School is starting here in the great state of Georgia and one of our Raised By Grace babies is headed off to kindergarten! It’s a fun and crazy time mixed with tons of emotions and excitement for sure. This will be a huge transition for Karsen as he has never gone to a full day school before (he went to a half day preschool a few times a week the past 2 years) and there will be some challenges presented by this new schedule of his! One thing that I anticipate being hard for him is not having enough energy to get through a long school day like that. His school doesn’t have nap or rest time for Kinders (don’t even get me started on my feelings on that craziness!!) and that’s a long day for a little guy. Something that I feel like I can do as a parent, though, is to make sure that I’m packing good and nutritious lunches for him each day that will fuel his body and give it the boost of energy he needs!
Let’s be honest, though. Kiddos don’t always gravitate to the healthy choices. I would love to pack him a good salad or tons of greens and fruits each day, but the reality is, if he doesn’t like what it looks like, he probably won’t eat it. Now, I do have really good eaters. They aren’t picky about much to do with food. But, being in school and around other kids, Karsen likes having “kid like” food like everyone else. So, how do I balance fun food with good food? Here’s some things that I have found work really well for us:
1) take a typically not-so-healthy choice and make it yourself with better ingredients! For example, pizza bagels are laden with sugar and lots of crappy stuff. But, my kiddos LOVE them. So, what do I do? I make my own! They sell mini whole wheat bagels in the bread aisle of many stores. I spoon a generous amount of sauce (I prefer either making my own or one without lots of sugars in it) over the top and spread it. I top that with mozzarella cheese and place a few turkey pepperonis on before throwing it in the oven. These are easy for them to eat at lunch time and they feel like they are having a “treat” with getting pizza!
Try thinking of ways you can take YOUR kiddos fav junk foods and giving them a healthy, homemade spin!
2) DIY!!!! I don’t know about your kids, but mine love a good DIY. No, I’m not talking about a home improvement project, I’m talking about their lunch! Anytime I can give them a lunch disassembled and let them put it together themselves, they think it is absolutely the coolest lunch ever. Some ways I do this in lunch box lunches are: homemade lunchables! Lunchables are honestly not my kiddos most favorite (aside from the pizza kind-if you can’t tell by now my kids love pizza. I blame their dad 🤣) so it’s not like they ask for lunchables all the time or anything, but they still love my version of the popular kids food.
For the DIY lunchables, I put in whole wheat crackers or rice crackers, cheese that I either slice or cut into a shape with a small cookie cutter, and turkey or pepperoni. My kiddos have these little compartments in their lunches that I absolutely love: Rubbermaid LunchBlox. Even with those, though, I needed a way to separate out the different items for the cracker stackers, so I started using cupcake liners! Easy, cheap, and keeps everything separated and in its place til lunch time.
***(Side note: these are my absolute favorite name labels for food containers, water bottles, etc. They are water proof, dishwasher safe, and seriously stay on FOREVER! The company I order them from is called Dinkleboo and they have pre-made labels or you can create your own with your child’s favorite color, animal, sport, what font you want, etc. They’re about 10 dollars for 48 labels and I swear that will last you a LONG time!)***
Another great DIY idea for lunches is mini chicken tacos. I put in a few taco shells (either hard or soft whichever your child prefers), some shredded chicken, cheese, and a little pico. Salsa and guacamole can get kind of messy, so I try and stick to things that they can easily pick up with their fingers without getting all gross. Again, I use cupcake liners to separate these out in their lunchbox. The aluminum liners work best for meat items that might have a little grease or juice in them.
3) One fun side, one healthy side. We’re all about balance over here, and one way I do that in their lunches is to pack a “fun” side like gummies or chips. And a “healthy” side like fruit or veggies with hummus. I tell my kids that their healthy one needs to be eaten first and honestly they usually do that. Obviously, make sure that whatever fruit or veggie you pack your child is one they enjoy. No need to take your battle over food issues to the lunchroom, save those for home. Both my children do not care for bell peppers, so of course I’m not going to send those to school. But they each love raw broccoli and cauliflower, so those would be good choices for them that I know they’ll eat. I also don’t suggest candy for their “fun” side. A sugar high mid-school day is definitely not ideal, and I would never want my kiddos having candy to make other kids upset. Best the candy stays home and is maybe a treat later on in the day.
4) Take the classics and make them fun! Let me tell you, as much as I make these fun choices for my kids, I guarantee my 5 year old will still tell me that he prefers a Peanut Butter and Nutella sandwich. It’s by far his favorite lunch and he would have it everyday if I let him. So, on days that he takes a sandwich, I always cut it into fun shapes for him. Some days I use cookie cutters (I usually let him pick out which he wants me to use. We have large and small so sometimes I cut several little shapes or sometimes one big one) and some days I like to cut my own shapes. In preschool and kindergarten, they are learning a lot about letters and numbers. So, if there’s a week where they are working on a letter that’s fairly easy to cut out, I will do that. Or I might cut a K for Karsen. Get creative with it!
5) Give yourself grace. Would it be awesome if your child had a super balanced and healthy lunch each day? Sure. Will it be reality? Probably not. Especially if you have more than one kiddo in school and your mornings are crazy hectic (although, side note, I prep as much as I can the night before for lunches) and you just are trying to survive. Trust me, I understand. So give yourself some grace, and make it happen when you can. Nobody’s judging your PB and J and Cheetos lunch, I promise. But these are just some tips and ideas for when you do want to make their lunches a little more fun and exciting.
Hope these ideas are helpful and y’all are able to use some of them with your own kiddos! Let us know if you do. We love to hear your feedback and your own ideas of lunchbox ideas too!