Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Lunch Bunch

Who says lunch can't be awesome? Bento box lunches are the best.
Guess what today is? It's the day I get sick of having to pack lunchboxes. Yep, it's the sixth day of the new term, and already I'm bored of making Isabelle's lunch. With her school's embargo on nuts, combined with the fact that she refuses to eat salads, plus our inability to keep interesting breads at home (thanks to my husband's gluten sensitivity), it's not only difficult but boring to think about what to have my primary schooler eat for lunch every day. 

I'm guessing I'm not the only one? New research has identified today as the day that moms all over the country get tired of making packed lunches and the kids get sick of the contents. Yes, it takes only SIX DAYS to get lunchbox fatigue, and run out of ideas for what to put in the old lunchbox. The study also revealed that this leads to kids throwing away (on average) half of their lunchbox each day after this, due to the contents being dull, "uncool" and unappealing. 

Okay, I'm a Moaning Minnie, since the school year started, Isabelle has requested having three school dinners per week instead of two, so I'm only packing two lunches for her, but I'm telling you, it is bo-ring. According to the research, mothers spend more time on their child's lunchbox than feeding themselves, and that, in our house, is actually the case. On the days when it's my turn to pack lunch, I might have time to grab an apple or something (eaten standing up), while everyone else sits down to an actual breakfast. It's a real balancing act trying to keep her lunchbox creative, healthy and fun.

The research shows that mothers admit to worrying less about the cost of the food thrown away than the fact their kids won't get a fully balanced meal if they don't eat all of it.... which means sometimes we have to smuggle in healthy items disguised as a treat. Fruit rollups, raisins and Cheesestrings take the place of junk food in Isabelle's lunch, and for the time being that's okay for us.

I know that making lunch can be more exciting, so here are a couple of tips I'm trying to remember on the days I make Isabelle a lunch:
  1. Take inspiration from Japanese bento boxes - the trick is to make food look fantastic so kids don’t realize it’s healthy! Why not try putting fruit and vegetables into a cupcake holder – this will make them look like treats! Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with a cookie cutter. Being creative with food is how the Japanese make bento meals more to life. My sister is a pro at this. I've included a picture of a fantastic Angry Birds lunchbox she built for my niece. And if that doesn't look like fun, I don't know what does. 
  2. Hide a treat under the boring food, so it's a fun surprise when they find it! 
  3. Leave a funny note or joke inside the lunchbox. They can torture their pals with it all afternoon. 
  4. Make lunch together. If you let them make your lunch, they'll feel like grownups too. 
  5. My kids love eating the ripe tomatoes off the backyard plants. Seeing how the food grows makes it more fun and more delicious than the cherry tomatoes out of the supermarket box, and more likely to disappear from the lunchbox. A tomato plant does not take up much room on a backyard balcony. Try a little grow-your-own next year to see amazing results.

Six days in to first grade... it's going to be a long term.

Image courtesy of Susan Sammons

***The research, commissioned by Cheesestrings, of 1,500 mums and children was conducted by OnePoll on 8th August 2013 

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