As soon as our children reach school age, we take on a whole host of new worries: Will my kid have friends? Is learning fun? Is the day too long?
But my constant concern since my oldest set out for the big world of kindergarten 12 years ago wasn’t the social or learning part of school, but rather the lack of nutritious school lunches. Just last week, my third-grader was offered the following menu: super nachos on Monday followed by cheese sticks (deep fried that is) Tuesday, chicken teriyaki dippers on Wednesday and Krisp n’ Krunchy chicken tenders Thursday. With these menu offerings, I had to say thank goodness it was only a four-day week!
In an attempt to find healthier alternatives, I’ve been packing my youngest son’s school lunches lately and surprisingly he doesn’t seem to mind. I order my groceries once per week, so it takes careful planning for of each week’s snack and lunch. I take pride in variety, creativity and a smile from my 8-year old! Most weeks look something like this:
- Monday: Whole wheat sandwich with turkey and American cheese. Mandarin oranges serve as a nice side.
- Tuesday: He brings a thermos with a little something warm – soup or chili or stew (often left over from the night before or frozen lunch portions planned in advance). Some grapes or an apple complete the meal.
- Wednesday: Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly or cheese and ham, and some carrot sticks on the side.
- Thursday: At this point in the week I’m often low on groceries, but my commitment hasn’t wavered. As I rummage through my snack drawer and refrigerator I assemble his lunch box with nutritious and fun snacks. We call it the “snack ‘n pack” day because often it’s not a real meal, but rather a selection of snacks ranging from cheese sticks, sliced peppers, fruit a la mode (leftovers cubed or sliced), rolled up slices of ham or turkey, celery with peanut butter, and a few crackers.
- Friday: Halleluja – he gets to buy the dreaded school lunch. He’s happy (Fridays are special he says) and I’m fresh out of lunch ideas. Works for both of us!
Take the challenge! Try one month of homemade lunches and you too will feel that you are doing something important for the health of your child.