Sometimes, all it takes to keep the carefree and easy summer vibes going all year round is a little bit of advanced planning. If you have kids (or if you’re a packed lunch aficionado, yourself), you know how tough it can be to keep packed lunches healthy, convenient, and thoroughly tasty. To get your school year started right, we’ve assembled some of our favourite tips for packing amazing lunch boxes your kids will love.
Involve your kids
It’s as true for toddlers as it is for teenagers: when you include kids in the selection and preparation of food, they’re much more likely to eat it. So take your kids grocery shopping, involve them in your meal planning, and let them pick out some of their favourite items. For all the other lunch components on your list, get their (age-appropropriate) help chopping, cooking, baking and storing.
Prep lunches in advance
Free up some time in the morning by either packing lunches the night before, or packing a few in advance. Many lunch components like pasta salad can be made in batches and stored in individual, ready-to-go portions in the fridge. By making one batch a few days in advance, you’ll have fast and convenient lunches when you need them.
You can also try batch-making items to keep in the freezer until needed, such as egg muffins, burritos, or waffles. Check out our healthy snacking blog post for a couple of our favourite freezer and batch recipes.
Get the right gear
Keep cold food cold, hot food hot, and crisp food crisp with the right gear. We love a good steel lunch box, since they’re reusable, easy to clean, lightweight, and last longer than plastic (since your old food smells and stains won’t stick around!). Make sure you have a thermos for warm foods (like soup), and leak-proof small containers for dressings and dips. To separate small items, try reusable beeswax wraps.
Jazz up the water
To get your kids to drink more water, let them pick out their own water bottle. You can also add fruit or cucumber to the water to make it a bit more exciting. Encourage them to drink two full bottles a day while at school.
Create a rotating schedule
Kids love routine and knowing what to expect. Creating a rotating schedule of lunches to gives them that predictability, while also making planning and grocery shopping easier on you. Try designating certain days of the week with a theme (e.g. Pizza fridays). Make sure at least a couple of those themes are built around your kid’s favourite food items.
One of the fastest things to pack for lunch is your dinner leftovers. To take advantage of leftovers, purposefully make extra portions by doubling or tripling a regular dinner recipe, and then pack the portions into individual lunch containers after dinner. Or you can turn leftovers into a new dish - for example, tacos can become taco salad.
Mix up the sandwiches
Sandwiches are a staple of the packed lunch, but there are so many variations to try! Switch out the regular sandwich bread for bagels, wraps, quesadillas, burritos, pita pockets, or buns. Try rolling sticky sandwich fillings like peanut butter and banana in a wrap, then slicing it into small ‘sushi’ rolls - kids love the variety, even if it’s essentially the same meal.
Pack healthy snacks
Instead of buying the usual cookies and chips, try making and packing air-popped popcorn, no-bake-energy-bites, homemade muffins, apple slices with peanut butter, ants-on-a-log, yogurt and fruit, hummus and crackers, or cheese and crackers - the options are endless!
For older kids, including some Rumble Supershake in a thermos with their lunch will give them the protein, fibre, and healthy fats they need to stay energized. We say older kids, because Rumble is not formulated specifically for children (it’s a very nutrient-dense snack for little bellies!). It's also a good idea when giving Rumble to kids that there's a small amount of naturally-occurring caffeine in the Dutch Cocoa Rumble and Vanilla Maple Rumble (from green tea extract and cocoa).
Aim for a balanced diet
Don’t worry about the food groups - it’s easier to create a balanced lunch if you focus on including at least one protein, at least one vegetable, whole grains, and fruit. If you have a picky eater who will only eat macaroni and cheese, or you need to keep things simple, just know that you can balance out your child’s health with other meals. If Monday’s lunch doesn’t include many vegetables, you can always aim to include them in that night’s dinner instead. A balanced diet is more important than a balanced meal.