“How to” series: Great lunch bag ideas for kids

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School lunch menu in France – as described in Karen Le Billon’s book “French kids eat everything, and so can yours”

Back to school can also mean lots of effort for parents, if your kids are not lucky enough to have a cafeteria (and I wish more North American schools dId!). So what do you send along so it’s not returned untouched?

Luckily some great sites offer tried and true ideas about what to do! For example, CBC Books recently interviewed Karen Le Billon, author of “French Kids Eat Everything (And Yours Can Too)” and a Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Winner. Her suggestions were great:

It is probably a good idea to introduce new foods at home first, before serving them to your kids at lunchtime. Fun new foods could include legumes (e.g. chickpeas) and dip; quiche (great eaten cold or hot); soups with interesting flavors (e.g. onion soup). Veggies and dip are also a winner; once you find a dip your children like, you can vary the veggies almost endlessly.” 

I also love the simple-to-implement idea from Kia Robertson who founded “Today I Ate A Rainbow“. We adults all know that eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies every day is healthy. To simplify the message for kids and make them enjoy it more, tell them they have to eat at least five colors a day – and ask them ” Did you eat a rainbow today?”.

And for those of us who need a little assist – there are sites like Aviva Goldfarb‘s The Six O’Clock Scramble (love all these mom entrepreneurs!). Her well-tested meals take less than 30 min to prepare and get even the pickiest eaters excited. No wonder she has been featured all over America including on Oprah, Today’s show and over 30 national magazines.

There are three things that are key that I like to do with our kid’s lunch boxes (please re-tweet if you agree!):

1. Always respect the nuts-free and other allergies-free lunch requests from schools. Click to tweet. (Note on that: Can you imagine worrying everyday that the tasty treat someone sent with their kid can kill yours?)

2.  NEVER ever hide healthy food inside other food to deceive your kids! Click to tweet. (Note on that: I abhor books like “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals“, sadly a New York Times bestseller, because they set kids up for challenges with healthy foods for life!). 

3. Randomly, add a surprise within the lunch box – either food or send a note of love and fun whenever possible. Click to tweet. A note needs no explanation, but food wise, this is what author Karen Le Billon recommends:

If you have a multi-compartment lunch box, you can designate one of the containers a ‘surprise box’. Your child might have something familiar to eat (ok, bologna), but also something new and interesting. One day, it might be a piece of fresh fruit. Another day, it might be some chickpeas. Or, once in a while, a piece of chocolate! Your child should look forward to opening up the surprise box and ‘taste testing’ whatever they find inside.

And of course, a great lunch box helps seal the deal for the kids while a litter-less lunch does so for the environment. On that topic, have a look at this great blog post from Spud.com and great options available from  RaspberryKids.com.

So – any ideas, practical tips or best practices you can share?

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, mother of three, CEO and Co-founder myBestHelper

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