food

New year, new lunch box: How to pack meals that won't come back untouched.

Whole Kids
Thanks to our brand partner, Whole Kids

“Please be empty. Please be empty. Please be empty. PLEASE be empty!”

It’s 3.30pm on any given school day. I’ve picked the kids up. We’ve driven home. They’ve brought their school bags inside and placed their lunch boxes on the kitchen bench for me to rinse out and refill for the following day.

I have only ONE wish.

That the lunch boxes that I am about to open have been emptied of all the delicious and nutritious food that was sent to school with the kids that morning. And when I say “emptied”, I mean that the kids have eaten everything, not tossed it in the bin! I don’t want to see sandwich crusts. I don’t want to see brown apple pieces. I don’t want to see half a slice of cheese or the remnants of a muesli bar. No. What I want to see is NOTHING.

No. Such. Luck.

Most of what was inside hasn’t been touched. At all. The remaining contents have been sampled, and then rejected. Oh, but of course the ‘treat’ I threw in has completely disappeared. Typical.

I made all this for you. And you only ate the olive and nibbled the cheese. via GIPHY

I guess it’s time to say that the above was written by the ‘old’ me. The me before I sat down one night with my hubby and decided to make a plan. I couldn’t face another day of food-rejection and chucking out and wasting any more lunch box contents. I was DONE.

The list of ‘lunch box tips’ below were put into practice with my two kids over the second half of last year and let me tell you, THEY WORK. They REALLY, REALLY WORK. They’re practical and simple. They don’t involve spending a million dollars on bits and bobs, and the bottom line is the kids’ lunchboxes seriously come back empty! Don’t believe me? Try them yourself.

1) Go bento!

Bento or compartmentalised lunch boxes work a treat with kids of all ages. They can wrap their little heads around what’s on offer with one glance and nothing seems too overwhelming because everything is portioned or cut to fit within the section of the lunchbox that it’s sitting in. They also allow you to provide a healthy variety of food for the child as there are often up to five or six divisions within the one box.

lunch box
Divide and conquer with your compartments. Image: Phoodie
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2) Variety is key.

As much as kids like and (some would argue) need routine, when it comes to what they eat, they can easily get sick and tired of the same old, same old. So while it’s great to include fruit and vegetables every day in your child’s lunch box, mix it up! Carrots and strawberries one day and celery and blueberries the next. Another good example of this is with snacks like Whole Kids Organic Puffs, which I get from Coles. I include a pack of these most days in my kids’ lunch boxes but I mix up the flavours. So one day it’s sweetcorn and carrot and the next its carrot and parsnip. Delish and free from artificial nasties.

Organic carrot and parsnip elephant puffs. Image: Phoodie

3) Involve them!

Bring the kids along to the supermarket with you to help choose the types of snacks and larger items that they want inside their lunch box. Obviously they will need your guidance and you as the parent have the final say, but sometimes there is a sense of satisfaction for the child when they get to select something and throw it in the trolley knowing that they’ve chosen it to eat at school.

The kids can also be involved in filling the lunch boxes whenever it is that you do this. I like doing it the evening before as it saves time and takes some stress out of morning madness on school days.

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4) Bribery rules.

Okay, before your hurl your iPad across the room in anger at this ‘crazy’ suggestion, let me explain. I’m not talking about a crisp $50 for Charlie because he ate his carrots! I’m talking about an extra book at bedtime, or perhaps an extra five or 10 minutes screen-time, maybe even a little treat or sweet bite thrown in the lunch box the next day. Something small but something they’ll appreciate.

5) Convenience.

In related news, after-school snacks are also something that commonly get rejected by kids, so try to apply some of these same lunch box tips to your after school snacks. Products such as Whole Kids Organic Snacks come in convenient snack-pack sizes and are really simple to toss into your handbag and whip out as necessary. My kids absolutely love the Organic Fruit Bars in both the apple and sultana and apricot flavours.

Whole Kids
Whole Kids' organic fruit bars are a hit in the afternoons. Image: Phoodie

6) Be real.

Don’t send in foods that you WANT them to eat but KNOW that they won’t. For my kids this is cherry tomatoes. No matter how cute I think they look in the bento, or how many fresh punnets of them I have in my fridge or how much I wish upon a star that my kids would just eat them, I know they don’t like them, so I must stop including them and praying for a miracle.

At the end of the day, I’m all about balance. Let’s be real. Who has time to make sushi dolphins and ninja-shaped sandwiches when putting together our kids' lunch boxes? Certainly not me, or you, or you or ANY of you.

So do yourself a favour, try the above, tell your friends about it and let me know how you go.

How do you get your kids to clear out their lunchboxes and actually love the contents? Tell us!

Want more from Phoodie? Visit her delicious site.

Whole Kids

Whole Kids is Australia’s largest range of certified organic snacks for babies and kids. A market leader in organic, artificial additive-free and allergen-friendly snacks for children, they are committed to making healthier, nourishing food for families using quality ingredients, and that tastes yummy.
No artificial stuff, no funny numbers and no added junk; just real food created by a real Aussie Mum using honest ingredients. Try these yummy snack on your little one; available at Coles, Chemist Warehouse, selected IGA's and Independent grocers and organics stores nationally (oh and at www.wholekids.com.au!)

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