A little love in the lunch box

Lunchtime has certainly changed since I was a kid. I grew up in what my son would consider the prehistoric era, when kids still scoffed at ethnic food and everything "smelled," even before they were gifted with a whiff. I would be embarrassed to bring my mother's hummus to school, since one child couldn't imagine a world where something like that could be delicious. These are likely the same kids who grew up to have their own children and buy mini packs of pre-made hummus for the lunch box.

Back then, not many strayed from PBJs or bologna and cheese sandwiches. Heathy sides were almost universally apples or carrot sticks, and the "cool" parents would throw in a package of Little Debbie something. It was very Americana, very predictable.

bento box

But times have changed. I've watched Instagram videos where doting mothers create amazing bento box lunches with dumplings and dipping sauce. Parents (and their kids) are getting pretty sophisticated! Here are a few tips to put a little love in the lunch box.

Bento is beautiful

There's something so satisfying about the little, tidy compartments. Contents don't smash together, the flavors stay pure, and it really shows off the variety of foods you packed, giving the feeling of abundance. Kids love choices. A bento box is definitely worth the hype. 

Cookie cutter, but in a good way

You can surprise your kids with a bit of whimsy by using cookie cutters to stamp out, say, little sandwiches, or slices of watermelon. You can use star shapes, little circles - whatever your kid is into. Don't worry about food waste, everyone knows that parents graze while preparing food, and we can nibble the little edges that get cut off!

bento box lunch

The spice of life

If your kid is a picky eater, lunch is a good time to force your hand. This may sound cruel, but it works to help tease your child out of habits, such as refusing to try new food. I don't suggest filling the entire lunch bag with oddities, because they may choose hunger over eating. And no one wins in that scenario. But if they have a nice lunch with familiar foods, but you've introduced a new, enticing item that would make them feel more full, they just may take the plunge. In a cafeteria, they can't rely on a stocked kitchen where a parent waits on them hand and foot. And if they are picky, they are likely surrounded by more adventurous eaters in the lunchroom, who would normalize and encourage them to eat, say, asparagus spears or guacamole.

True colors

Our favorite foods and guilty pleasures seem to come in the same shades of tan and brown. Bread, pasta, cookies, etc. A color check is a good indicator that you need a variety of nutrients in your lunch. Some blueberries for reduced inflammation, sugar snap peas for vitamin K, orange slices for vitamin C, and so on. 

Love note

This is pretty self-explanatory. But every so often, slip in a note of encouragement, specific to their insecurities or anxieties, should any exist. Otherwise, let them know how amazing they are.

Here's to a great school year!

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