I missed the first day of school due to a particularly crazy custody schedule this month. You learn to let go of that stuff. I didn’t cry or feel terrible. Instead I figured I’d just wait until they came to my house and take pictures a few days later. Turns out the pictures come out just the same.
I still have trouble getting a decent smile out of the two of them. Especially not simultaneously. It just wasn’t happening. We may have just started school, but the lunch battle is ongoing. I’m lucky in a lot of ways. My kids eat a lot of healthy foods. They willingly eat vegetables! (Well, Graham does, anyway.) But lunch has always been a struggle.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that there’s plenty of time to try something new. I’ve partnered with Stop ‘n Shop for this post to talk about packing a healthy school lunch. We’ve tried a lot of things in the 3 years that Graham’s been bringing his lunch to school. And we’ll try plenty more things before he’ll actually eat the school-provided lunch. The battle goes on, and I’m willing to bet a lot of you are in the same spot.
We were in a decent place with lunch at the end of last year, but there was definitely room for improvement. One step forward is a new lunch box handed down from a friend. I’m so over the sad insulated lunch bags we’ve been using thus far. They may be cheap, but it’s an instance of getting what you pay for. The new Yumbox (Amazon affiliate link!) is washable and locks nice and tight. No more smelly gross insulated lunch bags for us. (Although the Yumbox does fit nicely inside one if you want to insulate it.)
Next up is trying out some new foods. The lunch box got Graham excited enough to try some new things. So we brainstormed at the grocery store and came home with some new options.
We kept plenty of old standards and added in some new things to try.
What’s worked for us in the past:
Pick a veggie for the week. You can certainly do two, but Graham doesn’t mind the repetition most days. Graham’s veggies of choice are pictured: broccoli and peppers. Usually he gets red or green peppers, but orange and yellow were on sale (!!) so I mixed it up. Graham always gets to pick his veggie himself. Other picks have included celery and cucumber.
Sandwiches as staple. It took Graham a few years to even consider eating sandwiches so I’m happy to take advantage of them now that he eats them. He doesn’t get a lot of whole grains, so the sandwich is an excuse for that. I always make his sandwich with soy butter since he can’t take nut products to camp over the summer and this way he doesn’t have a transition. Occasionally I replace the sandwich with leftover cheese tortellini. (The kids will only eat one kind of tortellini. It’s only carried at one store. Guess which one! We can’t go more than a week or two without a Stop ‘n Shop visit, I am completely serious.)
Blueberry bonanza. As long as blueberries are in season (and they’ve been on sale for months, it’s been amazing) I get them. Eventually we’ll transition to another fruit, apple season is practically upon us. (If anyone has good tricks for keeping your apples from getting brown in the lunch box I’d love to hear them.)
String cheese twists. I spent ages being the mean mom for not buying the special twist string cheese. But now Stop ‘n Shop has a generic version and I am ALL about store brand. 90% of my cart is store brand and produce when I grocery shop.
Then came time to talk about some NEW foods. The new food conversation doesn’t usually go all that well in our house. We’re working on it, and I’m regularly encouraging Graham to try new things. As he gets older he’s more willing to take at least one or two bites and I take what I can get.
If you plan to try a new lunchbox, I highly recommend using that time to discuss new foods. The enthusiasm for his lunchbox definitely trickled down and made new options a lot easier.
As for the new options, over the weekend we tried out some new ones.
Hard-Boiled Eggs. Graham had never had them before but he likes scrambled eggs and it seemed worth a shot. He’s practically a vegetarian so I’m always looking for protein.
Roasted Chickpeas. To replace crackers or chips, a healthier choice with a simple olive oil drizzle and a sprinkle of salt.
Both were declared delicious.
And then both were complained about when given for lunch.
I expect this, honestly. It takes a few times. That initial enthusiasm wears down. I’ll try at least a couple more batches of roasted chickpeas, this one is on the chewy side and I think he’ll do better if they’re crunchier.
He found the egg too cold, so I’m going to be more aware of the insulated case next time and maybe just leave the cold pack in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Plus add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
To fill in the gaps in his lunchbox where there’s extra space I’ve thrown in squares of cheese and whole black olives, always a favorite.
I have more plans to try. More proteins, more fruits, more whatever else comes to mind. And we’ll keep rotating through our standards. It’s a long school year ahead, and I’m ready to get in a rhythm.
Thanks, Stop ‘n Shop, for sponsoring this post. As you’ve probably noticed I take on very few sponsored partners and when I do it’s usually something I want to talk about and am lucky enough to get to bring a brand into that I enjoy. This compensation helps keep the blog going, thanks for your support.