the 5-footer wants to take his lunch to school each day this year. he sees me packing my lunch every day, and he makes good food choices. but with all of the dietary changes i have to make, it adds a bit too much to my planning time during the week to also take that on. also, he's in sixth grade, and we need to spend more time teaching him some new useful life skills. i made a deal with the 5-footer.
deal: get to take lunch to school in a cool lunch box/bag for assistance in planning, shopping, and packing the lunch.
i purchased very cool lunch bags that keep his food cold at a safe temperature. (mayo going bad and food poisoning are not something i want for him. the link above his a little info-mercial, but these are available all over the web at amazon.com, ebay, etc.
additionally, a lunch made of all packaged foods really bothers me. it is so unhealthy. we rarely eat that stuff at home; i don't want him taking it to school either.) for that, he can take his lunch if he agrees to learn to plan a rotating lunch menu, the shopping list for it, and help grocery shop.
he was more than accepting of the plan. he and the 4.5-footer have been helping grocery shop with their lists and mini-carts for years. he's a old hand at grocery shopping. (number 1 helper caliber!) he is very detail-oriented (imagine that!) and likes planning, sorting, and list making. (is this kid my son?! apple...tree...)
we reviewed how to plan a rotating menu, and he started partnering up foods in the planner notebook he has for this. he did a great job for the first week of school. but.... i wished that there would be even more fun and graphical way for him to do this. also that it would be more time-effective. well, my wish has been answered.
Build Healthy Kids for an easy drag-and-drop lunch menu planner.
- review with your child that each lunch has to have one of each of the categories
- explain that our bodies and digestive systems like to have variety and no repeats for at least 3 days
- let your child put their own lunch together
- review their lunch plan together - use this opportunity to praise them! how completely fantastic is it that your kid is making super choices! if things need to be adjusted, review and discuss it together. let them tell you what they picked. let them move something, if it needs to be moved. please understand that you're teaching your kids a new skill - set aside the time to do it justice. both of you will benefit from a calm environment with enough time to complete this process.
- print out two copies of the plan
- put one copy in a prominent place (like the refrigerator)
- put the second copy on a clipboard
- before getting out of the car at the grocery store, discuss the grocery budget. talk to your child about prices and nutrition.
- bring the clipboard with you to the store. as you do your regular shopping from your list, have your child spotting things on their list.
- as they spot items on their list, pause and pay special attention to them. look at their items with them.
- help your child spot healthy substitutions and talk about lower cost items. ask your child to try to find lower cost options.
- read nutrition information with them. ask them to compare the sugar content of items too.
- have a special shelf or part of the refrigerator and cupboard where lunch supplies are stored.
- let your child help arrange this area. put them in charge of keeping it nice looking.
- have a dry run of how to pack the lunch box. - have your child fit different combinations of items into it like a puzzle. review how they packed and offer suggestions about how something might fit better and underline what they did correctly, nicely, and neatly.
- suggest that they could mark items off the list as they pack them.
- decide with your child when packing their lunch fits into their morning routine. (we have an agreement of no screen time in the morning until after the following things are completed - breakfast, dressing, grooming, packing lunch, packing school bag and putting it by the door)
- model what needs to happen when they return home with a used lunch bag. where do you expect the containers to land? does the lunchbox get wiped out? does it get stored in the freezer or somewhere else?
- praise them each day for packing their lunch, using the chart to mark things off, and keeping the food items neatly.
- if something is out of place or needs to be done differently, ask them politely to adjust it. give them positive feedback about something related that they are doing very well.