Go-To Lunches to Make with Your Kids
I remember being in grade two and standing in the kitchen with my parents and sister as we all made our lunches together. I would talk with my friends at school, and they would open their lunch bags and complain about what their mom packed them. I was shocked – what do you mean your mom made your lunch for you?! I was definitely jealous.
Fast forward a few decades, and I realize just how important the lessons I learned by making my lunch were. It wasn’t that my parents couldn’t be bothered to pack my lunch for me, it was that they wanted to empower me to do it myself: to plan ahead, to think through my day and what I needed, to be responsible daily for my own wellbeing. To this day meal planning is a huge part of my weekly routine, and I always pack a healthy lunch for work (good for my health and my bank account!).
My own kids are in grade 5 and 3, and I have taken this practice into our daily lives. I provide the parameters for our family – expectations regarding appropriate portion sizes, food groups that need to be included, and quantities – and they work within those parameters to create lunches that work for them. They have even started contributing to our weekly grocery list, knowing that if they want particular foods they need to think ahead to ensure we have them on hand. And it definitely leads to less arguments – it’s hard to get mad that you don’t like your lunch when you made it!
Some of the benefits of having the kids make their lunches:
- Understanding how to build a well-balanced day of meals
- Planning ahead
- Contributing to the family
- Taking ownership
- Learning responsibility
- Developing lifelong habits
There are lots of days that it would be easier (and soooo much faster) for me to do it myself, but I’m proud of the lessons my kids are learning about responsibility and nutrition.
Here’s a list of our top go-to lunches:
1) Wraps – easy to make and even easier to customize. Be sure to put out lots of options like cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped apples to pack in some extra nutrition. You can vary up your protein based on what you have at home – chicken, turkey, ham, beans, tofu, you name it.
2) Sandwiches – I mean, classic, right?? A variety of lunch meats, spreads, and thinly sliced veggies help to make these a staple – even today.
3) Leftovers – my kids loooove leftovers for lunch, especially pasta. A thermos goes a long way here – just heat and pack in the morning.
4) Salads – with so many options for salads out there, the possibilities are endless. You can find tons of salad topper options at the grocery store to add some variety. I recommend a good, no-leak container for the dressing. Nobody likes a dressing spill in their lunch bag.
5) Bento Boxes – adding lots of little nibblies in different containers is great for those kids who like to graze through the day. Try adding veggies and dip, cut up fruit, yogurt, pita or crackers, or homemade granola bars or energy bites. We love these Fig And Cranberry Energy Bites from Breakfast Club of Canada.
Director, BOKS Canada (and Mom to two lunch making experts)