As we prepare for back-to-school, there is always so much to think about. Gathering school supplies, mentally shifting into school readiness and establishing routines are all important, but one of the most common issues that tends to come up for Grade One Teacher, Mrs. Pamela Doerksen (Bedson Campus), is concerns about school lunches.
“It’s common for parents to tell me that their children bring home barely touched lunches and then arrive home from school hungry.” Says Doerksen, adding, “There are two main reasons that a child’s lunch goes untouched: children don’t like what is packed or the items in the lunch bag are not easy to eat.”
With oodles of experience packing lunches for her own children, and an insider perspective in the classroom, Doerksen is well prepared to share her knowledge of what makes a great school lunch.
She shares her tips to pack a lunch that your child will eat:
1. Talk to children about what they like.
- Brainstorm a list of fruits, veggies, or other items they like and then write them down and put them on the inside of your cupboard to refer to throughout the school year.
- Plan a trip to the grocery store to make your list, searching out things they may not even have thought about for their lunches such as mini corncobs in a can or dried mango from the International Foods section of the grocery store. Maybe they would be interested in trying something new (always do a test run at home first!)
- Try new things at home that could be easily packed in their lunches such as hummus and pita bread, hard boiled eggs (quartered), tortilla wraps with your favourite fillings (cream cheese, jam, sun butter or wow butter, etc.) and sliced into pinwheels. Boursin cheese and crackers, nut free granola and crackers, celery and cream cheese, baked whole wheat tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole, mini English muffins (quartered), pasta salad, etc.
2. Enlist children to help with lunch packing!
One way to make sure your child eats what is in their lunch box is to allow your child to help to choose what goes in it. My own children began packing their lunches at a young age. I made sure they had many healthy options available but they could choose which ones they wanted to include in their lunch box. Packing their lunch can be a part of the evening routine after supper. Children can pack their lunch the evening before to make it easier to get out the door in the morning.
3. Make lunch easy to eat.
Especially with younger children, having a lunch that is ready to eat is best. Cutting an apple into bite sized pieces is easier to eat than a whole apple. Often the entire apple is too overwhelming and children don’t even bother to eat it. A whole apple is harder to eat and when those loose teeth come it can be nearly impossible to bite into. Apples can be cut into small pieces (sprinkled with cinnamon if desired to hide browning) these are much easier to eat at lunch time. A sandwich cut into small pieces, cucumbers cut into coins, and even pizza or leftovers cut into manageable pieces are more likely to be eaten than when it is left in one large piece.
4. Try using a Thermos. Almost any leftovers work well in a thermos and provide a welcome change from the usual routine. Try soups, stews, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, noodles, ravioli, rice, scrambled eggs, hashbowns, refried beans, beans, quinoa, sausage rolls, calzones, spring rolls, egg rolls, couscous, chili, french toast, edamame beans, perogies-cut with a scissor into small pieces, or supper leftovers. These items are ready to serve and easy to eat.
5. Limit junk food snacks and dessert items. These foods lack the nutritional value (and the ability to keep kids feeling full) to make them good choices for a long day at school. Often when a lunch contains less nutritional items, children will focus on those items and not want to eat anything else. Look for items that don’t list “sugar” or glucose/fructose” in the first 3 ingredients.
Your child’s lunch is their fuel. It is important to make sure that their lunches are nutritious (and consumed!) to be able to sustain them for the rest of the day.
Doerksen shares one of her favourite recipes for lunches. You can make it ahead and freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop a frozen cube into your lunch box and it will be ready to serve at lunch time. The sweetness of the caramelized onions makes it a bit more appealing to kids…just don’t tell them there are onions in it. Happy Lunch Packing Season!
Caramelized Onion Hummus
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
2 tbsp butter
brown sugar, to taste
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 (16 oz) can chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp sweet paprika (available at Bulk Barn)
Directions: Heat butter or margarine in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until onions begin to turn golden and are translucent (about 10-15 minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional few minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from hear and let cool.
In a blender combine remaining ingredients and blend well. Add a little more oil or water if the consistency is too stiff. Add cooled onion and garlic mixture to blender and blend until smooth. Allow to chill several hours to allow flavours to combine.
Serve with crackers, vegetables, or pita bread that is cut into wedges.
Don’t forget, both of our campuses have children with life threatening nut allergies, so please take care not to include food with nuts in lunches or snacks.
Curious about more lunch ideas?
Mrs. Doerksen’s daughter has a lunch-specific blog of her own! Check it out for more ideas at: http://seemylunch.blogspot.ca