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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back-to-School Lunches: Keeping It Real

I've been seeing so many blogs and Pinterest pins about packing these amazing lunches for your kiddos - some are quite over board, some are so gourmet, and others maxing out the cuteness factor. It seems as though the message we get is that if you aren't sending your child to school with a Bento box full of some amazing, surprise that is worthy of a blog post, you're not making the grade as a parent. NOT SO!

The problem at the other end of the sack lunch spectrum is when you give up trying to prepare a lunch at home and instead allow the store to do all the work for you - this results in a sack full of processed, convenience foods. 

Somewhere in between there is a happy and healthy medium which may not be pin-able but is very doable. 

You have a real child with specific and very real ideas of what they will and will not eat. The real-world of the lunchroom at times seems to involve more high stakes trading than does Wall Street.  So keep your kids in the equation. They should be the ones you are training to pack their own lunches. 

One of the best things you could do to better understand how to teach your kids to pack a lunch would be to go and eat school lunch with them. Get a taste of the front lines so that you know where they're coming from and what the lunch atmosphere is like. 

More than anything, remind yourself that all those ideal Internet images don't define your success or failure as a parent. They may provide some entertaining and occasionally helpful ideas, but you need to operate in reality which often doesn't resemble at all the board you have on Pinterest. 

Here are some tips to Keep It Real:

  • This may mean that packing a sack lunch for the real world includes means having on hand some convenience foods: KIND bars is a great example of this with their transparent (visible) nutrition.  Choose wholesome convenience items and keep them balanced with the rest of the lunch. Which leads to the next point:

  • Teach your kids to pack mostly "real" food. Foods with no ingredient labels should be in their lunch sack as well as some with very short ingredient labels such as cheese, popcorn, fruits & veggies.  But to make this work in the real world, you'll need to involve your kids in some prep before its time to pack the lunch.

  • Pack the occasional goodie - nothing wrong with a homemade chocolate chip cookie or treat, but keep the portion size in check and if it is occasional it will remain a treat.  
  • Be realistic with the container as well - let's face it, you can drop a lot of cash replacing cute lunch containers so consider the personality of your child and whether they can be responsible for a returnable, washable system, or if a chuck-able sack will save you both grief. 

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