I had the school lunch conversation with a colleague who is sending her only son off to kindergarten.
What do I pack him for lunch? she asked me.
I'm far from an expert in the school lunch idea discussion. But I have been packing school lunches for the past eight years for my kids. And I've gotten pretty good at figuring out what works for them. No sandwiches for my older daughter but, if that's all we have, certainly no mayonnaise. Sandwiches, but only those cut in shapes with a cookie cutter, for my younger daughter. Mayonnaise is a must for her.
Here's what's worked for me. These all are things that I know one or both of my kids, who are both good eaters, will actually eat. My older daughter buys lunch at school once a week. She picks the day.
Protein, entree ideas
- Greek yogurt with granola packed separately so it doesn't get mushy
- Cheese slices or cubes and crackers
- A couple of cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese
- Boiled egg
- Nuts or trail mix - pistachios and almonds are favorites.
- Deli meat and cheese roll-ups. Just roll up a piece of meat inside a slice of cheese
- Hummus with chips or vegetables, though my three-year-old loves hummus so much she actually just eats it with a spoon
- Pasta salad with whatever I have on hand, including black olives, capers, diced cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil, all tossed in olive oil.
- Bagel with cream cheese
- Sandwiches - deli meat and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, of course. My younger daughter also enjoys cream cheese and jelly or honey. Sometimes I roll up the sandwich in a flour tortilla, though that's not a favorite for my kids.
- Chicken noodle soup in thermos. That seems to be the only thing they'll eat in the thermos.
- Leftover pizza
- Leftover macaroni and cheese (a favorite of my younger daughter who loves it cold)
- Black bean and corn salad - an equal mix of black beans and corn, seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed with some olive oil. I sometimes add grape tomatoes to the salad.
I always add some combination of fruit, vegetables and grain to the above. Favorites at my house are any kind of fresh fruit, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, celery, cucumber and sugar snap peas. I also usually stick in a granola bar, small cup of yogurt, raisins, pretzels, dried cranberries, dried apricots, muffin, popcorn and a very occasional treat.
I pack milk for my preschooler and a bottle of water for my grade schooler, but I'll be attempting to switch her over to milk from time to time too.
So I'd love to hear what you're packing in your kids' lunches. Please share favorites in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").
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