Are you looking for ideas for packing your kids lunch box?
This is a general source of frustration for many moms, myself included. We never seem to get it quite right. The kids either love it or hate it, it is not enough or it is too much…their friends have better lunches than them they say. So, what’s a mom got to do? Well, I have some suggestions.
In order to better plan for this post, I approached my kids’ school to ask for permission to photograph some or all lunch boxes. However, being a public school, they have limitations due to legal reasons.
They, did allow me to take pictures of lunchboxes of kids whose parents gave me permission to do so. I also got to see the lunches all the kids bought and here are my thoughts/suggestions:
There is no supermom who is packing fantastic meals out there
Let me just break that myth right now. I saw a whole range of lunches in the lunch room – regular lunches, hastily packed ones, fast food packed ones, lunchable product ones and school lunches. There is no one bringing a 4-course meal of any kind. There was NO meal that made me think, “Wow!! Mind Blown” or “which culinary goddess/god packed this meal?”!!
Every lunch was a regular affair – e.g. South Indian kids brought idli, rice dishes, etc. North Indian kids packed paratha, chapathis etc. Chinese kids packed rice with egg or meat. American kids got pasta, sandwiches etc.
Now, of course, there were cross-cultural lunches. Indian kids also packed pasta, Chinese kids also bought sandwiches, etc but a rough categorization revealed most kids bringing dishes closer to their home cuisine.
So, why is your kid then vying for something else? My theory is: the monotony. We, moms, prefer our comfort zones, because, it involves less complexity. With all the rushing in the morning, which South Indian mom wants to break out her paratha-making skills? Or which North Indian mom wants to try steam idlis? While, the frustration is understandable, breaking the monotony does not have to be a major culinary adventure – kids seem to be happy with a cold slice of pizza occasionally as well. The bar is that low. So, mix it up once in a while, nothing too complicated.
Tailor the lunch specific to your child
Breaking the monotony, once in a while, is fine; but for everyday meals – tailor it to the needs of your child. Each child’s eating habits are unique. Think about how you can address the needs specific to your child.
Is your child a picky eater?
I know kids who will not eat if certain foods touch each other. Or if you pack 4 items instead of 3, they get overwhelmed. What may seem silly to you, is a genuine problem for the child. Address concerns from their point of view.
Is your child a young athlete?
Pack your food with dense foods that can give them lots of energy. Cheese sticks, nut butters, beef jerky (if they eat meat), burgers, etc. are all good options
Are you concerned with your child’s increasing weight?
Pack a side salad, seaweed snacks, a couple of fruits or send some low calorie drinks from home like buttermilk, coconut water, etc to keep them full without feeling deprived.
Find out how the school organizes the lunch time
Have you talked to your child about their school’s lunch time? Where do they eat? How much time do they have?
For e.g., only when I went to the school for taking pictures, did I realize that lunch is a rather rushed affair here. First, the junior classes come into the cafeteria at 12:00, sit down, eat for 10-15 minutes, by which time the lunch staff encourage them to finish up. The senior classes rumble in at 12:20, get seated, talk more than eat and then run out and play.
In this situation, given the pressure in timing, I feel, it best to provide a few dense food options like grilled cheese sandwiches, parathas, eggs, paneer cubes, sunflower butter etc. This is especially relevant to children who are slow eaters.
Given my blog and my constant need to needle things:), here is a flop, success and a tip from my lunch box experiments.
I tried making paruppu-sadam (lentils+ rice) ball rolls using ice-cream scoops thinking it will be like a fun Indian style sushi. Reaction – Meh… I think I was more excited about these cute balls than my kids!!.
I tried making dunkers out of ragi idli batter using a dokla steamer and cutting it into rectangles. The kids liked the home-made chocolate sauce a lot and were slightly impressed with the dunkers. (Yes, score!!)
One day, we were running late to school and I asked my lil’ one to pick up the pace. She said, “No, mommy, then the food in the living room [of the container, I guess] will jump into the fruits and the ninja olive will escape into the next shelf:).” She has some minor food touching OCD’s and from then on, I use plastic wraps to secure the runaway foods.
I asked the children to write down their favorite lunch box meals and here are some of their answers:
Sounds like a very normal list, doesn’t it? Parents, don’t stress out. Lunchbox planning need not be a mind-boggling activity. You don’t have to invent new items (like me- trust me, they don’t always pan out).
Talk to the kids, ask them for ideas. Discuss healthy food options with them. Recruit their help in packing lunches as well. The more input you get from them, the more they will like the results.
Share your thoughts, comments down below. As always, I love hearing from you!!