Lunch Ideas (With Photos)
I’ve been wanting to share about our lunches for quite some time but I feel like I need to preface this entire post with a huge disclaimer: I am just a mom that enjoys making lunches. I do not offer any professional health opinions. I also do not want any mom (or person) to read this post and feel any type of guilt about the way they feed their children. This is not a post meant to belittle, pass judgement, or make ANYONE feel less than. We are all just doing our best here. I’m going to share some of my thoughts on food in regards to kids and packing lunches. If anything, I hope you’ll find some inspiration and some grace because motherhood is hard and the last thing we need is to be harder on ourselves.
As a mom, I feel the weight of my responsibility to feed my children. Some days, I feed them well. Other days, it feels like a win to get a corn dog on the table. I try not to dwell on the times that my kids happen to eat a little more junk food than I would like because I know that, ultimately, my job is to help them develop a healthy relationship with food… Perhaps a little healthier than my own. I’m not trying to raise any emotional eaters, ya feel me?
From the time my kids were little and first eating solid foods, we didn’t hold back on introducing them to all types of foods. Maybe we’re just blessed with adventurous eaters or maybe the exposure to different types of foods paid off. Either way, I know that my kids probably eat foods that the “average” child may not. I don’t say that to condemn picky eaters. I say it from a place of understanding that I don’t have any real experience with picky eaters and therefore, encourage you to take this blog post with a grain of salt if it doesn’t serve you!
I approach meal times in a very casual way. We don’t typically discuss the menu unless it’s a meal that I know my kids already love. I still make both of their plates since they’re younger. Technically, my oldest could make his own but for the sake of attempting a well-balanced plate, I go ahead and do it. It’s an understood expectation that they are to eat what they are served. Very rarely do I hear the words “I don’t like that”. If they’re adamant about not “liking” a food (especially one they haven’t tried) I’ll remind them that it’s ok to not like it but they at least have to try it. More often than not, they finish the serving.
If things don’t go down that smoothly in your household (they don’t always in ours), it’s ok! Like we tell moms in the midst of a formula or breast feeding crisis, FED IS BEST! Take the guilt and anxiety out of meal times. Give yourself and your child grace. Keep on trying to introduce new foods when you feel up to it and don’t when you don’t! When introducing new foods, keep an open mind and your kiddo is likely to follow suit. If they show an interest in something you’re eating, seize the opportunity to let them taste it. Some (read: most) kids are stubborn. They’re like tiny dictators determined to exercise their power and they’re not going to eat THAT NASTY CARROT regardless of if they loved carrots yesterday. Roll with it. Make it a non-issue. One of my friends has a child that only wants to eat bread. I’ve always admired how she handles it. She doesn’t let it rule her life or her child’s life. Kid are weird and unpredictable. I never expected that my youngest would love olives and pickled okra and now I giggle to myself every time I include them in her lunches.
Speaking of lunches, let’s get down to the real meat and potatoes of this post. HA!—I couldn’t help myself.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen that I post a lot of bento-style lunch box photos in my stories. I just really enjoy making lunches and I realize that’s probably abnormal. I’m cool with it. #lunchboxgangforlife
We do a lot of momables aka DIY lunchables in some variation. Sometimes I send leftovers or soup in a thermos and the occasional wrap, sandwich, or salad. Occasionally, I’ll push the envelope and send a new food or snack that they haven’t had before. They don’t always eat everything at lunch time. My youngest eats better/more than my oldest most days. I always try to overpack so there’s a little left for an after school snack if they want it.
I won’t break down all of the details of these pictures but feel free to DM me on Instagram @porchandpine for any questions! I’ll answer some FAQs at the end of this post.
Tips and tricks:
If your kids are dippers, you’ll love utilizing bento boxes that have silicone seals such as the Bentgo box (the purple and blue boxes with divided trays). I send ranch, guacamole, nut butters, decanted yogurt, and applesauce, etc. I’ve never seen any of these semi-liquids leak but if you’re worried, you could use a square of press and seal over the individual section or alternatively, over the entire tray. If you don’t own a divided bento box, small lidded condiment containers are another great option. We personally use these and these.
Q: Do the apples turn brown like that?
A: This is one of the most frequently asked questions and I’ll be really honest… I don’t know. I tried asking my kids once and they couldn’t remember if they were brown at lunch… I would assume that keeping the slices together and placing them with the cut side down would help but I can’t be certain.
Q: When do you pack lunches? At night or in the morning?
A: I try to pack lunches the night before. I sometimes do them while I’m cooking dinner but usually after the kids have gone to bed. I never feel like packing them at night but I value the reward of a slower morning with my cup of coffee more than I can express.
Q: What are some easy but healthy things to pack in lunches?
A: If your kids like salads and soups, I think those can be fairly easy! I love making a huge pot of soup during the colder months to send in a thermos. Heat and go! For salads, think outside of the box. Not just green salads but tuna, egg, or pasta salads too. They may require a bit of prep work up front but are easy to portion out into lunch containers with a couple servings of fruit and veggies and you’re good to go!
Q: Do you meal prep for lunches and/or buy in bulk and portion out?
A: This is something I started strong with at the beginning of the year and I hate to say I’ve fizzled out. I really love myself when I have several things prepped on hand to toss into lunches and need to get back into that! Things that I love to prep include: boiled eggs for the week, rinsed and cut fruit such as strawberries and grapes, pepperoni pizza rolls, and energy balls.
Q: Where can I find cute accessories like picks and little containers?
A: Amazon! I found fun picks and silicone cups at Target during back to school. Several of our silicone cups must have sprouted legs and walked off so I’m really in need of more! I’m looking at adding these cuties from Amazon to our lunch stash soon: boiled egg molds, mini shape cutters, cat and dog picks, and silicone cups.
Q: How do you try to balance food groups in your kids lunches?
A: This is funny but true.. I treat my kids’ lunch like I treat a charcuterie board. A little meat, a little cheese, crackers, veggie, fruit, maybe some nuts or olives… It’s not perfectly balanced every day but I do aim for a variety of color.
Q: How would you translate these ideas into adult lunches?
A: Same as above. Make yourself a charcuterie plate! Add the ingredients to a salad or a wrap. But really, never underestimate the power of a good pb&j…
Q: Why bento boxes?
A: I can think of a few reasons why bentos have gained popularity worldwide. I’m sure most people appreciate them for the low waste benefits. I, however, love a good ziplock bag and hate washing dishes so I have other reasons. I choose bento boxes because I value variety. It forces me to get creative and fill up the divided portions with different types of foods while giving me more opportunity to sneak in a few healthy things.
I honestly had no idea I had so many things to say about lunches. Are you still there?!
But wait, there’s more!
Favorite kid foodie accounts to follow on Instagram:
We love these stainless containers and know we will appreciate them even more during the summer months because they help the food stay COLD!
Check back soon for more kid food posts and in the meantime, feel free to let me know about any other topics you’d like me to cover!