THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON THE KITCHN.
Having rules for school lunch is strictly about making lunch-packing easier. As school kicks off I always go a little overboard, packing elaborate lunches with cute cut-out fruit and decorative garnishes. This enthusiasm usually dies in October. This year, intent on finding a sustainable pace for packing school lunches that my kids will love and that I’ll feel good about, I set out these seven rules for myself, and for you too, to pack a lunch with less stress and more sanity.
1. Keep portions reasonable.
My daughter’s preschool teacher told me that the biggest mistake she sees parents make in packing lunches is packing too much. Kids can become overwhelmed by too much food or too large of portions. Keep portions reasonable and they are more likely to eat it.
2. Keep it simple.
My mom always packed us a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a bag of baby carrots — super simple, but it delivered everything we actually needed from lunch. This rule is a reminder to fight my urge to make things more complicated and keep it simple.
3. If they don’t eat it at home, don’t send it for lunch.
A lesson I have learned the hard way too many times — if they don’t eat it at the dinner table, they won’t eat it for lunch. Ditto for any new foods. School lunch should be a time for fueling our kids to learn and not time for challenging their tastebuds.
4. Take their word for it.
Check in with your kids after school and ask about how their lunch was — if they report that the red peppers were slimy, trust their intel and try a different packing strategy next time.
5. Don’t forget a drink.
We pack a water bottle every day for school, but I always forget that a frozen drink (that will thaw for lunch) is another ingenious way to pack something nutritious and fun. Does your kid love smoothies? Try packing a fruit-packed one for lunch.
6. When in doubt, snack it out.
There are weeks when we run low on bread or other lunch staples. Luckily kids love snacking, and a lunch box full of small bites always wins.
7. Sneak a treat every once in a while.
Sometimes I’m so laser-focused on packing filling, nutritious lunches that I forget to have a little fun too. I’m sticking a bag of mini chocolate kisses in the lunch packing bin as a reminder that the occasional sweet treat is just as important to school lunch as an apple a day.