By Kalie Crespin – Weld Family Clinic

When Taya started full day school and I had to start making lunch, there were a lot of uneaten lunches, stressful mornings (that included leaving my 3-time warmed up coffee in the microwave) and even some tears….from me.

Lunch seemed so easy when it was just her and I. I made lunch for the both of us, and we’d sit and eat together. I knew what she’d eat, what she wouldn’t and we made it fun. When we entered first grade, it felt like a whole new ball game.

She’d come home with a full lunch box, not even touched. Her lunches were often cold and boring. She’d get distracted by friends and her gift of people watching. She was forced to eat in a smaller window of time, with the idea of running wild outside after a few hours of sitting in a classroom lurking around the corner.

It took a lot of trial and error, but we found a system that got her to WANT to eat her lunch and helped her take ownership of it. The best part is I didn’t have to question whether or not she was getting the right nutrients!

Prep, prep, prep!

Now I know, prepping and planning isn’t for everyone. I know some moms who get overwhelmed with the idea of prepping, so if that’s you…feel free to skip this tip. The idea is that this is supposed to help DE-STRESS the lunch packing dance, so if it stresses you out DON’T do it! I repeat, SKIP THIS STEP. However, if you are like me and need it planned out beforehand or it throws you into an anxiety-ridden tail spin… Prep and plan, my friend! We pick two days a week, for us it’s Sundays and Thursdays. Thursdays are MY day to plan our meals and grocery shop and prep things the kids only make a mess of. But I leave age appropriate tasks for Taya to do so that she has ownership over what she’s taking for Sundays. This includes cutting veggies and fruit, pre-packaging them into containers for school, and making the fun “treats”.

Have a Routine

For some, its mornings, others its evenings. Do what works best for you! For us, packing a lunch in the morning just caused more chaos. However I know for some, trying to add one more thing in the evening routine is too stressful. Find what works best for you and your family and stick with it!

Get the kids to help

Like I said above, Taya helps in the weekly prep. She is also responsible for packing her lunch. She knows that every night before bed, one of her responsibilities is to grab the lunch box and fill it. That way I don’t hear, “well I didn’t like that” or “that’s not what I wanted”. She has complete ownership. Plus kids are more likely to eat what THEY packed than what you do, even if it’s the same thing!

Make it FUN!

Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, cheese fruit into fun shapes. Make fun creatures out of fruit and toothpicks. You could even make a sandwich into four squares, put one square on a kebab stick, followed by a couple veggies, then another square. They don’t have to be fancy…trust me. I would love to be the “Pinterest mom” that makes those adorable puppies out of sandwiches. But that’s not me. I barely get myself showered some mornings….so making adorable faces isn’t in the cards for me. But I can cookie cutter cheese and watermelon like no other! And the best part…..TAYA can do that!

Add in a “treat”

One of Taya’s favorite things about lunch is I have always included a treat. I’ll admit, I used to send a zebra cake EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I know, I am “that” mom that sugared up my kid before the second part of school….which meant she was wired and then would crash, making the afternoons tough on her. The good news is I started getting smarter. I started making ants on a log (Celery stick with a nut butter and small pieces of grapes because she doesn’t like raisins) or we’d make protein balls on Sundays for the week. This is one of our favorite recipes. Treats don’t have to be sugar filled!

Use the leftovers!

Make a little extra at dinner so you can use it the next day in a lunch. Have leftover taco meat from Taco Tuesday? Add it to some salad. Got left over chicken alfredo? Steam some broccoli, through it in a thermos with the alfredo and send it to school!

These six tips saved my sanity. I know what’s in Taya’s lunchbox, she’s actually eating it AND it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to pack. I hope these tips help your lunch packing crisis. What are some of your tips for making school days less stressful? Any fun recipes for the kids lunch box?

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Dr. Erik and Dr. Patricia


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