Woo hoo! School is almost here and I can't wait to start getting up early to get back in the kitchen every morning so I can lovingly create nutritious, well-balanced SCD lunches that will hold their own against a lunchroom full of tempting sweets and non-SCD foods...said no mom ever. LOL! But it's that time of year and that is the scenario we SCD moms are facing. In the fight against flare, there is no battleground too small and none scarier than...the school lunchroom.
At home, we have total control over what our kids eat, but when we send them off to school we have to hope that they have listened well to what we've taught them and will make healthy choices. We have to hope they won't feel left out because they can't eat what their friends are eating or get picked on because their lunches look different. We have to hope that the school will look out for our kids and keep them safe.
Whew! That's a lot of hoping. What do you say we take back some of that control with SCD lunches kids can't resist? Lunches so great our SCD kids would never want to trade for what someone else has. Food so cool the other kids wish they had it too!
That was my goal last year when I started packing fancy lunches for my daughter. I felt like I had to compete with prepackaged snacks and cookies and crackers and stuff I knew my daughter was missing. I wanted her to feel like she wasn't missing out on anything. So, I stepped up my lunch game.
Irresistible lunches are easier than you may think. It all starts with the right attitude. Lunch making can be a chore or you can choose to have fun with it. I choose to have fun and even though I dread waking up early every day, I honestly do enjoy putting together fun lunches for my daughter. I like the idea that when she opens her lunchbox there is an element of joyful surprise. It's like a wordless love letter that she gets to open in the middle of her day.
I won't lie though. It does get hard to keep the same things looking new and different day after day, but I enjoy the challenge. That is where this post is going to come in handy for you...I am going to share a bunch of ideas for packing better lunches and all you have to do is copy them. Yes, I'm giving you permission to blatantly steal any lunch ideas that you think your child would like and use the crap out of them. My gift to you. I'm a giver. ;)
First things first, get a fun lunchbox. You may not be able to judge a lunch by it’s cover, but it's the first thing your child is going to see and it can set the tone for the whole meal. If all you have is a brown bag, use some stickers or markers to dress that bag up....a quick doodle, a few stickers or a fun clip are all easy ways to spruce up a bag. Or let your kids have some fun decorating their own bags. Whatever. Just make the packaging look fun. You want your child to feel like they are receiving something special. I personally am in love with Planetbox lunchboxes and and you can read my review of them here.
Next, fill that lunchbox with locally grown, seasonal produce. It goes without saying that fruits and veggies taste best when they are fresh. Mealy apples and tasteless berries aren't going to garner much excitement, so stick to what is fresh and in season for the best taste and texture. Exception: I'm not above buying bananas, kiwis, mango, etc. that are never in season where we live, but always enjoyed in the lunchbox. These are the fruits I fall back on in winter when there isn't much else to choose from.
Remember that we eat with our eyes first. You want to make the food as visually appealing as you can. I achieve this by using as many different colors of food as I can in each lunch box, cutting food into fun shapes and arranging things in a fun way. A few colorful accessories can also boost the visual impact on days when your lunch foods are looking a little...well, beige. Colorful silicone muffin cups, a sprig of parsley, or extra leafy greens can seriously help to make a bland lunch look great.
Offer options. Don't be afraid to stick lots of different things in the lunchbox...there is no reason to put just one thing in each compartment. Variety is the spice of life. I try to fill the lunchbox with as many choices as I can, giving my little one control over what she is eating. If she wants to skip something, she has that option without missing out on a large portion of her lunch.
Think in themes or color palettes. My favorite lunches to make are the holiday themed lunches. I love to put some extra love into those lunches to really make them special, but you don't have to wait for a holiday for that kind of fun. If your child loves dinosaurs or bugs or has a favorite color, use that to your advantage as inspiration for a whole lunch. You can even match some lunches to whatever the kids are studying in school..."ants on a log" for the insect unit anyone??
Embrace the cookie cutter...and the peeler...and the melon baller. Cookie cutters are a quick and easy way to transform a plain slice of cheese or a cucumber into a flower, butterfly or snowman. Spiralizers are also fun for making veggie "noodles" and plain old vegetable peelers can be used to make ribbons and curls. Kids love to see food in unexpected shapes and a few fancy bites go a long way towards making lunch special. And seriously, who among us can't scoop a melon ball? Takes less time than chopping!
Stock up on skewers. Everyone loves food on sticks, so thread some fruit on a skewer and you've got a fruit salad your little one will love. Or spear some mini veggie "kabobs" to dip in a sauce. Toothpicks, short BBQ skewers and my favorite, plastic cocktail swords are all fun. If you're worried about sharp points, use a pair of kitchen shears to nip off the ends.
Never give up on a food. Studies show that kids may need to eat a new food 20+ times before they will accept it. If you send something that was rejected, try again. Cut it in a different shape, pair it with a different dipping sauce or change out the color. I have sent carrots in every shape and color imaginable, but got the best response with carrot curls. Go figure.
Mix up the textures. Try to send a variety of textures...crunchy, creamy, soft, hard, crispy, slippery, smooth, bumpy...I know that sounds weird, but it keeps things from getting boring. Who wants a lunchbox full of mush? Or nothing but crunch? Your jaws would get tired.
And most importantly, hit all your major food groups. Kids need fruits, veggies, protein, fats and, yes, even a little starch for proper development. The bulk of your carbs are going to come from produce, so like I said earlier, pile it in there. And don't forget that SCD does allow for a few starchy foods like beans, squash and lentils, so make an effort to squeeze in a serving or two of these foods each day. Your child's brain will thank you.
Are you ready to kick some school lunch butt now?? What? I can't hear you! Are you ready?? Of course you are! Go get yourself a fun lunchbox and a few cookie cutters and get ready to blow your child's mind this year. These lunch tips will change your life. I swear. And you can make these lunches in 10 minutes or less, so don't sweat it...you can do this!
Thanks so much for stopping by!! I can't wait to see the lunches you make...oh, didn't I tell you? I want to see 'em! Post those babies to my Facebook page or tag them #FightingFlare on Instagram. Have fun!! XOXO, Cindi
Victory Lunch Graphic via Pinterest