Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Healthy Kid Lunches

Henry graduated from the Youngest Children's Community at his Montessori school. He's been there since he was 18 months-old, so it was a bittersweet transition. The teachers and I cried as we said goodbye, and we exchanged gifts. The nice part is that we were able to transfer him to a different campus (of the same school), so our commute is cut in half. 

When he was in the Youngest Children's Community, the children worked together to make lunch for themselves every day: tacos, pizza, sandwiches, hummus, etc. It was the sweetest, most amazing thing. Now that he's in primary (ages 3-6), we have to send him with a lunch every day. What a huge transition! 

I wasn't particularly eager to add one more item to our to-do list every day, but so far packing a lunch hasn't been bad. I ordered this dragonfly lunch box from L.L.Bean because it received high ratings for keeping food cold. Then I ordered this Bento box style lunch container and this water bottle. After learning more about how they do lunch at his school (the children transfer their food onto real plates), I realized it probably wasn't the best option. It would have been easier for him to transfer food from tiny containers. Oh well. I like that the compartments are labeled with the food groups, which helps Henry learn how to balance his meals. It also makes packing and cleaning even easier. 

I tried to figure out how to make it easier to pack his lunches, not waste food, and offer Henry a variety of things to eat. I decided that I would send him the same thing for five days in a row and then switch to new things the following week. I was able to add the items to our meal plan (as Henry Lunch #1, Henry Lunch #2, etc.). Here are some of the things we intend to send:

  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Edamame

  • Pepper jack cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Colby jack cheese

  • Crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Rice cakes
  • Pita bread

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Oranges

  • Snap peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli 
  • Cauliflower

  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
I'm tempted to buy four more of these so we can pack them all at the same time for the entire week. It seals tightly, so it would be similar to storing everything in Tupperware. 

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Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, that is to bad that community lunches are abandoned already. They really work are so nice (provided special diets and preferences are manageable)!

As a kindergarten teacher I probably have a completely different outlook on school lunches than a parent. In your situation I'd be inclined to ask the teachers what works best because I'm betting they'll have some good insights. I'd be remiss if I didn't also make a comment myself though :)

In the list of meals you listed from the youngest children's community, I notice that most were one dish meals. In my experience, those types of school lunches are far more successful then the bento box variety. Very few 4, 5 or 6 year olds seem to be able to manage the breadth of choices that come with such a lunch (or many cute individual containers in one sack).

Anxiety over where to start can be a real problem. I'm not kidding. And being able to tell what "finished" looks like is an important task for these young ones too.

As I've talked to parents about this over the years many have come to find that dinner leftovers and/or a sandwich for lunch bring ease into their own lives too. You just might like it too!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, elementsofmylife! I tried to get recommendations from his school before purchasing a lunchbox, but I never heard back from them. We've been using it for a couple weeks now and Henry loves it. I think he really enjoys all the variety. I also think it pushes us to ensure that he has a balanced meal and that every component is really healthy. It comes home empty nearly every day, and he asks to use it for snacks.

Even though I only listed the main dish from his previous lunches at school, there were sides included, too.

I'll definitely be on the look out for the issue you described. Thanks!

mamaschlick said...

Just wondering if you are raising Henry vegetarian since (I think) both you and Matt are?

mamaschlick said...


Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, mamaschlick! Yes, Matt and I are both vegetarian so we always eat vegetarian at home. We also only order vegetarian at restaurants. However, we want Henry to be able to make his own choices, so we let him eat meat when the opportunity arises, especially if it doesn't contain gross hormones and chemicals.

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