As many parents of school aged kids know all too well, packing lunch can be an absolute nightmare. Many of us kick off September with Pinterest-worthy lunchboxes but let’s face it: come November (or even earlier), there’s a collective parental groan about lunch and we cobble together whatever we can muster. Of course we want our children’s lunches to be varied and healthful so that they have enough energy to make it through the day. But unless those lunches are also tasty, they will come back wasted and uneaten at the end of the day. (Seriously, how disgusting is that sandwich after it’s been sitting out at room temperature for 8+ hours?!) And don’t forget the groceries required in order to pack that lunch. It’s pretty tough to get all of those ducks in a row on a typical weekday morning, and that’s how lunch quickly takes on cringe-causing chore status. I'm a firm believer in getting the kiddos involved from the get go for smoother family sailing and here's why:
1. It takes the stress off of you. Woo hoo! No more arguments in the morning because you ran out of your son's favorite turkey and have exactly 8 minutes to figure out lunch before you all have to leave the house.
2. It saves you time. Scratch the meal planning chore off of your list!
3. It saves you money. Remember how awful it felt to throw out a perfectly good sandwich that was uneaten? When your child chooses, she is less likely to waste food like that.
4. It’s an inspiring way for them to try new foods. Picky eaters beware! When kids are at the wheel, even the pickiest among them is more likely to try something new. Radishes anyone?
5. It helps their organizational skills. Planning ahead is an incredibly useful skill! Get them started early.
Sounds great, right? So pass the meal planning baton to your kids.
I’ve built a career on the intersection of lunch for kids and technology (and more recently, breakfast for kids and technology). So “what’s for lunch” is a question that’s near and dear to me. Everything I have read and researched has shown that when children are involved in meal planning, they are more enthusiastic about what they eat, more inclined to try a variety of foods and more likely to make healthy choices. (Informative articles here and here). All those benefits just by giving kids a voice in their food choices? Yes!
So hey, parents: take a load off! You can choose to use an app like LaLa Lunchbox or LaLa Breakfast to make it fun and simple for you and your kids or you can go about it another way. Either way, the benefits are clear. Empower your kids to be part of the food planning process! And best of luck with back to school!
p.s. -- While we’re on the topic, there’s no shortage of advice available about what to pack for lunch and much of the advice is focused on healthy and quick items (which is awesome because really, do you want to be spending hours preparing for and packing lunches?). Here’s a quick list of some of our favorites:
homemade sunflower seed butter sandwich (fantastic for nut-free schools)
roasted black beans (easy and inexpensive and perfect for those anti-sandwich kids out there) and for a snack, homemade granola bars (nut free, and without processed sugar or unpronounceable ingredients).
* A version of this appeared on the Kidville blog.