Would you think I was weird if I told you one of my greatest joys as a mother is packing Cooper’s lunch every day?
There’s something so maternally satisfying about packing that little boy’s Chicago Cub’s lunch box jam packed with all the food I can fit into it. No joke. Sometimes I spend hours a day on Amazon researching the latest and greatest in lunch box supplies. #Momlife at it’s finest.
This year, Coop has only opted for hot lunch ONE day, and he immediately came home and declared that he wouldn’t be doing that again. He’s going through a phase in his life called growing, and he’s crushing it. Sadly, the lunches at his school just don’t provide enough food to keep him full during the day until he can come home and snag that after school snack.
Which means it’s Lunch Mom to the rescue. Packing this kid’s lunch box five days a week, while it brings me a lot of joy, also has its fair share of struggles.
One of the common questions I keep running into is how to keep his meals healthy, tasty, and fun – without it being the same dang thing every single day?
While I’m definitely working on compiling a list of all my school lunch meal ideas (so stay tuned!), here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that help keep Coop’s lunches checking those must-have-mama boxes.
Plan Your Meals in Advance
Just like I preach the importance of meal prep (because it makes our lives SO MUCH EASIER), think about your kiddos’ lunch in a meal-prep sense as well. Keep a calendar handy and write down in advance what you’ll be packing each day.
Not only will this help you keep things fresh (aka so you don’t pack the same thing every single day), but it’ll keep your life more organized, help you stay on track when you go to the grocery store and Target (husbands, you’re welcome), and actually save you time each morning when you’re packing those lunch boxes to the brim.
As part of your planning, make sure that you’re including a variety of the types of foods, too. Pack a protein and a complex carb, a fruit and a veggie, and then I like to include some form of a “treat” – whether it be Coop’s favorite organic fruit snacks, or the occasional chocolate covered pretzels from Fresh Thyme.
Make it Colorful
Just like they say the more color you find in your refrigerator the healthier your foods are? There’s a direct correlation – seriously. Make your kiddos’ lunch pretty colorful, too. Not only will it look more appealing, but it’ll be more likely to be full of all the nutrients we want our kids to get.
Mix it up each day between colorful fruits and veggies. Some of our favorite go-tos include carrots (with ranch), apple slices, strawberries, cuties, and sliced peppers.
There’s a spot for this in the FREE Weekly School Lunch Planner opt-in I included above, but I always like to make sure Coop will have everything he needs with his lunch!
So.. I make sure to pack all the extras! Things like paper towels, spoons or forks, dipping sauces if applicable, and then I top everything off with a surprise from mom. This is typically in the form of a note. I either write a few words of encouragement for the day, a reminder that may be important and he won’t want to forget (like hey dude.. don’t forget to bring home your watch at the end of the day), or a hilarious joke he’ll give me props for later.
I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. 😉
Don’t Stress It
It’s a well known fact in parenthood that your child’s favorite food one day might make him shudder in repulsion the very next. So, don’t spend too much time stressing if he or she comes home at the end of the day and it looks like lunch was barely touched.
They’re not going to starve, and skipping out on that beautiful, well-thought out lunch one day every now and then isn’t going to hurt them.
It’s true. Other parents might be judging what you’re packing in your kiddos’ lunch boxes. But who the heck cares? Packing a treat that’s full of sugar or processed ingredients every now and then is normal. Now – I don’t recommend packing nothing BUT that kind of food. But slipping a piece of candy, cookies, or Cheetos into that lunch box every now and then is FINE.
I mean.. how else are you supposed to get rid of the leftover Halloween candy that you’re trying super hard not to chomp on? Throw a piece or two in there on Fridays and call it a day. It’s balance. Teach ’em young.
What are some of your best tips and tricks for packing the ultimate school lunch? Comment them below!
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.