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Back to school: Seven helpful tips to pack lunch for kids

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For parents all over, you know what time of the year this is: it is back to school season! Some parents are jubilant that the kids go back to school after the long break but I have mixed feelings. I really enjoyed having my son home all day everyday and not scrambling to pack lunch for him/get him ready for school. However it didn’t give me much room for “me time” which is what I look forward to now that he is going back to school. So, it is mixed feelings over here. 

Going back to school also means trying to figure out what your child would eat at school for lunch every school day till the term is over. Thinking about this can be overwhelming! I have spent a great deal of time writing a timetable for my child’s lunch and I would love to share with you tips that can help you pack better lunch boxes that your kids would love and would make it less stressful for you!

Plan ahead
Planning your kid’s meals, the week ahead will reduce the stress of thinking on your feet when it is Tuesday morning, you’re running late for work and you still don’t know what the kids will have for lunch; or you are in the middle of making Jollof rice and you find you’ve run out of tomatoes. I like to plan my toddler’s lunch box at least the night before or weekend, if it is something that doesn’t need to be cooked fresh, to be enjoyed. Meals like rice, yam porridge, and cupcakes I can make ahead. I meal prep vegetables and raw ingredients; I leave meals like sandwiches and wraps for the morning so that they stay fresh till eaten. 

Pick a fun lunch box
Kids love something new and fun that they can show off at school, and what better incentive to make them eat their lunch than fun lunch boxes in their favourite colour or cartoon character. My 2-year-old loves cars and Thomas the Tank engine and he has been looking forward to rocking his Thomas lunch bag and Lunch Box with Cars to school. For older kids who like to be “cool”, let them choose how they like their meals to be packed. 

Let them choose
It is frustrating when you spend time packing a lunch that your child does not eat. To avoid this, include them in the process of packing lunch. I noticed my son became more excited to eat when he feels we “cooked it together,” he is more eager and that is a win for me! Let them choose fruits, snacks and tell you the kind of meals they prefer. If they have fast foods that they like, try to recreate it at home. 

Left-overs are great!
I sometimes keep some of our dinner from the day before for my toddler’s lunch, this happens the most when we eat rice, or porridge, and sometimes they taste even better the next day, ha! Plain white rice could easily become egg-fried rice for lunch just by adding scrambled eggs, mixed vegetables, and some chicken strips! 

Variety is the spice of life
Switch it up and give them options. Sometimes I pack what I call a toddler buffet. I have fruits, snacks, something sweet and little bits of almost everything. I would typically do that on Fridays (Sports Days) so, it is a much more fun day if he opens the lunch pack and sees puff-puff, chicken suya skewers, coconut rice, pineapples and parfait. Packing the same lunch every day is boring and kids get bored easily. 

Make it easy
Kids like simple things. if you will give them fruit, cut it into little bits so that it is easier for them to consume, for example cut the apples into bits instead of keeping it whole. Make the sandwiches byte sizes. Also, I like to exclude meals that would easily stain, for example beans, stews, and meals that are complicated to eat. 

Ask the teachers
Sometimes, the teacher knows best; ask the teacher what your child’s eating habits are in school, you may find that you need to break down their lunch box into three – two major snacks and a meal, or maybe one snack and a meal. Or maybe no snack at all, if they have only one break-time. 


In this article:
Yemisi Odusanya

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