I was a fussy child. I don’t mean that I didn’t quite like the taste of broccoli or peas. If I could smell the peas being cooked in the same kitchen, I wouldn’t eat my dinner. I couldn’t eat out with my family when we went for Sunday lunch. I couldn’t begin to explain to the restaurant that I needed all food to be segregated. Chicken couldn’t touch the potatoes, gravy couldn’t possibly be on the plate. Thankfully, I have nearly grown out of all that….nearly. How my mum got through 14 years of school lunch preparation, I will never know.
My School Lunches Were Pure Gourmet
Dry frosties, dry cornflakes or plain crackers – et voila….my lunchbox was packed. My poor mother must have been pulling out her hair at the roots as I was the fussiest child on the planet! There was no ‘Cuisine de France‘, it was simply Brennan’s best with a slice of ham. This was a problem as the ham was touching the bread, so I never ate a sandwich until I was about 19.
Fast forward a few years (yes, really…just a few) and here I am, fielding questions from other Mums about what they should put in the lunch boxes for school. After years of struggling to balance out my own kids lunch boxes, I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that there is no real need to worry. The broccoli fairies* watch what they eat for dinner and lunch (when they get home). My take on school lunch is that it should provide a distraction from the drudgery of the school day and a little sustenance. Real nutrition can come from breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My Best Pointers For Stress Free Lunches
Don’t get me wrong – My kids don’t get crisps and chocolate for their lunches. But do we really get a little too wound up about what goes into their lunch boxes these days? I have devised a strategy to ensure my kids appetites are satisfied at school. I also like to have ticked at least a few of the boxes in terms of nutrition. Given a choice, children tend to make the right decisions. With that in mind, idea no.1 is to involve the kids in packing their own lunches.
1. The night before school, ask for a little help packing lunches.
Give your children a selection – what meat is in the fridge? What is in the bread bin. Perhaps they would like to cook some pasta or rice? What kind of fruit do they like?
Skewers and Smoothie Hacks
Offer to cut the meat into squares and put it on a toothpick like a skewer. Show them the fruit and ask them to choose what they would like. I remember as a child I loved green apples. However, by the time we got to lunch, the apple was always warm and bruised in my bag. To this day, I have to eat apples from the fridge. Why not try making a small smoothie. Freeze an inch at the bottom of the tub and then make fresh smoothie in the morning and add to the frozen one. All they have to do is shake it. The frozen bit will melt gradually keeping the rest of the smoothie cold.
2. Build it yourself
If my Mum had given me a slice of bread in one package and a slice of ham in another, I would have eaten them both. Slice a wrap in 4 quarters, put the meat on a skewer, on another skewer, add some chunks of cheese and perhaps on another, some cucumber (all depending on your child’s tastes). They love to construct these things themselves. You could swap the wrap for plain pasta or baby potatoes and offer them a dip. The sky is the limit – just be inventive.
3. Give them what they actually like
Ok, maybe you don’t agree with this one, but hear me out. My oldest son is a purest. He likes ham sandwiches. I don’t like him having ham sandwiches every day. But if I give him a different filling, he doesn’t eat his lunch. He comes home cranky, hungry and distracted. He won’t be eating ham sandwiches forever. In fact, recently, he has started eating my stir fry (and asking if he could bring some for lunch). But I wont push him. His 3 main meals are pristine and he has a great appetite. As a result, when it comes to lunch at school, I don’t panic. I would prefer for him to just eat. Children do not need to feel anxious about coming home to a cross mum or dad because they didn’t eat the gross sweaty thing in their lunch box. (Yes, thats actually how I feel about typical school lunches).
Show Them The Way – Set An Example
My final thoughts are this: Your children will watch what you do. The will take it all in. They may be reluctant initially to try the hummus or the mushroom soup or the vegetables in the beef stir fry. However, if they see it enough, they will become desensitised. If it looks really good, they may even ask to taste it so don’t stop offering.
Eat well, move often and your health will take care of itself. Don’t sweat the small stuff (like ham sandwiches for lunch).
P.S. If you need help with your family’s nutrition, please don’t hesitate to email me. Did you know that a family consult with 3 weeks of follow up only costs €120**. email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
*Broccoli Fairies*: yes, they really do exist. They commune regularly with the tooth fairies regarding the amount of broccoli your child eats. This is used to calculate how much the tooth fairies deliver for each tooth: True story!
**Applies to a family of 4. Extra individuals incur an extra cost.
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