Fall is rapidly approaching and that means the beginning of school is right around the corner. This is such an exciting time for your Cloverbud! A new classroom and teacher, and an opportunity to sit with friends and enjoy lunch together.
Many parents struggle with questions about school lunches. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to pack. Should your Cloverbud buy lunch, or should they pack? Do you have time to pack their lunch each day? Plus, it can be difficult to come up with healthy foods they will eat. Then there’s the challenge of packing food that will taste good hours later. You need to consider food safety, food allergies, picky eaters, short lunch periods, and not wanting to waste food. All these things together can be downright overwhelming!
Buying lunches can help take some of the pressure off. When deciding on whether to pack or buy, begin with buying lunch one or two days a week when you know there will be foods your Cloverbud likes to eat. As the year goes on, your Cloverbud will see other foods and decide whether to try them or switch days to buy. This can help streamline the week, remove a few days of packing from your schedule, and allow children to try new foods for a relatively low cost.
If you’re brand new to the world of school lunches or looking to find new ideas, here are some tips to remember when deciding whether to pack your Cloverbud’s lunch.
Keep it simple! There are many new things going on and lunchtime can provide familiar comfort. Avoid foods your Cloverbud has never seen or tasted before. Now is not the time to try to be a superhero. Other students will not judge you or your child for having chips instead of celery and carrot sticks that look nice but won’t be eaten. You do not need to be a gourmet chef or spend tons of time in the kitchen to put together lunches your Cloverbud will enjoy. Ask for feedback. Did your Cloverbud have enough time to eat their lunch during their lunch period? Do they need more to eat? Was there anything that didn’t taste good?
Practice. Practice packing and eating from the lunchbox a few days before school starts. Check to see if the school prefers all disposable items in the lunchbox. Many children are focused on things other than remembering which containers to throw away or bring home.
Keep a list. To reduce decision making fatigue and to remember what foods are good, keep a physical list on the fridge. Be sure to decide on this list before school starts so shopping trips can be easier.
Food allergies. If your Cloverbud has a food allergy, discuss lunchroom set up with their school. Set-up may vary on a case-by-case basis and can change from one building to the next. Communication with the school is key.
Mix it up. Do your best to include food from all food groups. Short lunch periods and picky eating habits may dictate this. Do your best to provide a healthy lunch that your Cloverbud will enjoy.
Prep when you can. Some sandwiches can be made a few days in advance. Add condiments the morning of. Sides can be measured, chopped, or sorted at the beginning of the week. Involve your Cloverbud as much as possible in lunch preparation. Prepping in advance allows your Cloverbud to pick out items from each food group and to pack their own lunch.
Adjust as needed. You may have to adjust your ideas a time or two in the first few weeks. That is normal, especially when Cloverbuds find new foods they like.
There is no right or wrong way to approach a school lunch. Through trial and error, you will discover what works best for you and your Cloverbud. Remember, school is about learning, and you can learn about healthy lunches right along with your Cloverbud!
Have a great school year!