Friday, October 26, 2012

The "No Lunch" Lunch Box Solution

For the past couple years I've been dreading the moment Big A starts Grade 1, and I have to pack her a lunch.  We've found that the daycares have a way of getting our kids to eat, or at least try, all sorts of things that they otherwise wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.  I was very concerned that Big A's nutrition was going to seriously deteriorate.

Truthfully, it has been challenging, but not as awful as I'd imagined, once I learned a trick or two.

First of all, I discovered that less is more.  Being a Jewish mother and all, I default towards packing too much food (just as when I cook, I always make enough for a small country - or so Adam says).  But hey, god forbid my child should go hungry!  However, I found that when I did this, not only was Big A less likely to finish all the food, she was less likely to eat anything.  Perhaps too much food looks intimidating? 

I got very concerned several times when her lunch box came home with only a few bites missing.  How was she making it through her day?  She had gym!  She played in the school yard!  She is growing!!  It was also very annoying to have to throw out so much food, particularly foods that I know she likes: no-nut butter and honey sandwiches, spaghetti, vegetarian sushi.  It all ended up in the garbage with nary a nibble taken out.

Adam reminded me that Big A usually eats more for breakfast than most kids eat in a day, so she really isn't going to starve.  He's right and not exaggerating.  For example, this past Wednesday she had a big bowl of oatmeal, banana (an entire banana) and cinnamon, followed by 2 pieces of whole wheat bread with honey, and something else (I can't remember).  Then when I dropped the girls off at daycare, she had a plate of pancakes they were serving. 

So I stopped worrying she was going to starve and that's when I finally found something that works.  I don't pack her a lunch at all!  Before you call the authorities on me, let me explain: when I pack her a bunch of food which all appear to be 'snacks', rather than a 'meal'.  Now each day I pack her 1 fruit, 1 veggie, 1 'other snack' and a 'treat'.  Other snacks include: cheese and crackers, hard boiled eggs, a mini-pita pizza, rice cakes and yogurt, etc.  I only give her a small amount of each.  The treats might be: a homemade muffin/cookie/brownie (whole grain, sugar-free, stuffed with veggies sometimes...), homemade popcorn, or dried fruit.  The final thing I learned is that if you call something a 'treat', it is most likely going to get eaten.  Big A always asks what her treat is for the day  If I haven't packed one of our usual treats, than I can declare 'yogurt' the treat, and it will for sure get eaten.

Although Big A was a bit surprised at first, she came home and said, "Mommy you didn't pack me a lunch today!", she comes home with much less uneaten food, AND I actually spend much less time prepping food for her lunches because it's all so easy to throw together.  Win-win!

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