Is the thought of making your kid’s school lunches making your brain go ga-ga? Especially when your kids are starting to enter their tweenager years, and are turning their nose up and crying boredom when it comes to the daily lunches you are forever creating for them?
Seeing as our tweens are almost back-to-school, a thought crossed our mind. That if they can easily use and play with all means of technology and organise their own ‘get togethers’ with their friends in the blink of an eye, (without being asked to!), then perhaps it is also possible for them to learn how to make and organise their own school lunches when back-to-school time rolls around!
And boy, do we like the sound of that!
But first, mums, dads, and caregivers … you must beware – that encouraging kids, especially kids + tweens to pack & prep their school lunchboxes: is not as simple as snapping your fingers. For the very act of preparing school lunches will require a bit of organisation (and lots of patience!) on your part.
Think homemade recipe books to create, requiring your kids to collect and sift through free recipe magazines (hello Woolies + Coles!) or print out their favourite recipes from the net. And that’s the easy part. Next comes shopping for all the ingredients, which may need your help, to prevent double ups (and those ‘extra’ sneak-in trolley snacks!). And this is only the beginning. For once the kids take over the kitchen (and need to start working out where you keep everything!) you might have to supervise them with some kitchen safety and then proceed to teach them the ropes of lunch making!
easy ways to get kids involved in lunchbox preparation
Ready to start the school year on a fresh note, and show your kids some creative lunch menu preparation? Have we got the ideas, tips, and tricks for you! For we wholeheartedly believe in not only teaching your kids about the importance of nutrition; but in the fun ways to grow their independence and prepare their lunches on their own!
but first … what is healthy eating?
To make sure our kids + tweens have the right balance of growth and development, a healthy way of eating is essential. Giving our kids a healthy, balanced diet and adequate hydration means they will stay healthy and maintain the energy needed to be mentally + physically active. And to do this, they need to eat the right amount of nutrients from 5 food groups to nourish their bodies. The 5 food groups are: fruit, dairy, protein, veggies + wholegrains.
Since every kid’s stage of growth can vary according to their age, development and activity, there is obviously no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to tweenaged-appropriate appetites.
But what we can suggest is some healthy choices, and how they can fit into their new lunchbox recipes!
the 5 food groups
Keen to teach your kids which foods groups to include in their daily lunches? Here’s a small guide of which ingredients to choose - for big, lunchtime smiles!
Fruits: apples, watermelon, grapes, bananas, mandarines
Vegetables: carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes
Proteins: tuna, chicken, lean meat, salmon, beans
Wholegrains: cereals, breads, rice, pasta + noodles
Dairy: milk, yoghurts, cheeses
Keen to work out how much food you need to pack for your child’s lunchbox appetite? We’ve divided the right portions by their age group – to keep your lunchtime prep easy and to keep your kiddies full!
primary school kid 6-8 years
The bigger the kid – the busier the kid! This may mean that they might require more energy, minus the time it takes to eat! Think loading sandwiches with lean chicken or meats, or filling a wrap with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and chicken. Even better? If your primary schoolers are fans of Japanese food - get them to prepare a Bento style lunch! Start by prepping the night before: by rolling a couple of long sushi filled with nutritious rice, low fat mayo, salmon or chicken, and avocado. In another compartment, add some cooked carrots, soft broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, and lastly, some strawberries + blueberries. All the food groups in one go, to start lunch hour with a bang!
tween 8-12 years
Is your kid moving up in this world: no longer a kid, but not a full-blown teenager either? Is your tween starting to become pickier about what they want to eat at lunchtime, not wanting their meals to look ‘babyish’ and hear this is – embarrassing?
Dealing with a picky tween eater can be a frustrating challenge, but sometimes all it takes is some creative genius to spark some food prep brilliance! Think small and think variety. Mix almonds with strawberries for a burst of low GI. Think cherry tomatoes with cheese bites to add a dash of protein. Cut up some carrot and capsicum sticks in shades of red, yellow, and green, and add a couple of hard-boiled eggs for a giant burst of dairy + protein goodness. For dessert, bake a delicious low GI muffin for a quick + easy ‘hit the spot’ experience!
teenager 12 years +
Ever wonder how to keep up with your teenager’s mood + appetite? With hormones flying around and energy needing to be expended at a rate unknown to the average parent, plus being expected to focus for even longer periods of time, perhaps it’s time to pack some mood boosting foods that will continue to stabilize their blood sugar levels + give them a great dose of feel-good energy?
