With the exception of France (from what I’ve read recently – though upon further digging they still have certain issues to contend with), when it comes to the school cafeterias in most places, sadly there isn’t much to cheer about. Even those boasting supposedly ‘healthier’ options are subjected to the same harmful inclusions that the rest of us face in grocery stores. The majority of any mainstream foods are going to contain one or a combination of artificial colors, flavors, additives, preservatives, fillers, emulsifiers, cheaply acquired forms of what might otherwise be considered ‘natural’, addictive flavor-enhancers, GMO’s, and all kinds of chemicals and other things that were never meant to be consumed by human beings. It’s a frustrating reality.
Because of the mystery-foods and inclusions that my kiddies might otherwise unwittingly ingest on a daily – I send their lunches with them each and every day of the school year. Sounds like it could be a challenge, right? Well, each child is different, and has different tastes & preferences – but I’ve learned that the more you treat all *good* foods equally – (or the less likely they are to expect that you suspect that they ‘won’t like’ something) – the more open they are to trying – AND LIKING things!
I’ve never been one to say, “I’m sure they won’t like this, but….” Nope, Uh, uhh. (And I’ve often had to catch the hubby and abruptly shush him – reminding him that they won’t think that way if he doesn’t!) Instead, I talk it up excitedly. They are curious. They want to be like you (at certain ages, anyway. THAT’S when you want to make the most of this process!) When they ask me, “What’s that, mommy?” I tell them with enthusiasm. Sometimes I ask if they want to try it – other times, I let them take that initiative on their own – because they’re more likely to want to try something if they don’t think I’m expecting them to. (Those necessary lil’ parent mind-games, right?) Whatever you do – don’t simply assume they won’t like something. You’d be surprised at the things they ask me for. (For example, my six-year-old asks for avocado on certain foods, and they love fermented purple kraut!)
Here are some tips & ideas for overcoming those school-lunch-hurdles:
- Get creative about what you send them. (For example, we will send things like salads with left-overs from dinner the night before, in glass containers with tight-fitting lids (*See links below; avoid plastic – though it is usually suitable for dry goods), plus an ice-pack – coupled with sides & water in stainless steel water bottles – preferably with silicone mouthpieces.)
- Mix it up. If they tire of one lunch-time staple, find a new something-to-love and let them help you pick it out. [This will get them excited about it – and give them some say.] This is the fun part!
- If they prefer traditional foods, such as sandwiches, healthify ’em (there’s your ‘word’ of the day) by choosing the best ingredients you can find. As an example, I personally will send my girls to school with organic bread sporting organic peanut butter, plus organic apple slices in glass containers, organic raw almonds, and spring water in their SS bottles. Yes, it’s a sandwich, but it’s not your average filler-upper… I’m very picky about what’s on those labels!
- Get to the bottom of why they may not be eating certain portions of their lunches. When my youngest started KG, she wasn’t eating her usually-beloved peanut butter sandwiches. I finally got out of her that they were too ‘soggy’. (The condensation from the ice pack had caused her to dislike the texture by the time lunch rolled around.) So – we started toasting the bread, and also included other sides that didn’t require an ice pack, such as organic crackers. (*Use caution & read labels; not all organics are created equal – particularly with pre-packaged foods.)
- Find the reusable cloth sandwich bags for when you do send those old favorites.
- Invest in a good stainless steel thermos – so you can also send warm foods, such as soups or left-overs from dinner. Heat & dish into the thermos for hours of insulated preservation.
- Prep it the night before and refrigerate what needs to be kept cold – ready to toss into the lunchbox in the morning. (Time-saver, and sometimes for me… a LIFE-saver! I’m not a morning-person…)
- Another tip from the trenches: Send (triclosan-free) hand-sanitizer (or the home-made kind, as can be found in Lesson 5 of the Vitality 101: Eat, Sleep, THRIVE, Repeat! e-course series.) I keep a bottle in each kiddo’s lunch bag, so they can have a squirt before diving into the hand-held edibles.
- I never send anything sweet (as in candy or cookies or other typical dessert-like foods) – with the exception of rare surprises on special occasions. They get one treat per day (when it’s earned via their star [behavior] charts) and that’s at HOME. Then they don’t expect to have a treat at school, and you don’t have to worry about them eating that first, avoiding the good stuff when you’re not around to supervise.
- Make it fun by adding little notes to say hi, letting them know you’re thinking about them…. I also like to send fun napkins for certain times of year (ones with hearts around Valentine’s Day, for example.) They’ll look forward to your surprises too.
Here are links to a couple of types of glass dishes that we really dig!
Anchor Brand Glass:
Anchor Food Storage Containers on Amazon
And, Pyrex Glass Food Storage:
Pyrex Glass Food Storage on Amazon
Hopefully this helps you get into a groove with sending lunches from home. It’s truly the most ideal scenario – given the less-than-ideal inclusions still allowed into our food system. This way you know exactly what they are eating, and you can feel good knowing that you’re doing the best you can for them for every meal.
SO TELL US… What do you send with your littles when they are in need of school lunches? Let’s SHARE our ideas within the TVL community …. It’s a win-win situation! Give us your insights in the comments below.
*MUCH MORE ABOUT FOODS & TOXINS IN THE Vitality 101: Eat, Sleep, THRIVE, Repeat! E-COURSE SERIES*
Why not check it out?