Friday, August 31, 2012

Reopening the School Lunch Bag

We're starting the year off with a brand new Angry Birds lunch bag.
He loved the Calgary Flames one he had last year but it was too big.
Rather than fight to get it in and out of his bag,
he'd just leave it there sometimes
and not touch his lunch!
Jonas and I are spending the day together today, and one of our goals is get the fridge and pantry stocked with healthy stuff for his school lunches and snacks. We'll probably opt-in to the fresh milk program at his school again this year. For $1 a day we can get him a fresh carton of white or chocolate milk every day. It's served cold, which he much prefers to the lukewarm version he ends up with when he brings it from home. Between that and his water bottle, his drinks are covered. That just leaves the rest of the lunch bag to fill.
Step One is to go grocery shopping. Our goals are simple: find healthy food that he likes, stay away from processed foods as much as we can, and get things that are small enough (or which can be prepared small enough) that he can eat them quickly. A whole sandwich, for example, will go to waste, but a small wrap that can be eaten in a few bites is perfect. Stated even more simply: we want to find things that are healthy and that he'll actually eat before he rushes off to play.

Our initial shopping list looks like this:
  • fresh fruit - small apples, mandarin oranges, berries, grapes, baby bananas, watermelon, homemade apple sauce
  • fresh veggies - celery sticks, baby cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, baby corn, small salads
  • eggs, cheese, tuna, pepperoni sticks, left-over meats
  • whole grain crackers and wraps, homemade mini muffins
  • mini yogurts and homemade dips
In the past five years, we've faced the "but Johnny gets to bring....." argument almost daily. (Yes, even during the first four year when he was home for lunch - the best nutritional solution - we still got comparisons to the snacks the other kids had.) It boggles my mind the number of kids who bring pop, chocolate, cookies and chips in their lunches. I've been a volunteer in the classroom and have seen it with my own eyes, so it's not just Jonas's wishful thinking that this is a regular thing with his classmates. I'm sorry but I just can't do it. Especially given how little he eats during the day, I might as well forget the healthy stuff if I pack him this kind of stuff. He needs nutritious calories, not just calories.

Step Two is to take him shopping so he can pick out the healthy things that he'd like in his lunches next week. Also, we'll pick up some new little Tupperware containers to keep everything organized. Getting him involved in the shopping will hopefully get us better buy-in when it comes to actually eating his lunches. Not to mention that better nutritional and financial awareness is a good thing for kids.

Step Three is to get him involved in preparing our lunches together at night. (I'll be modelling good behaviour by packing my lunch every day too.) He's terrible at deciding what he wants to eat, especially that far in advance. One thing we do to counter this is to send him with a variety of things every day. When we give him a choice of a couple of fruits, a couple of veggies and a couple of other things, there's a much better chance of him eating at least half of his lunch. Hopefully, when he's involved in deciding what those things are, maybe he'll be even more inclined to eat them. Maybe. Time will tell.
So, a shopping we shall go. Wish us luck!



  1. I went to private school until the 7th grade. So that meant bringing my own lunch. There wasn't much thought put into it. It was pretty much a ham sandwich with mayo on white bread, a bag of chips and a juice box. HighC's Ecto-Cooler was liquid gold to me. I was one of those kids who pretty much ate the same thing day in and day out and didn't like change. Still don't! I still eat a ham sandwich for lunch. Just now with mustard instead of mayo.

    Then came public school.....and a cafeteria. Cheeseburgers, Tacos, Burritos, Chicken Fingers, Fried Shrimp. We eve had a Slurpee machine! Loved it. We had a soda machine in the library we could freely use between classes.

    Then High School. Thank God for vending machines because cafeterias are a war zone in American High Schools. Not enough time or food to go around. I survived pretty much on chips and soda for lunch.

    But now the machines are all gone. Which stinks cause it was for many kids their only source of food during the day.

  2. Nutrition can be so hard, Izzy, especially when we try to teach our kids healthy habits when they're young and they are faced with seemingly limitd choices as they grow into teenagers. I fell into the same trap of eating junk in high school because it was cheap and easy. It used to drive my parents crazy that I just refused to pack a lunch. Of course, now Steve and I are in the same boat with my step-daughter. It's like the food circle of life!