I was never one to buy lunch when I was a kid. Part of it was economics, my mom gave us a 1/week ration to ‘buy’ and I usually saved it for pizza day. She made our lunches until we were old enough to do it ourselves. While I did kind of envy Bobby who got the Ding Dong every day, I still loved being surprised when I opened the bag to see what I had. Following in her footsteps, I make my son’s lunch most days. Cafeteria food is certainly better these days so he finds a few more appealing things than I did-he doesn’t like the pizza but is a big fan of the meatballs. Make it or buy it, I still have to send him with a snack every day.
Despite the note we get from the teachers to send the kids with a “healthy snack” it blows my mind how “healthy” gets interpreted. I’ve caught a peak at a few snack bags and while I find myself mostly satisfied, it’s hard for me to understand things like Lunchables, Pop-Tarts, or gummy fruit snacks.
When packing a snack, or even a school lunch, think about why your kid is eating it. It’s half way between breakfast and lunch and about a third of the way through the school day. Kids are getting hungry and if they didn’t eat a decent breakfast (more on that later), they are dragging. Teachers want them to get an energy boost without the sugar spike that finds them crashing down in no time. Think proteins, fruit for a natural sweet, and healthy carbs-these are all things that will satisfy their hunger and still give them that jolt they need to focus and pay attention until lunch time.
Some easy proteins to pack are hard boiled eggs (do a batch at the beginning of the week and use them for 4-5 days), cheese, slices of meat (salami, turkey, chicken, etc-a great place for leftovers from dinner), almond or peanut butter, or beans (my son loves garbanzos in a little container). When you think good carbs try to avoid the empty carbs-our bodies treat them like sugar so that rush/crash cycle will still ensue (I’m talking white bread/bagels, crackers, etc.). Better carbs are things like popcorn (preferably without sugar/sweetener), whole wheat pretzels, hummus with whole wheat pita, whole grain crackers or breadsticks, even whole wheat or whole grain pasta. Fruit and veggies are of course a must too. I’ve been given the strict order by my son not to pack too much or else it takes too long to eat hence a shorter time for recess…too funny. Just keep it simple and healthy.
A lot of parents I know have crazy mornings-work, lots of kids, or crazy schedules. It doesn’t mean any of the choices above are impossible. It probably takes 5 minutes, max, to pack these snacks and most of them can be done the night before.
Your kids will thank you and so will your teachers. Think about it.