Our best tips for packing an awesome lunch

Preparing lunches and snacks for your kids is a great way to ensure they will have access to healthy, nutritious food to keep them going through the day. It can seem like a stressful and daunting idea but if you follow some tips and guidelines, it can be fun and easy and you can even include your kids. We won’t be surprised if you even use some of these ideas for yourself!

Preparation is key

One of the simplest things to ensure lunch making is an easy, fun experience, is doing a load of the work ahead of time.

  • Plan the weeks meals the weekend before.
  • Pack whatever you can the night before.
  • Peel and chop all the weeks fruit and vegetables at once. All that will be left is portioning and packing them up the night before or in the morning.
  • Prepare and freeze favorites. Do the kids like muffins as part of their lunch? Bake a batch, freeze and pull one out to thaw the night before. Are you making a delicious, healthy meal they love for dinner? Double it and freeze the leftovers in single portions. Pull out to thaw the night before.

Encourage kids to participate

Getting kids involved in lunch packing is a healthy habit to build. Make lunch planning a part of your weekends together and let kids help in the decision making and prep work.

  • Asking your kids what they want in their lunches helps ensure they’ll actually eat what’s packed! Give them some options, and let them pick their favorites. If you keep the options healthy, they’ll have to pick something healthy, but they’ll feel like they had a choice.
  • Take them to the co-op and let them pick out a new vegetable or fruit to try in their lunch.
  • Let them help with any preparation cooking! Are you making a big batch of pasta salad to go in lunches during the week? Have the kids mix, pour, portion or cut, depending on their age. Letting them do the simplest of tasks helps them feel involved in making their food.

Variety

When lunch gets dull, it doesn’t get eaten.

  • Careful not to get too repetative throughout the week. This can be as simple as packing peanut butter and carrots on the side one day and hummus and bell peppers the next!
  • Fill lunch with foods from a variety of food groups. This is fail safe way to provide an intersting lunch. A treat is a great touch, but don’t overdo it or they’ll fill up on that first.

Keep our Back to School Guide on the fridge for inspiration. Find a printed copy in store during August!

Bite Size

Lunch time is short, and full of distractions. Help ensure your nutritious lunches make their way into your children’s bellies before the bell rings by cutting it up! Convenient, grabbable sticks, cubes and slices are much easier for little hands and mouths.

  • Cut meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits into cubes or match sticks for quick and easy eating.
  • Worried about apple slices browning? Try the rubber band trick! Slice your apple and simply put the puzzle pieces back together to form a whole apple, and throw a rubber band around the outside to hold the shape!
  • Do you have some extra time and tools? Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes out of bread, tortillas, veggies, fruits and cheese.
  • Put it on a stick. Using skewers adds a fun and exciting twist to the simplest lunchtime meals.

Salad on a stick

Favorite Greens + Cucumbers + Grape Tomatoes + Olives + Cheese
Pack favorite dressing for dipping

Burger on a stick

Ground Beef or Turkey + Cheese + Lettuce + Pickles + Grape Tomatoes
Pack mustard or ketchup for dipping

BLT on a stick

Bite-sized Bread + Bacon + Lettuce + Grape Tomatoes
Pack ranch dressing for dipping

Breakfast on a stick

Bite-sized Whole Wheat Waffles or Pancakes + Breakfast Sausage + Fresh Fruit
Pack maple syrup for dipping

Dips and Spreads

Make veggies, fruits, meats, cheese more fun by sending a dip along with lunch. Choose whatever you know your kids like, they’ll be much more likely to eat everything!

  • Hummus
  • Nut Butters or Sunflower butter if the school is nut free
  • Cream Cheese – give veggie or strawberry a try. It’s easier than you think to make your own!
  • Ranch dip – Try Simply Organic’s line of dip mixes. Try using greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a healthy twist!
  • Salsa
  • Mustard
  • Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip

Snacks

Providing your children with healthy snack options will keep them away from the highly processed, sugar and sodium filled alternatives. These should always be quick and easy to grab and eat!

•Grab your containers and head to our bulk section to stock up on easy snacks you can portion like, dried fruits, nuts, yogurt pretzels, and granola. You can also make your own snack mix by grabbing ingredients in bulk and combining at home!

  • String Cheese from Organic Valley
  • Meat Sticks from Grass Run Farms or Ferndale Market
  • Fruit, peeled and cut

Need inspiration?

Check out Rock the Lunchbox for fabulous ideas, lunch box guides and manufacturer coupons!

Visit Lisa Leake’s blog 100 Days of Real Food for tons of great kids meal ideas.

Most of all, have fun with it. Happy lunching!

Kids and Food Allergies

Food Allergy Friendly Brands and Products at the Co-op

(for specific allergy free info please visit company website)

Made Good allergy friendly granola bars,  Beanitos chips, Earth Balance vegan cheese puffs, Simple Mills crackers, cookies, baking mixes, Pamela’s baking mixes and cookies, Sunbutter and Once Again Sunflower Butter, Oatly oat milk, A2 milk, Tofutti sour cream, Kite Hill or Go Veggie cream cheese, Daiya and Follow your Heart cheese, Follow your Heart vegan eggs, So Delicious coconut yogurt, Follow your Heart eggless mayo, Go Veggie grated Parmesan cheese, Miyoko’s mozz, Van’s gluten free waffles, Udi’s and Rudi’s bread products, Siete tortillas, Sunbutter and Once Again Sunflower Butter, Explore Cuisine, Chickpea Pasta, and Field Day alternative pastas, Banza or Daiya mac and cheese

If you have a child at home with food allergies then you know the challenge of navigating school lunches. Food allergies can be frightening for parents and alienating for children. Nut-free zones and EpiPens have become the new normal in schools as two out of every 25 kids live with a food allergy.

Most Common Food Allergies for Kids

Approximately 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by the following eight foods:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in children, with wheat, soy, and tree nuts also included. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish commonly cause the most severe reactions.

Making School Lunch Manageable

  • Involve your child in decision making about lunch containers and food options. Kids with food allergies can feel like their allergy runs their life, it is important to give them choices so they can feel like they still are in control.
  • Make lunch fun. Food allergies are serious and can be life threatening.  This is a heavy burden for young children to live with. Adding some excitement to lunchtime can brighten their day and take the focus off their limitations. Simple steps like using a cookie cutter to make their sandwich a fun shape, putting a fruit skewer in their lunch, giving their food a smiley face with raisins or olives are simple ways to pack in fun.
  • Find substitutes for lunchtime favorites. Make sure kids don’t feel like their missing out by finding new options for things like yogurt, cream cheese, peanut butter, and crackers. Read more below about substitutes you can find at the co-op.
  • If you are a parent of a child who does not have a food allergy provide support and empathy. Living with a child who has a life-threatening allergy is a constant worry for parents. Educating yourself about food allergies in your child’s class can help you to understand little things you can do to provide support and understanding. This might mean bringing a snack or treat that everyone in the class can enjoy.