It’s crazy! No matter how many times you feed children, they keep on getting hungry again the next day!
One of my favorite roles as a nanny is packing lunches. There is such a connection between food and caregiving. I so resonate with the Shauna Niequist quote that says, “I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits.” The act of packing a lunch for your child is one way to connect with them even when you’re not physically with them.
Also, the food we pack can be one way of protecting our little ones. Our immune system is how our bodies naturally defend against illness. Nutrition is how we support our immune system. My aim is to give you tips and tricks for sending your child to school with a lunch that is easy, healthy and that they will actually eat. Let’s dive in!
- HEALTHY. One thing this past year has taught all of us is that our health is so important. Proper nutrition is our bodies’ first line of defense against illness. One way to help our children stay healthy and well is through the lunchbox. When packing lunches, I always include a fresh fruit and vegetable. Some of my favorites include easy-peel oranges, carrots and berries. Fruits and vegetables to avoid are those that oxidize (turn brown or get mushy) quickly such as avocados, apples or peeled bananas. Some acidity (lemon/lime juice) or keeping the skin on will help if you chose to include those options. Including a dip such as hummus or ranch is a helpful way to encourage kids to eat their vegetables!
- EASY. Kids don’t have much time at school to eat. In fact, they only have, on average, 25 minutes. And much less when you consider the time spent walking to the cafeteria, finding a seat and cleaning up. The easier we can make it for them, the better! I avoid sending anything for lunch that takes time to prepare. If I pack something like a cheese stick, I may do some of the heavy lifting by preopening the plastic packaging. I focus on sending easy-to-eat finger foods like crackers, nuts or cut fruits and veggies. In addition to lunches that are easy to consume, we want lunches easy to create. One way to keep it easy on yourself is to implement a lunch rotation. I rotate between two types of fruits and vegetables and a few simple proteins. Children do well with consistency and it makes it easier on you not having to come up with something new each day.
- KID APPROVED. If we let our kids pick their lunches, they would probably include quite a bit of candy and junk foods. If we packed them only the most nutritious foods, like kale and spinach, they might not eat anything. So how do we keep our little ones happy without compromising their health? The key here is moderation. I always include a little something in the lunch that the kids will be excited about, like a few M&M’s, chocolate chips or fruit leather rather than full-sized, prepackaged foods. I also include foods they are familiar with and I know they will eat even if it’s not their favorite.
I am a huge fan of bento-style lunch boxes. I was first introduced to bento box lunches at my favorite sushi restaurant as a way to get a little bit of everything. There are many different bento-style lunch boxes you can choose from. I personally love the PlanetBox brand. They aren’t the cheapest lunch boxes out there but totally worth the investment. Ours has lasted almost five years and is still in fantastic shape. The different sections keep foods from touching and allow for smaller and varying portion sizes. This style of lunch box eliminates the need for plastics and helps to implement many of the tips and tricks above.
At the end of the day, fed is best! Studies have shown that hungry children struggle to perform well in school. What you choose to feed your family is up to you!
Alyssa King-Higgins is a North Carolina native who has spent the last five years falling in love with Oklahoma. Alyssa is a career nanny with more than a decade of experience in the child care community. She and her husband were recently married at the beautiful Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City. Alyssa enjoys spending time hiking the diverse state parks of Oklahoma and frequenting her local neighborhood food scene in the lively Paseo Arts District. Find her on Instagram at @TheNormanNanny where she promotes professional development, mentorship and networking among the nanny community.