As we are busy preparing to send our children back to school it’s also time to prep ourselves with a school lunch plan. Last week I posted my Top 8 Tips for Packing Healthy School Lunches to get you started.
Making sure that you are properly equipped to pack well balanced healthy meals requires a few essentials. Long gone are the days of brown paper bags and zip lock baggies. These lunchbox essentials will ensure you a successful year of healthy lunches:)
You can also join me at your local library next month as we discuss HEALTHY KID LUNCHES. Learn how to pack simple, balanced and healthy meals for your child. A children’s activity and food samples will be included so bring the kids and let’s talk lunch. Click here for locations and times. Here is a picture from my latest event – the kids had a great time and so did the moms. We had a very engaged and unplanned discussion group after class about label reading which I truly enjoyed.
Let’s get started:
- Durable lunchbox/bag – Kids lunchboxes must be able to withstand some pretty rough treatment so check the quality and make sure it is durable (not just covered with a favorite character). Also be sure to purchase only insulated lunchboxes which will help ensure the correct temperature of your food. Lunchboxes that stand and stay upright will help keep food from being tossed about as opposed to standard “kid” lunchboxes which are designed to be opened from the side and carried from the top.
- Water bottles -Sending your child to school with a water bottle each day will ensure they are staying properly hydrated. Most schools now allow kids to keep their water bottle at their desk which will encourage them to drink more. Even if you send a juice box or milk at lunch you should still send a water bottle for your child to use throughout the day. This helps instill a very healthy habit early on. There are many varieties to choose from including stainless steel, plastic and insulated. Keep the size and weight in mind as your child will be carrying it with him through the day. We use these 12 oz stainless steel bottles and my kids refill them throughout the day as needed.
- Storage containers – The options are endless ranging in size, color, shape and material. Stainless steel comes with a hefty price but investing in a good set of containers such as these will prove worth the money, these containers hold up for years. Plastic is less expensive but must also be replaced more often. Compartments will help you to easily keep food separated without sending an abundance of baggies and small containers. You also have the option of leakproof containers to help keep foods from leaking into each other. Keep in mind the portion sizes when ordering containers. The large versions are generally for adults or older children and most large containers will not fit in child size lunchboxes.
- Small/snack containers – Smaller containers such as these are great for sending snacks or food that needs to be kept separate from the main meal such as applesauce and dips. They also serve as add ons when you just can’t fit everything into the compartment containers.
- Insulated containers: These are necessary for keeping your hot foods hot and your cold foods cold. Leftover soups and pastas, oatmeal or yogurt parfaits are best kept in insulated containers such as these.
- Silicone muffin liners– These are not only great for separating items but they add a touch of fun with bright colors and a variety of shapes. Use the muffin liners to separate foods in the larger compartments. Sometimes they need to be broken down (who wants their berries laying on top of their crackers or nuts), so to create a separation simply add the colorful muffin liners.
- Popsicle molds – These allow you to make your own smoothie pops or go-gurts and send them along for lunch. Simply pour a favorite smoothie into the molds and freeze overnight. In the morning transfer from the freezer directly into the lunchbox. Be sure to pack a sufficient amount of ice packs. Warning: the tops do not stay on so fold these over as much as possible and secure in a compartment of a lunch container. Here are some examples of how to pack smoothie pops and homemade go-gurts. These molds can also be used as a fun container for an add on such as nuts, grapes or raisins.
- Ice packs – These are essential for keeping food at a safe and tasty temperature. One small ice pack is not enough if you are packing dairy or spoilable items. Be sure to pack 2 or even 3 ice packs to keep food cold enough. I recently discovered these ice blankets and I LOVE them. They are flexible so you can wrap your entire container in them.
- Napkins – Send a cloth napkin so your child can wipe his hands and mouth before heading back to the classroom. This will save his clothes from being used instead:)
- Love – Send some love each day with a little message to your child instead of opting for candy or a treat. A simple note on a post-it let’s them know you are thinking of them without using sugar:). There are many free printables available online to print your own “love notes” or you can opt for a set of pre-printed lunch notes and stickers. My daughter loves reading joke books so this year I ordered this mini book of riddles to tear one out each day and place it in her lunchbox.
Do you have any additional lunch packing essentials that you can’t pack without?