August is bittersweet; summer is ending and families will be transitioning back to school in a few short weeks. School time brings back the comfort of routine but often requires earlier bed time, earlier wake times, too many visits to the “big box” store down the road and the debate about cold versus hot lunch.
All will agree that transitioning a sleep schedule is hard work, school shopping can be stressful, and that good nutrition is pivotal to learning and thus warrants as much attention as being sure that your student has all of their school supplies.
Consider these tips for packing a healthful lunch and avoiding brown bag boredom.
Tips for combatting Brown Bag Boredom
• Invest in a “cool” lunch bag, thermos, water bottle that encourages kiddos to look forward to their healthful lunch but also keeps their food at safe at appropriate temperatures.
• Build a satisfying lunch with at least three different food groups that keeps kids satisfied and prevents the afternoon raid of the cupboards. Often times lunches can be carb-heavy, which provide a quick burst of energy but do not sustain energy.
• Prevent food from coming home by giving your child a few choices from each food group:
o Grains: Whole grain wrap, Whole grain bread or a serving of whole grain crackers
o Protein: Turkey, Chicken, Lean Ham, Turkey jerky
o Vegetable: Carrots, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Jicama or a side salad
o Fruit: Apple, Orange, Berries, or a fruit cup with no added sugar
o Dairy: White Milk, Cheese or Light Yogurt
o Healthy Fats: Nut or Sun butter, Assorted Nuts or Seeds, Hummus, Avocado or Guacamole
• Consider the time. Most lunch periods are quick providing children and teens 10-15 minutes to enjoy their food. Help your family prioritize foods to eat first.
• Keep food safe by using ice packs or keeping certain items in the freezer such as yogurts until the night before.
• Picky Eater? Pack extra for them to share with their friends and try the new food together at school.
The best way to prevent brown bag boredom and brown bag burnout is to invite the family into the process. Meal planning and preparation can be taxing on the leader. Finding the time, creativity, and ingredients can be fun during the first week of school but can be a drag by the last week. Consider age-appropriate ways to build a healthy lunch together.
• Assign tasks or roles to each family member: One person keeps inventory up to par, another person plans the meals, and then everyone assembles.
• Some families keep bins in their refrigerator assigned to each food group. Then, children know foods belong to which groups and can put them together for a healthful lunch.
• Building a weekly lunch menu and identifying a time to build the lunches can save time each day. Perhaps, you create a 5-day cycle to reduce the think time and then recruit kids before dinner to build their lunches and set out their water bottles.
The bottom line is that change is hard- even when we know its coming- invite the opportunity to teach your family about a healthy lunch that delivers quality energy for work, learning and play and save time and energy by taking on the transition as a team.