Monday, August 6, 2012

Top 5 Back To School Lunch Essentials

With Back-to-School sales happening now, and that first day of school fast approaching, now's the time to think about your most important school "supply" of the year - the healthy lunches your child needs to thrive with the nutrients to help learn and focus all day!

1. First you need a plan.
MOMables is an affordable lunch menu planning service, complete with recipes, serving suggestions and tips, substitution suggestions, and shopping lists. It helps keep you out of a lunch-packing rut by doing all the planning for you - so you can change up your child's (or your!) lunch each day. Check out their free Sample Menu for three lunches worth of ideas. And get access to another free week of menu ideas when you sign up for their weekly emails! (Which contain free recipes and tips throughout the year.)
Image (c) Momables

2. School-safe products and ideas
SunButter (sunflower seed butter - also available in crunchy!) WowButter (non-GMO soy,) and I.M. Healthy Soynut Butters (non-GMO soy - also available in chocolate!) are peanut-free and nut-free, processed and packaged in nut-free facilities, so they are school-safe alternatives to peanut butter in nut-free schools or classrooms. (WowButter even comes with little ingredients tags you can tear off and send with your child's lunch, to reassure the teachers!)
My friend Keeley at The Keeley McGuire Blog has a Little Miss who is allergic to peanuts. Since so many tree-nut products are processed in facilities or equipment shared with peanuts, they just avoid it all and run a nut-free home. So her blog is a great resource for school-safe products and brands as well as fun lunches and school-safe, lunchbox-sized recipes.

3. A safe, re-usable, lunch container.
You could use cloth baggies and a lunch box, but I prefer the protection of the hard bento-style boxes. No crushed chips or smooshed sandwiches! And I can pack more realistic serving sizes for my child, versus just filling a baggie with each item. A serving of Cheetos, for example, should NOT take up the same amount of space as apple slices or carrot sticks in her lunch, which is a common error when packing with baggies. It's just instinctual to fill whatever sized container you have. Plus kids (and adults) tend to expect their serving dish or container to be filled. (Think about it - one scoop of ice cream on a cone is a nice dessert. Plop that scoop in a bowl and it just doesn't look like enough!) That's why I use small compartments or containers (usually mini muffin cups) for treats, and larger ones for healthier items.

I prefer the EasyLunchboxes for many reasons: They're the perfect size for us. The larger compartment is the right size for a salad, sandwich, or up to four reusable muffin-cup dividers filled with different options, which offers a lot of versatility. And my little girl can open and close the lids herself. When many kids are only getting 20-25 minutes for lunch (which includes the time it takes to get to and from the lunch room,) making everything easy to open is a must!
Photo (c) EasyLunchboxes
There are many other great lunch box choices out there too, such as Goodbyn, and Laptop Lunches in safe plastics; EcoLunchbox, LunchBots, and PlanetBox in stainless steel.
photo (c) MOMables
 Bento Kit 2.0 - Garden 

Insulated Thermoses are another must-have option to add with a lunch box, for sending soup, pasta, or other foods you want to keep hot.

4. Re-usable drink containers
Plastic or metal water bottles are an eco-friendly alternative to juice boxes or pouches. And since you can pick exactly what goes inside, you can alter any sugar content by watering down juice or adding less cocoa mix or sugar to their chocolate milk. Also a great way for an allergy-sufferer to have tasty dairy-free options! And they hold more and can be opened and closed repeatedly, to last throughout the day. We mostly use our 24-ounce Contigo water bottles on the go, but they're a little big for backpacks and lunch boxes. They do make smaller ones, however. I have also heard good things about the stainless steel water bottles from Crocodile CreekSIGG, and Kleen Kanteen, but I hate hand-washing, so I haven't bought any "good" ones yet (found some generic ones on clearance at Old Navy though!)
And since I was never good with my time-management, I often missed breakfast in order to catch the bus in the mornings. Cool Caps and Cool Straws are a great way to help with an on-the-go smoothie breakfast to drink on the way to school. Have the smoothies pre-made and portioned out, slap a Cool Cap and Cool Straw on the cup, leave it in the fridge, and it's ready to grab and go! (Available at GreenPaxx and on Amazon.)

5. And most importantly, Love!
The very best way to pack a lunch with love is to give them healthy options so they can learn to make and enjoy healthy choices. Fresh fruits and veggies, a balanced meal (dairy, protein, grains, etc,) and only a small amount of dessert, treats, or junk food. Hey, anything's okay, in moderation!

Another way to show your lunch was packed with love is to include a note letting them know how special they are to you. Lunchbox Love Notes are a fun way to do that. Each note has a loving message and a fun fact! If you're ever stumped for a fun lunch theme, why not design it around a Lunchbox Love fun fact and send that note in the lunch! (Use code BITING to get 15% off your order!)
Biting the Hand
photo (c) SayPlease
And a great way to pack a lunch with a little extra love is by making it fun!
Cute picks and cups help a lot (I prefer buying from AllThingsForSale because they are in the US, so shipping is MUCH cheaper. Plus their prices are very reasonable. My only complaint is that the prices are so good, and they have so much great stuff, it's easy for the orders to get too big too fast! ;)
Sandwich cutters, such as Lunch Punch and FunBites, as well as other fun mini and regular-sized cookie cutters are another easy way to make lunches fun.
Made with healthy, fresh food options,
a Lunch Punch, mini cuttersmini cup, and LOVE!

Disclaimer: This post was in no way solicited, endorsed, or rewarded by any of the products or companies mentioned. I did use affiliate links where possible, however, so if you happen to buy anything through my links, I make a small percentage of the sale. If so, thank you!

1 comment:

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