School Days And Healthy Lunches

Monday was a big milestone for many parents. It was the start of another school year. It meant sending kids off for the first time or maybe it meant moving them up to another level of education.

I’ve observed all of it in a different way.

This is the first year I don’t have a child to send off to school. I had to buy no supplies or sign endless miles of back to school paperwork. I didn’t think of back to school clothes or what I needed to have on hand for lunches.  My alarm didn’t go off getting me moving to make sure everyone would be up and on time for the bus. No teacher conferences or meetings that drone on forever.

Maybe, I should’ve shed a tear or two over it.  I’ve had children in school for more years than I can count now so I’m ready to move on.

I say all that… but…. my kids aren’t really done with their education. I had two head out for college. One, in his second year. The other, back to Freshman status again.

They bought their own supplies. They figured out what they wanted to wear to school. They are adults so they are responsible to sign off on their own paperwork. They get themselves going and figure out what time they need to leave.

It’s all very….. wonderful.

On the other side, my grandson started school. How can this be? This pains my heart as much as when my little ones went off to school. I watch my adult son now contend with all the years of schooling in front of him while I silently ponder, wasn’t it just yesterday, I was holding his little hand walking down the big hall way?

Ok before I go and get all crazy sappy on you…..

One thing that goes hand in hand with school no matter the age, is food. There will be lots of lunches packed and prepared in households with schools arrival.

Lunch boxes will be purchased with the anticipation of what will go in them. ( I can still remember that new plastic smell of a new lunch box)

Let’s take a moment to admire them all fresh, clean, and unscratched.

They will never be like that again once they leave your house 😉

It was a HUGE deal every year, my kids picking out their special lunch box.  Of course, by the time they hit high school, it was a bonus if they managed to toss a random assortment of food into a plastic bag before they flew out the door.

Needless to say, over the course of the years, with many kids, I had quite a few lunches at school with them. It was a treat to have your parent come eat with you… well.. for awhile.. until they wanted to pretend like they… had no parents.

The lunch selections that were revealed by their young peers were often, interesting.

There would be the standard cafeteria fare which my kids often begged to eat but were quickly disappointed when they had it.

My oldest pleaded with me to let him eat the spaghetti they were serving the next day.

He was in maybe 5th grade at the time.  Why not? I let him. I already knew what to expect when he came home that next day.

“That spaghetti was gross! It was nothing like yours! I’m never eating stuff at school again!”

I figured I’d let him make his own conclusions that the school spaghetti would be Chef-Boyardee from a can and not the homemade variety he only knew.

Many children come with a healthy balance of foods in their cute boxes or bags. The treats were often devoured first, followed by the second better option, with the healthier things being at the bottom of the consumed list.

I remember one child plopping down across from me ( they are always so excited when a parent is there… any parent… you automatically adopt a table load of kids 😛 ) she dumped her lunch on the table and it was nothing but a bag of various sweet items.

I tried not to look horrified. I may have failed miserably in the attempt.

I choked out… ” Wow, that’s an interesting lunch” to which the child smiled at me and said “I made it myself!”

I’d certainly hope so.  I wondered if the mom had any clue what her child had assembled for lunch that day.

With school beginning and lunches packed, as parents we will make efforts to offer our kids tasty, portable meals that will hopefully sustain them through a busy, active day.

With childhood obesity at an all time high, we need to be mindful of the foods we provide for our kids, in our home, as well as what they will take to school 5 days a week.

One of my sons teases me about being in school and that he was the kid dragging out a water bottle to drink while the other kids had “juice” boxes. ( Note, many of these are nothing more than sweetened drinks with a nod of “juice” in them) and he had cut up apples while no one else would eat fruit.

Of course he goes on to say I split Oreos in half… haha… he is the most… “dramatic” child I have.

I reminded him he got the whole Oreo 😉

Hey, all I can say is I tried as a parent to offer the best foods to them I could.

Our kids can only eat foods we provide for them. We are responsible for the foods we bring home to them. If there is limited junk/sweet/treat foods they won’t be able to eat them.  We need to stop thinking chips/cookies/donuts/muffins/crackers/sodas etc are a necessary food group. If we teach them that healthy whole foods are tasty from an early age they won’t have a problem taking them in lunches.

Healthy tips/suggestions for lunches

~ If you want to send “juice” boxes, read the label to make sure they are juice or are labeled as such. Many proclaim to be but only offer a tiny percentage while the rest is sweetened water. If the first ingredient is “high fructose corn syrup” look for something else.

~ It really is ok for them to take water in their lunch too. You can buy small mini bottles to fit in boxes.

~ Offer whole grain breads over white bread.

~ Baby carrots or other veggies are often a fun snack. Include a small container with some dressing if your child likes that.

~ Prepare fruits or veggies to make them easier to eat.

~ Protein foods will keep their tummies full feeling. Cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, yogurts all are good protein sources and easily portable.

~ Don’t underestimate the nutritional value of a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is nutritious, filling, and a great healthy eating option. It offers 8 grams of protein  for 2 tablespoons

~ Opt for whole wheat crackers and breads

~ Milk can be purchased at school which is often colder and more palatable than if it comes from home in a thermos or container. Yikes.. the days of warm milk….

~ Sweet treats are fun and kids enjoy them. Just limit the amount that goes into their lunches. Excessive treats take away from the actual idea of having “a” treat.

~ Consider making roll ups with turkey and cheese in whole grain tortillas instead of using bread.

~ Individual fruit cups are less perishable, look for ones without added sugar.

Our children have busy, active days at school learning, playing and constantly moving. Make sure the bulk of their calories are nutritious and filling to give them energy for their entire day.

Do you have any lunch box tips or tricks for healthier eating ?

Brown-Bag_Healthy-Back-to-School-Lunches

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