Think shavings of lean meats or poultry, wrapped with vegetables and wholegrain rice rolled up in either lettuce or a whole meal wrap. Think of edamame topped with avocado - great at delivering fat soluble B Vitamins to the body, plus whole meal corn crackers - packed with fibre to help slow the release of sugars into the blood stream. This is important to stabilise moods and emotional regulation. In another compartment add some dark grapes or sweet mandarins mixed with blueberries – containing just the right number of antioxidants to help boost the mood!
easy ways to get kids + tweens involved in lunchbox preparation
1.have an organized and stress-free kitchen
To get your kids to start making their own lunches, the first thing we need to do as mums, parents and caregivers is to make sure your pantry and refrigerator is reorganised neatly, and that each of the 5 food groups is packed in separate easy-to-open containers and located in a place where they can find it and reach it easily. Even better – it’s a good idea to label these containers as snack #1 or snack #2, and so on, so your kids can know and decide which 2 specific snacks from their daily meal plan to put in their lunchboxes. Keeping snacks in well-sealed containers also keeps them fresh, instead of going dry or soggy by being left in their original boxes.
Keen to avoid the silly sibling snack fights? Label each snack box with a child’s name on it and choose the snacks with them for the week for that child. This may take a bit more time but will avoid the kids throwing a hissy over who got given the better snack option, and will avoid any confusion, because all your kids will each have chosen their own snacks in advance, while letting them feel like they have a choice in what they eat.
Got kids who are keen to make and cut their sandwiches from scratch? Then keep a stack of sandwich cutters and colourful + reusable silicone liners in a separate drawer too, so your kids can design their lunchboxes in all kinds of cute bread configurations.
Most importantly, reorganising your refrigerator with kids’ snacks and container-filled bins with readily prepared school lunch options will also help your kids become more self-sufficient and easily make their own school lunches in the morning. For example, adding your washed grapes, cucumbers & carrots to reusable snack boxes or zip lock bags will help them add it to their lunch or even for snacks after school! Here’s a handy tip: Make sure all the bins are placed on the lower shelves, so they can be easily reached by the kids!
2. prep food in bulk
Make Sunday food prep day, by washing and cutting fruit and vegetables and placing them into clear containers beforehand to saves loads of time and keeps fruit fresh. The same for slicing vegetables like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrot, and celery sticks. Use your shape cutters to cut them in fun ways to add to your lunchbox design, such as cute and colourful fruit skewers, saving you time + stress, while knowing your kids are making good choices!
Got bulk snacks or prepackaged items such as cheese sticks and yogurt? Take them out, and place them into refrigerator bins, so they are also easily reached. Then the night before, your teen will only have a quick wrap or sandwich to prepare. If your kids are younger, help them portion things like yogurt or trail mix; while older kids can take out each ingredient to make their own sandwiches or wraps.
Got some mini bakers in the house? Why not bake a batch of whole grain muffins or healthy oatmeal cookies in silicone liners and freeze them? Got leftovers from dinner? They can easily add variety to kid’s lunches by portioning them out into individual containers to refrigerate or freeze. The more you can prepare in advance, the more likely you will pack healthy foods, stop food wastage, and avoid morning mayhem during the week!
3. recipe research
If you’ve got some picky eaters, or mini ‘foodies’ on your hands, then try putting the onus on them, by helping them collect recipes they’d like to try, and keeping them in a recipe folder!
Start by sifting through some free recipe magazines that can be found at Coles or Woolies, recipe books from the library, or download and print off recipes from the net. There are tons of recipes to choose from for special holidays and celebrations throughout the year, to international recipes and new flavours they may want to try. Plus, look out for some healthy snack alternatives too, rather than supermarket-ready junk food, that can be high in sugar and lack any real nutrition.
4. get them involved in meal planning
Next? Create a well-balanced school lunch planner for the week on the computer and then tack it to the fridge. Letting your kids choose certain meals and snacks not only trains them
to help organise food for the family unit; but helps them understand the importance of choosing the right foods for their health + well-being too.
5. create a surprise lunchbox
There’s nothing kids love more - than to plan and create a surprise lunchbox for a sibling’s birthday, or for mum and dad! Start researching, prepping, and creating something special for them, by working out which foods they love, and wrapping them up individually with sweetly written notes attached! You can even bake some healthy treats and decorate them with some icing in their favourite colour – topped with some sprinkles of your choice! Surprise, surprise!
So, there you have it mamas + caregivers, a myriad of ways to get kids involved in lunchbox preparation, for even the pickiest of lunchtime eaters! And remember mamas … if you aren’t sure about your children’s appetite according to their age, take note: this guide is full of suggestions only, as not every age equals the same appetite!
And lastly, before embarking on any new physical, mental, or emotional health regimen for your beloved children: always ask a recommended health professional first!
Check out our lunchtime range here
(Nicole Salinger is a copywriter + mental health first aider at b.box. She’s also a fellow mama-raiser of 4 grown humans. She is here to share the truth - and nothing but the truth – about the precious journey of Motherhood – and how to recover your sanity with children in tow!)