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Your Stress-Free Guide to School Lunch
Back-to-school time ushers in a host of to-dos for parents. From filling out forms and making plans for transportation to updating bedtimes and buying new clothes, parents are in high gear. Summer has a way of slipping out of our grasp while we aren’t looking.
After the preparatory choices are made, one question remains: What to do about lunch. Although school lunch is more convenient, about 40 percent of students bring their lunch to school 1 . Many parents choose to pack their children’s lunch to account for challenges such as picky eaters, allergies, and vegetarianism/veganism, or to better manage concerns over the ingredients their kids consume.
A Recipe for Lunchtime Success
Among all the to-dos at the beginning of a new school year, packing lunch is one of the toughest to manage. In a survey by lunch-delivery service Wise Apple, a whopping 85 percent of parents said school lunch is the top back-to-school stressor2. And it’s no wonder: To pack lunch, parents have to contend with costs, time, portability, preferences, and nutrition.
Opting for the high-sugar, prepackaged route might be easier, although not advisable. Ensuring proper nutrition is a little more challenging but well worth the effort. Here are some tips to alleviate the stress of packing lunch every day.
4 Ways to Ease Your Lunch-Packing Pain
Approach this school year with a strategy in place. Think about what will help your child enjoy lunch more and what will make purchasing and packing easier for you.
- Make it fun. Choose from bento boxes and lunch bags with characters and lights, kid-size soup thermoses, and cute to-go containers. When the delivery system is fun, you’ve already jumped a hurdle with your kids.
- Manage the urge to get too gimmicky. You don’t have to cut your child’s sandwich into fun shapes, build works of art out of fruit, or buy snacks in attractive packaging. Focus on finding foods your child already likes. You’ll save money, time, and wasted food.
- Meet nutritional needs without hassle. Most children’s lunches fail to meet dietary guidelines. No parent has time to calculate macro or micronutrients; however, you can meet those guidelines pretty easily by looking at MyPlate on the US government’s website, which has handy lists of foods for each part of the plate.
- Get creative without getting complicated. Include nutrient-dense foods3 like nuts, yogurt, spinach, and berries. Make your own trail mix. Sneak in those greens by adding chopped spinach to your child’s favorite muffins. To add vitamins and minerals, include Juice Plus+ Chewables as a treat.
- Make it a team effort. Involve your child in as many of the moving parts as possible. Invite them to shop with you and help pack lunch bags. If they’re old enough, have them pack their own lunch. By sharing this task with your child, you’ll help them understand the importance of good nutrition, a habit they’ll take with them as they grow and begin making choices on their own.
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