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End the Insanity: Jemima’s Practical Guide to School Lunches

Friends- it’s that time of year again!

You know what I mean…

It’s back to school time!

Practical & Healthy School LunchesBy this point, some parents have purchased new clothes, backpacks, water bottles, and lunch boxes for their kids. (Those of you who haven’t done this yet- not to worry! Everything at its own pace. Plus, by waiting, you may have unlocked the motherload of back to school sale shopping!)

We are rested, we are ambitious, we are excited to have a regular schedule again, and we are freaking thrilled to get everyone out of the house and finally put all the accumulated summer detritus away! But wait… what is that nagging feeling? You suddenly realize that the smooth sailing of predictable routines is not hassle-free. The first day of school, for many of us, marks the start of the inevitable pressure and panic to pack healthy and delicious school lunches that are within the allergy guidelines of our children’s classroom and school, and that contain foods that your child will actually consume.

Is there anything more galling than unwrapping $3.00 of mashed, uneaten fruit at the end of the school day? Or to see precious organic, low-sodium cold cuts going to waste? How about an entire lunchbox filled with delicious treats, and left to fester in the car over the weekend? Let’s end the insanity!

Packing school lunches is hell. But I am going to use my amazing single mother planning skills to save your butt. You can thank me later.

(Aside: It’s terrifically useful to have an insulated lunch bag, a reusable water bottle, a Thermos, cold packs, and many, many leak-proof stainless steel containers of all sizes. Do our environment a favor and stop with the single-serve plastic bags and disposable nonsense, please.)

Reusable stainless steel containers are great for school lunches.For healthy and delicious school lunches that your kid will eat, pick at least one item from each category. All categories must be used:

Proteins: 

Edamame, hummus, cheese, Sunbutter (peanut butter is great if allowed), hard boiled egg, yogurt, sliced turkey/ham/chicken (lunch or deli meat), cream cheese, sunflower seeds (no or low salt), tuna, cooked beans, pumpkin seeds, summer sausage.

Vegetables:

Carrots, sweet peppers, celery, broccoli, cucumber, sugar snap peas, jicama, dried seaweed, cherry tomatoes, salads (lettuce and veggie based, or other types of salads like bean salad, carrot salad, and grain salads.)

Fruits:

Apples, grapes, bananas, melon, kiwi, pineapple, dried fruits (without added sugar), apple sauce, pears, berries.

Leftovers have always been my favorite school lunch.Carbohydrates:

Mini bagels, graham crackers, bread (do I need to specify that this should be whole grain bread?), pretzels, rice cakes, crackers, tortilla chips, muffins, granola, popcorn.

All the kids I know love anything they can dip. Veggies can be dipped into salad dressing, hummus, or peanut butter. Fruits can be dipped into sweetened cream cheese/yogurt dip, caramel, or Nutella (if nuts are allowed).

These are not exhaustive lists of possible components for school lunches but should serve as guidelines and suggestions for what you can pack.

I’ve got another trick for you too, don’t worry.

Leftovers:

Have some extra pizza? A slice of pizza, strawberries, and some cucumber slices, and you’re good to go. Chili? Put it in a Thermos, pack up some tortilla chips and apple slices, and done! Spaghetti and meatballs? Thermos, fruit, and lunch is practically made for you. Whatever your child enjoys for dinner can be saved and served for school lunch!

You can even assemble school lunches in advance.Now you have it- all my tips and tricks for helping my daughter eat healthy and delicious school lunches. Best of all, this guide can help you make delicious and healthy lunches for yourself too! You deserve a great lunch more than anyone else!

What tips and tricks do you have, and what are your child’s favorite lunch foods?

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