Are you tired of hearing your child complain about the same boring lunch every day?
Do you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to pack elaborate and creative lunches that you see on social media?
If you’re a parent with a school-going child, you’re not alone in your struggles with lunchbox packing.
Worse is when you have a fussy eater at home!
No matter if it is lunchtime or break time, it is important for children to refuel and recharge before returning to their studies. However, packing a nutritious and enjoyable lunch box can be a challenge for many of us.
Every day, I will be scanning the Internet for ideas on how to make food attractive enough to “attract” my fussy children to eat the food in the lunch box.
Unfortunately, foods that are easy to pack and “attract” children to eat are usually unhealthy and processed, and you don’t have to worry about the food turning bad!
It took me a while before I got a hang of packing food that “attracts” my children to eat without pulling my hair out.
So, let’s get started on packing the fun lunchbox for your child. Keep reading to learn my top tips and strategies for making lunchtime an enjoyable and nutritious experience for your family.
I used to plan what to pack the day before school and it was stressful and messy. I will be running around the supermarket to look for different ingredients to make just one lunch box.
Since I started to take the time to plan out the lunchbox for the week. It was way much easier and no more running around different supermarkets for different types of food I need.
If you have a fussy eater, get them involved in the planning process by asking them what they would like to have for lunch. This will not only help you to stay organized, but it will also ensure that your child is having the food and enjoying it.
Balance that meal
Packing a lunch box that’s both nutritious and appealing to a child, especially a fussy eater, can be a highly challenging task!
I struggled a lot as I tried to provide the necessary nutrients my children need to fuel their busy day and at the same time meet their taste preferences.
I tried my best to make it a balanced meal which usually includes a source of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
Whole grains are an excellent source of fibre and energy, and examples of whole grains food include whole-grain bread, brown rice, and quinoa.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, and the most common fruits and vegetables I usually pack into the lunch boxes are sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, oranges or apple slices.
Protein helps children to grow and develop properly and examples of proteins include chicken, pork, boiled eggs, or hummus. It also helps keep the children’s energy levels up throughout the day.
Last but not least, dairy such as milk or yogurt can provide the children with important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
Keep it fun
Most of us love fun food. Food that is creatively presented tend to look more appealing, don’t you agree?
When food is presented in a fun and creative way, children are more likely to eat it. But when I mentioned keeping it fun, it really means fun but not stressful for the parents.
How do we exactly make it fun and creative?
With the availability of social media, there are tons of ideas to learn from and experiment with different foods and presentations. *Don’t compare your creation but look at what and how you can learn from them*
I usually use different shapes of a cookie cutter to cut out the sandwiches, pancakes or fruits to bring food alive. At times, I would sneak in food that I want them to try out. Is ok if the food they disliked was untouched but if they really did try it one day, that’s a bonus!
Fruits and vegetables come in many different colours. We can always mix and match the food to present colourful lunch boxes.
If I want to add more colours to the lunch box, I’ll add a small colourful container of sauce for dipping. Now that’s simple fun!
Be mindful of food safety
As much nutritious and delicious food as we would love to pack in a lunch box, we have to be mindful of food safety.
When planning and packing a lunch box, we have to keep in mind what food can be kept till their break time and still be safe to consume. I didn’t think of that at the beginning of my lunch box journey and my children came back complaining about how the food smelled so bad when they opened it up during their break.
With the hot and humid weather in Singapore, it is even easier for the food to turn bad and cause food poisoning if consumed.
Here are some tips that I always keep in mind:
- Use an insulated lunchbox like the Yumbox that will help keep the food at a safe temperature. Do make sure the lunchbox is well-insulated and has a secure lid to prevent any spills or leaks if you intend to put soup or cooked food in it.
- Pack a frozen ice pack or a frozen sponge to keep perishable foods at a safe temperature, especially fruits. The frozen ice pack or sponge will keep the food cool and will also provide your child with fresh fruits during the day.
- Avoid eggs, dairy products and uncooked meat such as hams, if your child has a sensitive tummy. These are considered high-risk foods which are more likely to cause foodborne illness. The only time I used eggs and dairy products was when I knew their break time was very close to the time I packed the lunch boxes.
- Cleanliness is a must! I know this is common sense but is also commonly overlooked especially when we are using a mobile phone. I always make sure I wash my hands after touching my personal devices and before I handle the food because we do not know if our personal devices harbour any bacteria since we carry it around everywhere we go. Just for precaution’s sake, make sure our hands are clean and utensils are clean when preparing our children’s lunch boxes to prevent the spread of germs.
Involve your child
There was a period I was super stressed out with preparing lunch boxes for my children especially when ideas ran out or my schedule was packed with other commitments.
Eventually, I turned to my children and got them involved in planning and packing with me. It turned out to be the best decision ever!
It was a great bonding time for us while I got to guide them on how to make healthy food choices while allowing them to take ownership over their meals. Ideas started to flow naturally and we “decorate” the lunch boxes like creating art. My children totally enjoyed it!
By following the above steps, which I called a framework, you can ensure that your child’s lunchbox is not only nutritious but also enjoyable and fun to eat. Do it together to make it an even more meaningful and rewarding experience for yourself and their children instead of thinking of it as a chore.
Best of all, you’ll not only support your child’s growth and development but also create special memories that both you and your children cherish for years to come.
PS: Download the free planner and checklist to help you preparing lunchbox worry-free. If you need more tips and advice, do comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Happy lunchboxing!