How To Combat The Return Of The Untouched Lunchbox

Are you spending value time and cash on school lunches only to have lunchboxes returned untouched? It’s a reality many parents face and we know that most kids would rather play around than eat – yet sometimes, it’s not about that.

RELATED: The Ultimate Morning Routine For Kids (And Parents)

In some cases, kids just can’t stomach the same lunchbox foods over and over again. It’s as simple as that. They might ask for peanut butter and jam sandwiches for a few days in a row, but when it’s what they receive every day for a week or longer, it gets monotonous. So what can you do to make them actually eat their lunch?

Coming up with a new appetising lunch every day can be a really tedious task. Especially when you get back full or half eaten lunches. That really doesn’t give you much incentive to put any more effort into it than you already are. However, if you want that lunch box returned empty that’s part of what you need to do.

Additionally, you need to involve the kids because after all, they’ll be the ones eating it. Don’t give them an entire menu, though. Your kitchen isn’t a restaurant and you really don’t want them to get used to ordering food like they do at a school tuck shop. Ideally, give them a choice from a few different options. Purchase the type of healthy foods you know they’ll eat, even if they cost you more. This will actually save you money in the long run because you won’t be throwing it out (hopefully).

If this doesn’t bring any joy and you continue to get back a full lunchbox, you might have to look at supplying on-the-go finger foods. Things like carrot or celery sticks with dip are great lunchbox alternatives. Plus they won’t take you too much time to organise in the morning if you pre-cut them, place them in water and leave them in the fridge.

This brings me to my next tip. PRE-PREPARE!!! Mornings are hectic, horrible times. So trying to get complicated foods in that dreaded lunchbox as well as get everything else done is a recipe for disaster. I’ve reduced the chaos by having a specific lunchbox container that the kids go to and select what they’d like to eat that day. It’s filled with a variety of fruits, nuts, veggies and a few treats. This not only encourages them to prepare their own lunch, but to also select what will actually get eaten.

Yes, it does cost a bit to fill a container with small packages of foods. I know I could pay less for the same foods in bulk, like yogurts, custards, tuna, crackers, etc. However, if it gets eaten rather than thrown out, I figure I’m saving money. In addition to on-the-go snack type foods, we also discuss what type of wrap or sandwich they’d prefer. I mix it up by having plastic containers filled with leftovers. These are great to take to school and once again, they can be easily prepared the night before.

Finally, getting kids to eat their lunch at school isn’t rocket science. Getting back empty lunchboxes is pretty simple just as long as your organised, supply a range of things they eat and most importantly get them involved.

Image via mumsgrapevine.com.au

Should Daycare Workers And Teachers Act As Food Police?

Breaking news, parents: packets of chips, lollies, soft drinks and – gasp – even beer should not be on the menu for your child’s school lunch this summer. Shocking, I know!

And while I jest, the healthy eating message is obviously still getting lost with recent reports of a Sydney school declaring war on junk food and my child’s daycare centre issuing repeated parental reminders to pack fruit – not chips and chocolates – in every child’s lunch box.

Related: Check out top tips on how to Fight Childhood Obesity With Good Nutrition For Kids

And while the above healthy food advice seems a bit captain obvious, I know, not so for the parents of North Sydney Demonstration School, where teachers must now also act as food cops, confronting parents if they find junk food in a student’s lunchbox.

School principal Myra Wearne recently defended the introduction of “food police”, saying curbing unhealthy eating ensured students reached their full learning potential, as sugary foods impacted kids’ concentration levels.

Ms Wearne, I salute you! While the occasional kiddie treat isn’t the antichrist, it’s imperative parents teach their kids about healthy eating and that this goes hand-in-hand with regular exercise. It takes a community to raise a child, so they say, and it’s in everyone’s best interests that kids are snacking down on fruit, rather than lollies. So, I say bring on the food nazis!

And while not many parents would put beer in their kids’ school lunch boxes these days, surely – my husband actually encountered this growing up in multicultural Melbourne, when one of his little primary school mates was caught with a stubbie of beer in his lunch box – in grade three!?

After much tut-tutting from teachers, his little mate’s Eastern European parents were hauled in with a “please explain” and hopefully some helpful healthy eating guidelines for their poor, little tucker. Of course, each state’s Department of Education requires all public school canteens to categorise their menus into red, green and amber food groups, where red means “occasionally”, amber is “select carefully” and green is “have plenty, or “fill the menu”. But of course no such categorisations exist for food brought from home.

So, poor, overworked parents, as school holidays draw to a close and you start preparing for back-to-school lunchbox duties, help is at hand thanks to Sydney dietician/nutritionist and author Susie Burrell.

On Susie’s hit list includes packaged snacks such as cheese and dip snack packs, muesli bars, fruit twists and straps, potato chips and biscuit dippers, which are usually full of fat and highly processed carbohydrates, but offer little nutrition. So, what is good lunchbox nutrition?

“A nutritionally balanced lunchbox can be divided into four core sections: low glycaemic index carbohydrates for energy, proteins for nutrition and fullness, fruit for fibre and vitamins and a snack food that has some nutritional benefit,” she says.

“Most importantly, busy children need plenty of water for optimal hydration, particularly in the warmer months when small children are at high risk of dehydration.”

school lunch boxes, kids healthy eating, food police

Good options include wholegrain carbohydrates for energy; protein-rich sandwich fillings including  tuna, lean ham, chicken or turkey or hard boiled eggs; fresh fruit; protein-rich foods including low-fat dairy such as cheese sticks, yogurt tubes and flavoured milk poppers and lots and lots of water, which should always be the drink of choice for children over sugar-laden fruit juices and soft drinks.

Visit  www.susieburrell.com.au.

Main image via beautyandbananas.blogspot.com and secondary image via www.pixabay.com.