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How to get preteens packing their own lunches

Packing your kids’ lunches every morning can be a pretty time-consuming task, but doing it once they’re older can mean they aren’t learning how to do this important job for themselves.

packed lunch

Set your kids up for a lifetime of successful meal prep by getting them started now.

Start planning as a team

Although the goal is to have your preteen making their lunches on their own, helping them plan out the first few weeks is a great way to set them up for success. Start by creating lists of potential drinks, snacks, mains and desserts. This will make it easier for them to identify the possibilities and potential combinations. From there, work together to plan out their first week of lunches. At the end of the week, check in to see how it went. Did your preteen find they didn’t pack enough and wound up hungry? Or did they pack things they aren’t fond of and items went to waste? If so, plan another week together. Repeat this process until your preteen feels comfortable and you can trust they’ll make good choices moving forward. Trial and error is a great way for preteens to learn what works and what doesn’t, without feeling forced into anything.

Let them take part in the shopping

If you’ve done the grocery shopping on your own for years, you’ve likely settled into a routine of what you purchase and are efficient at it. But if your preteen is going to be taking the time to pack their own meals, they’ll appreciate being able to select items they enjoy. That doesn’t mean you have to let them pack instant Kraft Dinner and chocolate bars; it just means letting them come with you to see what options exist and to let them feel in control of what they’ll be packing. If you do the shopping without them and they don’t like what you get, they might adopt unhealthy eating habits at school.

So seize the opportunity to talk about what your preteen wants to eat and what groceries they’ll need to make that happen. Most important, if they suggest an item you don’t want as part of their lunch, make sure you tell them why rather than shutting it down outright. There are many reasons to not pack pop and a frozen pizza for lunch, but unless your preteen knows those reasons, they might just feel you’re being unfair. And of course, you don’t have to crack the whip all the time. Letting them have a treat here and there will help keep them motivated and interested in this new task.

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Teach them how to make smart choices

Tip: Browse through recipe books together to see if any sandwiches, soups or wraps that can be easily packed catch your preteen’s eye. If so, encourage them to pursue those nutritious choices, and help them whip up those choices if necessary.

Some of your preteen’s school friends likely grab burgers and fries at the cafeteria, or if they’re older, they might even go out for lunch. It’s natural for your child to want to make the same unhealthy and expensive choices, and that’s why it’s so important that you guide and teach them about all the healthy choices that exist. Teaching kids at a young age how much fun it can be to prepare flavourful and nutritious meals is a lesson that will last a lifetime.

Encourage planning ahead

Teens love to sleep, so getting them up for school in the morning is a challenge in itself. Convincing them to wake up 10 minutes earlier so they can pack a lunch might be too much to ask. Instead, make sure your teen packs their lunch before heading to bed so it’s ready to go in the morning. This will ensure a healthy, well-planned lunch is prepared and that the morning is as stress free as possible.

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Do you have a favourite lunch to pack? Let us know in the comment section below!

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