As moms, we’ve all been there: It’s the end of the day and you’re unpacking a smashed, smelly version of the lunch you took care to put together for your child 12 hours earlier. Only now, the banana is brown and soft, the sandwich has been dissected, and, not surprisingly, the Oreos are gone.
Day after day, this adds up to a lot of wasted time, effort and money for you — and your kid sure as heck doesn’t care.
So, how do you stop the hemorrhaging and tempt your offspring into indulging in a healthy lunch? We’ve got some tips.
Tip: Cut It Creatively
Reintroduce yourself to your stash of cookie cutters. Remember? The ones you registered for and got at your bridal shower and have yet to use? Well, kids love shapes: flowers, stars, pumpkins, you name it.
Use them to redesign snacks like American or Monterey jack cheese slices, desserts like JELL-O gelatin made Jigglers-style, and, even, on a main course of an almond butter and strawberry jam sandwich — one big flower cuts off all the crust in a fell swoop.
Kids eat with their eyes, i.e., if it looks good, then it must be good.
Tip: Make it Mini
Little ones are just that — little. So why not make their meals that way?
Skewer grape tomatoes, cucumbers, turkey and cheese cubes onto pretzel sticks or rods for mini lunch kebabs. Healthy lunch, indeed.
When dining at home — because this one just isn’t practical for school — use scoop-shaped tortilla chips as a base for make-your-own mini tacos. Avocado, black beans, shredded cheese, diced bell peppers, corn and mild salsa (make your own in 5 minutes!) if they’re feeling daring make for great fillings.
Little pieces of healthy foods here and there add up to a big bite of healthy eating.
Tip: Layer It
Pack most of the major food groups into this fun and decadent-looking lunch (minus a sugar overload) for young ones and ‘tweens who have a sweet tooth.
In a mason jar, layer vanilla Greek yogurt (or just regular low-fat, if Greek is too tangy for the taste buds), honey or fruit jam, cereal like granola (for older kids who don’t gag over texture) or Cheerios, and fruit like bananas, blueberries or grapes. Step and repeat, trifle style.
You can even sprinkle on some dark chocolate chips. Mason jars are cool — and come in plastic, too — because kids can see what they’re digging into.
Tip: Create a Faux-Sure Winner
As adults, many of us have come to love sushi, but kids typically do not. Raw fish? Gross. This doesn’t mean they can’t hang with the concept.
Take a piece of lavash, spread it with nut butter or Nutella, add thinly sliced apples, and then top with chunks of mango. For a more savory option, spread with avocado and top with sliced cucumbers, sticky rice and crispy rice noodles. Roll up, secure with toothpicks and slice.
Tip: Break It Up Bento-Style
Portioned food containers go a long way and show children exactly what and how much they need to eat, meaning that they don’t have to choose which of the many plastic sandwich bags of food items you’ve packed to have for lunch.
For a healthy lunch, include any kind of finger food you like, just make sure there is variety: chunks of boiled chicken, hummus and pita chips, rice pilaf, fruit salad, dried cranberries or cherries (perhaps an exciting step up from the familiar raisin?), etc.
Be sure to have at least five containers per kid, because you can make a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday night and then check it off your to-do list.
Once you’ve mastered lunch, we’ve got dinner prep covered, too.