As a parent, when you pack home lunch for your child and the lunch box comes back full with uneaten and sometimes untouched food, it gets quite disheartening. When you ask them why they didn’t eat or finish their lunch they might complain that the lunch break is too short. On the other hand, your child might be a slow eater or a social butterfly who prefers chatting with their friends over nourishment. It is the hardest when all of this applies.
In my children’s school, lunch break is technically 20 minutes. This includes getting into the lunch room, finding a spot, sitting down, eating lunch and cleaning up. They must also wait in the line if they are getting school lunch within that 20 minutes. For younger kids, there is just no way to finish all their meals. The kids are hungry and food goes to waste.
I’ve been packing 2 lunch boxes and snacks every morning for the last 8 years. For us, school lunch was not an option both due to time constraints as well as the quality of the food served even though it is free now. I know some parents have their kids pack their lunches. I don’t mind packing their lunch boxes. Properly feeding my children is a responsibility I take very seriously. As a matter of fact, packing lunch boxes is one of the chores I enjoy – as long the containers come back empty.
However, at one point, that was not the case. As a result of a combination of a slow eater and a short lunch break, the majority of the food came back untouched. I got discouraged and frustrated to put in all the effort. I could not give up because I know proper nutrition at school is very important for them to learn effectively.
Through trial and error, I figured that the solutions and tips listed below worked best to have my children finish their school lunches and bring those lunch containers empty.
RIGHT-SIZED, EASY TO OPEN & CLOSE CONTAINERS
Make sure the containers are easy to open for your child. Test opening and closing the containers at home. When we started using thermos containers, it took me a while to realize that my daughter’s little hands were too small to grasp the lid of the large container. She would sometimes get help from the lunchroom monitor, only when she could catch monitor’s attention. Once I figured that out I packed her food in smaller size thermos and easy to open containers.
BITESIZE AND FINGER FOODS
Pack all the foods in bitesize portions. Cut down the sandwiches, prepare bitesize foods such as wrap sushi, kabobs, tortellini pasta, meatballs. Cuts fruits and veggies in small size pieces.
START WITH SMALLER PORTIONS
Don’t pack too much food. Seeing the large portion of food they need to eat might overwhelm kids. Start with packing smaller portions and motivate them by celebrating smaller wins.
SOUP FOR HOT LUNCH
If your child prefers hot lunch, pack a hearty soup in a thermos container. These insulated containers are perfect for smaller hands.
MINI MUFFINS WITH VEGGIES
You can bake mini muffins with veggies for lunch. Muffins such as this Power Packed Fruit and Veggie Muffin Recipe are easy for the kids to eat and nutritious.
Try various smoothy recipes with yogurt, veggies, fruits, and seeds at home. If your child likes them, pack them in these Thermos containers along with a straw (glass straw if you are plastic conscious). You can also freeze them in these silicone popsicle tubes or reusable pouches. You can start with these 5 back to school smoothie recipes from The Blend.
Include snacks for your child to eat on the way to school or on the way back home.
- Yogurt in tubes,
- cheese sticks or cubes,
- dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricot,
- rice cakes with sunbutter spread,
- pita chips or cut veggies with hummus
are great energy sources.
I prefer to run the menu by my children or ask their choice between available options before I pack lunch in the morning. Give them 2 options to pick from and explain to them how you pack so that they can quickly open the container and eat. If your children are older, you can have them pack their own lunch as it’ll increase the likelihood of the food being completely finished.
If there are instances when food comes back unfinished, have an open-minded conversation without sounding extremely disappointed to understand the reasons and try to come up with solutions together. Maybe your child will have a better solutions or ideas that’ll work for himself.
Food containers that I use to pack school lunches and recommend.
Pin it for later: