Image Some moms celebrate the freedom of having the kids back in school and some moms wish the summer would last just a little longer, but I’ve yet to meet a mom who doesn’t, at least occasionally, dread making lunches (and to think…it’s ONLY September!)

Even if you have adventurous eaters, you run out of ideas. Your kids get bored. You forget to run to the store. Don’t you wish you were like those other moms (ya know, those “supermoms”) who pack an inspired, healthy lunch, that their kids look forward to eating?

This may look like dinner to some people, but in our house it could be a snack. After a long day at school, children’s bodies and brains need fuel from real food, not filler.
If you’re already feeling drained and dreading the lunch drama, check out my Do’s and Don’ts list below. And remember, you’re doing the best you can, you aren’t a superhero (and neither am I).

DO’s

  1. DO send them with the healthiest version of what you know they like. I’ve found that school lunch isn’t the best place to experiment. Here are a few lunches that my moms have had success with: macaroni & cheese, chili with chips, chicken soup, spaghetti with meatballs, bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, fried rice.
  2. DO remember they may not eat what you send. The cafeteria can be distracting and often there isn’t enough time for slower eaters to finish their food (that’s for another newsletter topic!)  The best thing you can do is to be prepared to feed them their healthiest meal AFTER SCHOOL. Most kids come home starving by 4pm. If, at this point, you offer “fillers” like crackers, cookies, ice cream, etc., you’ve missed a great opportunity to fill their hungry bellies and tired brains with nutritious foods. After school snacks might be one of the most important meals of the day for school-aged children and, since they are likely hungry, they’re more likely to eat healthier fare. Here are a few of my favorite after school snacks: hummus with cut veggies, soup, scrambled eggs, fresh guacamole with chips, oatmeal smoothie, english muffin pizza. And here’s a little secret, I actually feed my kids “dinner” around 4:30pm. Later, when we eat as a family, we can enjoy the meal together and I am less concerned with how much dinner they eat because I know they’ve already been well fed.
  3. DO pack their lunch in fun, interesting and eco-friendly containers. I’m coveting one of those stainless steel boxes from www.planetbox.com but haven’t bitten the bullet yet. I use the reusable baggies from http://www.snacktaxi.com/ and http://www.lunchskins.com/ for sandwiches and when I’m packing a wrap or bigger sandwich I use a reusable wrap like this one .  For hot things like soups, stews, chili, meatballs or mac & cheese, I love my Thermos!

Don’ts:

  1. DON’T assume that since school food standards have been improved that the food in your child’s cafeteria is healthy (or palatable). Many parents rely on school lunches and it is our right and responsibility to know what is being served (a copy of the menu often doesn’t reflect the real story) so ask to pay an in-person visit to get the whole truth (a wig and sunglasses may protect your child from embarrassment).
  2. DON’T fall trap to pre-made lunches that are loaded with salt, MSG, sugar and other ingredients that are harmful to children (and other living things). They may be convenient in the moment but so not worth the cost of your child’s health and well-being.
  3. DON’T assume that if you pack your child with a healthy lunch that they’ll be subject to ridicule or peer pressure. Several parents have actually approached me asking about what I sent for my son’s lunch because their child wanted what my kid had.