be rushed through a healthy meal. She is more likely to starve then to scarf food down, she needs every precious moment!

Yogurt, wrap with jelly and fat free cream cheese, pickles, 'trail mix,' juice!
Our favorite reusable lunch options include: this bento box, these squooshies for yogurt or applesauce, dip containers, and bento type forks and toothpicks to make it more fun, then add a stainless water bottle (sometimes with water kefir instead of water), a few plastic or metal forks, and a cloth napkin. Don't forget silverware!! When you forget those, your kid can spend half their lunch time finding some, and time is crunched as it is.
Muffin, yogurt, almonds, yogurt, half a banana!
When we have the energy, we try to make Monica's lunch extra fun. I guess I figure if your kid can't eat the most fun food, at least make it look awesome sometimes! We use cookie cutters on sandwiches, fun notes, and colorful toothpicks when possible. Though Monica reported that kids are mostly jealous of when she gets popcorn for part of her lunch. Popcorn is whole grain, fun to eat, and very low fat! Winner!!

One thing we embrace for lunches is giving her leftovers. We will often ask Monica at dinnertime, if she seems to be particularly enjoying it, if she would like to eat it for lunch tomorrow as well, and she is frequently enthusiastic! She is fine with not warming it up (my kids prefer their food cold, anyway, sigh) and although I imagine it to be a little weird or embarrassing to have a small casserole full of vegies while your peers are eating hot lunch pizza, Monica loves it and hasn't complained. Try to remember to put it right into the lunch container after dinner to minimize thinking and packaging later. Just one more step to make life easier!

Sometimes we make lunches of just snack type foods, and those are some of Monica's favorites.  I can't say I would be thrilled with a lunch of cherry tomatoes, orange slices, pickles, almonds, fat free cheese cubes, and popcorn, but it hits all my food groups (fruits, vegies, protein, dairy) and Monica gobbles it up.

Kiwi, hard boiled egg, yogurt, noodles with our homemade pasta sauce!
Are these pictures helpful?  Should I provide some more for inspiration for you?

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