Hillary Chybinski: School Lunches - How to Make them Healthy AND Fun

Sunday, August 10, 2014

School Lunches - How to Make them Healthy AND Fun

Reusable Lunch Bag

This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own.

If I asked you to draw your "Dream Lunch", what would your drawing include? Mine would almost definitely include a menu and someone else preparing it! Well I asked my kids what their dream lunches would be like and I got this:

Drawing of a Healthy Lunch

Making school and camp lunches has become my husband's job. I plan and prepare all our dinners, so I feel like this is an even trade. What is it about making lunches that seems so difficult? I laugh with my mom, because despite her best attempts, I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on white bread even) for lunch EVERY DAY from kindergarten to 12th grade and was perfectly happy.

That doesn't stop me from worrying about the variety and healthiness of the lunches we prepare for our own kids. It's so easy to fall into the sandwich, chips, cookies and drink trap. And while that is perfectly fine. . .it's even better to mix it up and include the healthiest options you can.

Rockthlunchbox.com is a program from Annie's, Organic Valley, Applegate, Rudi's and Honest Kids, to encourage healthier lunches. The site offers tons of lunch ideas for kids of all ages and dietary preferences. There are also money saving coupons to help with your lunch box shopping! Stonyfield sent me some samples and coupons to see what kind of healthy (and fun) lunch ideas we could come up with, to share with all of you.

After looking at their drawing, we had a little discussion about things we could change about their lunches to improve both making them AND eating them. My Middle School kid almost always buys lunch - he enjoys the freedom and variety offered at school, and we've made our peace with that. The second grader is more picky, and brings his lunch from home most days. In his case, we have a lot more control over what he has for lunch.

So here's what we discussed for bringing lunches from home:

Fruit and yogurt are two favorites. We're big fans of Stonyfield's Lemonade and Blueberry Yokids squeezers, and almost all fruits. So it's easy to think about including one or both of these options on a daily basis.

Stonyfield YoKids Squeezers

I'm also going to try more fruit medleys - like blueberries and mandarin oranges or strawberries and bananas. Thanks to Pinterest, I found a way to put sliced apples in their lunch too - cut them into wedges, and hold them together with a rubber band to prevent browning without using lemon juice.

Both kids are picky about the main component of lunch - only caring for ham and cheese sandwiches or for Owen, jelly sandwiches. This is where it gets rough for me, but luckily I can make some healthier decisions about lunchmeat (like Applegate) and cheeses (like Organic Valley), and look for jellies and fruit spreads with lower sugar and no added stuff like coloring or flavoring. After checking out the RocktheLunchBox site, I'm also going to try some cheese quesedillas and using whole grain waffles this year too.

Lunches need a little crunch, so Cheddar Bunnies (Annie's), Pretzels and Pop Corn are all good choices and make a great "trail mix" when mixed together.

Lunchtime drink options can include water, a milk box or juice pouch (Honest Kids) to keep things healthy.

Sometimes, dad doesn't feel like making lunches, and a portable, per-assembled lunch is a dream come true!  Luckily I found these Half-Time options from Applegate. Add an apple and a healthy drink and lunch is made in a flash!

Half Time Lunch Kit from Applegate

Making your lunch interesting and fun to look at, can have great results. Owen can't wait to pack up this bento box style lunch container from Laptop Lunches (it's even Made in the USA!)

Bento Box Lunch Ideas

Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat a Healthy Lunch
  • Plan and shop for lunch ingredients together.
  • Go slow - even if you only change one thing, it's an improvement.
  • Read labels, and don't be afraid to share what you find out with your kids.
  • Make lunch fun with a Bento Box, re-usable bags and lunchbox they help pick out.
  • Encourage them to bring home what they don't eat, so you know what they like and what's working.
How do you encourage your kids to pack or choose a healthy lunch?

catch you soon -
Disclosure - I was asked if I wanted to participate in helping to spread the word about the rockthelunchbox.com program as part of my Yo-Getter partnership with Stonyfield, and received coupons and lunchbox items pictured in the post. As always, all opinions are my very own.

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