Calling all moms! It's time to take control of our kids' eating by controlling how things go into their lunchboxes. These tips will help you make sure lunch is still appealing at lunchtime and keep the kids from trading your healthy food for stuff you'd rather they didn't have. These tips are also useful for your own lunch.
- For hot food, pour boiling water into your thermos and let it sit for about half an hour (or as long as you can) covered in the microwave (with the device off — this is just for extra insulation) before putting hot food in.
- Need to pack a hot sandwich like a grilled cheese? Cut it into strips when it comes off the grill, wrap it in foil immediately and slide the foil-wrapped slices into the thermos.
- For cold food, fill the thermos with ice and a handful of rock salt and fill it with water. Then cap it and place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before putting the cold food in.
- Create your own ice pack by soaking a clean sponge in water (squeeze out the water until the sponge is only just dripping) and placing it in a plastic bag in the freezer. It will keep your food cold and give you something to wipe up the table with when you're done. The plastic bag should keep the water from leaking if it's well sealed.
- Place your water or juice bottle in the freezer the night before. The frozen liquid should melt by lunchtime but will keep your food nice and cool.
- Buy reusable ice cubes to pack with cold goods in your lunch. They're great for keeping carrots and other veggies crisp and delicious.
Keep 'em separated
- To keep sandwiches from getting soggy, place the ingredients in separate bags for your kids to assemble at school. You should have a bread bag, a veggie bag, a meat and cheese bag and a condiment bag or container. For ingredients like peanut butter, jelly, pimento cheese, hazelnut spread, etc., place those in small containers with lids.
- Send condiments and spreads to school in separate containers. You can use disposable ramekins, which you can get in packs of several hundred, for kids who can't keep up with anything (Amazon, $27).
- Buy a specialized lunch bag with compartments that separate hot and cold foods, like the Radiance Dual Lunch Kit (Thermos, $10) and keep your sandwiches and veggies in one compartment and your thermos or other hot food in the other.
- Don't forget utensils. If your kiddo will have to assemble the lunch, send them to school with a fork and spoon and a knife for spreading (for younger kids, pack a Popsicle stick for spreading for a little extra fun).
- Leave your kids notes on napkins or tiny chalkboards (Factory Direct Craft, $11) affixed to the lid of their lunchbox. You can leave good luck notes, reminders and more. Just be careful of the sappy stuff once your son's "too old" to kiss his mommy goodbye.
- Older kids may want real silverware. Get them portable silverware that comes in its own container and won't take up much room (PB Teen, $10). If you're packing leftover Japanese cuisine, don't forget the chopsticks, soy sauce and that extra fortune cookie we know you stashed.
- Get creative. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for healthy sammies, use pita instead of bread or skewer meats, cheeses and veggies instead of packing a sandwich.
More lunchbox ideas
3 Healthy recipes for school lunches
5 Bento box lunch ideas for girls
Break the school lunch rut