Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making Lunches

School is starting up next week and my kids have been spending their last two weeks of summer in daycare/summer camp. That means much of our school routine has started back up, including making lunches each night.

I take feeding my kids right to be pretty important, so I don't leave it up to the whim of school to feed my kids well. Just look at the public school lunch menu and you'll see why.

Packing healthy lunches that my kids will eat is no small task but one I'm working down to some sort of soft science. It is soft because what my kids claim to like and not like changes semi-regularly.

When packing I have three criteria I try to meet.

  • Little Waste
  • Healthy
  • My kids will actually eat it.

With lunches it is easy to have a lot of waste. Juice boxes/pouches and individually wrapped food items can make each of the three kids lunch have quite a bit of waste. I've purchased some small glad juice boxes which are just like kid-sized water bottles for keeping juice. With these I can purchase a large container of juice and just put a little in these containers and send them off to school. One large jug of juice that is recyclable is less waste than multiple juice pouches that have to go in the trash.

I've also purchased a bunch of small 4oz containers for putting food. These store great because the lids lock when stacked. With these I can buy a large container of some sort of food, like apple sauce, and divy them out into these smaller containers.

Sending your kid to school with junk food is easy. There is no lack of junk food at the grocery store. Often it tries to label itself in ways to appeal to kids, appear healthy, or both. The Kraft Lunchables tries to sell itself as "wholesome" when most of those are just low-quality meat packed with fillers and sodium, some crackers (with more sodium), very low-end cheese (which resembles cheese as much as Nehi resembles juice) and a small candy bar. Parents fall for these shortcuts in droves.

I've been using a system of trial-and-error to find things I know my kids will eat. For Aurora I've got shelled sunflower seeds, and Yo Kids yogurt, and Craisins. Athena likes her Apple Sauce and Arianna likes Nature Valley bars. These aren't necessarily packed with nutrition, but they are not bad and represent a good starting point to building a good lunch. They all get a 4oz cup of fresh fruit as well. Sometimes I'll pack them a few slices of lunch meat or a sandwich with any combination of peanut butter, jelly, and/or honey. Unsalted whole-wheat crackers are a favorite as well.

As much as I find eating healthy to be important, it is also just as important to live a little. Sometimes we'll get them snacks that go from not healthy to unhealthy. For not healthy we may get them Goldfish. For unhealthy it could be a sugar snack like Little Debbies. I think giving your children things that are considered unhealthy (candy, TV, etc.) in moderation is rather important. Your teaching your children these things are alright, you just have to enjoy them responsibly. You don't want to find your child like a Catholic freshman in college.

As the year continues I will keep experimenting with different foods and finding out who like what. I've already started building a list on paper. I will buy the different items I know I can rely on in large containers and divy them out in the smaller tupperware and hopefully be able to feed my kids healthy food that they will eat with as little waste as possible.

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