Updated: Aug 14
The start of the new school year is looking very different for most students this year. If your child is one that is being allowed to go back to school, there will be changes in routines, facilities, and many rules. Most schools that are opening are not serving food, so lunches must be sent every day. It can be stressful trying to pack lunches, get into new routines, and get the kids ready for the school bus or rush them to school in the morning. Back to school is always an adjustment, and this year, it is even more so… With worries over COVID-19, things like masks or shields, school supplies, and bags of books to remember, it will take us all some time to acclimatise under this “new normal”.
To help you along, I would like to share with you some tips for packing school lunches:
1. Put in a variety of foods, textures, and colours. Variety will give your kid options when it comes to deciding what to eat, as well as lots of different nutrients. Different tastes and textures are also more satisfying to their eyes and tummies.
2. Pack a “safe” food every day. Ensure each lunch has at least one “safe” food… something that your child will eat if they are hungry and do not like anything else in the lunch. You know your child and their preferences.
3. Food safety. The last thing you want is your child to get sick from their food at lunch. Anything that is perishable (meat, dairy – milk, cheese, or yoghurt, cut fruit, sauces or dips, etc) can spoil in a lunchbox in 3-4 hours at room temperature. Put an ice pack in the lunch to ensure it stays cold enough to keep it safe for lunch. Ice packs can be picked up at dollar/discount stores and many grocery stores. Frozen juice packs can also double as an ice pack.
4. Allow your child to decide how much to eat during snack and lunch times. It is tough to know when a child is going to be hungry – will they be hungry at snack, lunch, both or neither? Allow your child to decide how much to consume at each eating opportunity, with the limitation of the food in their bag for the day. This will allow them to ensure their tummy is optimally full during the day.
5. Don’t worry if the lunch comes home partially or totally uneaten. Parents often worry if a lunchbox comes home uneaten. It may mean your child is going to be hungry for dinner, but it does not reflect on what you put in the lunch necessarily. Children’s intake varies from meal-to-meal and from day-to-day. They are going through lots of changes with new classes, seeing friends again, new schedules, etc. They may have been more focused that day on playing or socialising and missed eating, or they may not have been hungry. Keep providing lunches and snacks, and allow your child to eat what they need at that given opportunity. If your child eats school lunch, you would not know exactly what they eat, right? You get to see what they eat as it comes home, but don’t be hard on them. It is a good thing that they are listening to their bodies.
6. Give yourself a break. There is an overabundance of information on the internet, with lots of rules, recommendations, and beautiful pictures of lunches that people post on social media. Your situation may be very different from that. Whatever you end up putting in your kid’s lunch is okay. Do not be hard on yourself and do not compare yourself with anyone else. It will not help you or your kid at all, and it will only make you feel judged.
We are living in times that are constantly changing with the wind. Remember to take a deep breath. You are doing a great job! If you would like more support on feeding your children, send an email to Shalyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.