Packing your teen’s lunch every day can be a real challenge. They’re at the age where they want more independence, but still need your help and guidance. And when it comes to food, they can be pretty picky!
Packed lunches are important for teens because they provide a nutritious meal during the day and will give them the energy they need to focus in school and stay active.
If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for what to pack in your teen’s lunchbox that they’ll actually eat (and won’t trade with their friends), you’re in luck. Here are some tips to help you out.
Let them help with the menu planning. Sit down with your teen at the beginning of each week and ask them what they would like to see in their lunchbox. This will not only make them more likely to eat what you’ve packed, but it will also teach them how to be thoughtful about their food choices.
Write a weekly plan of what to include for each day’s lunch. This will make it easier for you to make sure you have the items on hand each day. You won’t even have to think about it. You just simply get out the food for what’s on that day’s menu.
Save Money. Packing your teen’s lunch can also save you money. Buying lunch at school can be expensive, and it is often not as healthy as packed lunches. Packing a lunch for your teen means that you can buy in bulk and make sure that they are getting the nutrients they need without breaking the bank.
Include a variety of foods. Make sure to include a protein, like chicken or tofu, as well as some complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. This will help to keep them full and focused throughout the day. Add some healthy snacks in addition to their main lunch. Include things like fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or whole grain crackers.
Get creative with leftovers. Just because your teen says they don’t like last night’s dinner doesn’t mean it can’t make an appearance in their lunch the next day. Get creative with how you package it up, try putting it in a wraps or on top of a salad instead of just packing it as is, or try using different types of breads, wraps, or even sushi rolls.
Sneak in some veggies. We all know that getting teens to eat their vegetables can be a challenge, but there are ways to sneak them into their lunch without them even realizing it! Try adding shredded carrots or zucchini to pasta dishes, or chopping up some bell peppers or cucumbers to add to a wrap or sandwich.
Avoid processed foods. When possible, avoid processed foods and opt for whole foods instead. This includes things like pre-packaged snacks or lunchables.
Add an occasional surprise. Keep it exciting by occasionally adding in a treat surprise. Around Halloween you could include a few pieces of Halloween candy or leading up to Easter perhaps a small Easter egg or treats to share with their friends. Make the surprises rare enough that they are surprised. But keep on giving surprises. This is also something that they will start to rely on. So if you start doing it, don’t stop.
Add a Note. An occasional note is a great touch. Your teen will be likely to keep it a secret but they will appreciate it. Lunchbox notes are a nice surprise and secretly they will love it.
Get some help. Although they might complain at first, it is a good idea to get your teen to help with their lunch (or even better if they will pack it all themselves!) Get your teen to pack their lunch the night before to save some time in the morning. Make sure you have a variety of things to choose from and you may need to give them some suggestions.
At first you will want to check to make sure their lunch is not full of treats but includes some healthy options too. I discovered that my son packed a whole lot of candy and nothing else in one of the first lunches that he prepared on his own. It was a good time to teach him the importance of a healthy diet.
Keep it cool. During the Summer months a packed lunch can very quickly spoil so make sure it is kept cold by including an ice pack or frozen water bottle.
Make it fun! No one wants to eat a boring old PB&J every day, so try to mix things up and make their lunches fun and exciting. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes, or put together a Bento box with different compartments for each food item. Get creative and have fun with it!
Packing your teen’s school lunch doesn’t have to be a daily battle. By involving them in the menu planning process, getting creative with leftovers, sneaking in some veggies, and making it fun, you can make sure they’re getting the nourishment they need without too much of a fuss.
By following these tips, you can be sure that your teen is getting the nutrients they need to stay health and focused throughout the day.