As moms, it's no secret we know everything about our kids. In fact, we always know what's best, right? Yes, I'd say that is absolutely right. (Eye roll.) But when it comes to school lunch, the reality is moms have no idea what actually goes on in a cafeteria filled with dozens of kids. But, teachers do. So what teachers want parents to know about school lunches could be some of the best lunch advice you'll ever find because it's direct from the source. Kindergarten teacher, mom of two and author of the parenting blog, Living For The Sunshine, Cindy Hemming and founder of Arete Academy, Tamika Todd, give some great tips for moms when it comes to school lunches.
We all want our kids to eat well, but their sporadic eating habits don't always make it easy. It's true that there's only so much you can control when it comes to your kids eating, but it's good to know that there are some things you can do to make lunchtime run more smoothly for them when you're not around. Some of these tips are sweet and simple hacks to help keep their food warm, while others will seriously benefit your child's teacher as well.
1. Make Sure Your Kid Can Open Containers On Their Own
This one kind of goes without saying, but teachers already have plenty to do and lots of kids to look over. Just think about how you run around during mealtime at home — now imagine doing that in a room full of kids yikes. Make life easier for teacher by making sure your child can open and close their own containers or ziplock bags so it's one less child to assist during lunch.
2. Go Bento
Both Hemming and Todd advocated for this one. Hemming says using a bento-style box gives your child variety, while Todd makes the point about using bento for perfect kid-sized portions.
3. No Pocket Money
Hemming says kids who bring lunch money to school often lose it if it's in their pocket. Instead, have them bring a lunch box and put it in there. You can stock the lunch box with healthy snacks that they can have at school or after, or even in addition to their school lunch.
4. Be Strategic About Which Days You Opt For School Lunch
Hemming wants parents to know that "if your child buys lunch only occasionally, do not pick Friday! By the end of the week, most parents are tired of packing lunches and the cafeteria lines are extremely long! On Monday and Tuesday, cafeteria lines are considerably shorter." Such great advice.
5. Keeping Your Child's Food Hot
Using a thermos is great, but they don't always keep your child's food hot until lunchtime. Hemming offers a great tip for moms and says you can keep you child's food hot by lunchtime by "pouring boiling water in the thermos then dump it out immediately before putting lunch contents into thermos."
6. The Rainbow Rule
The more colors you have on your plate, the more nutritious your meal is. Todd says, "make [your child's lunch] colorful by using fruits and vegetables to reflect the rainbow." Plus, kids love color and if their lunch looks fun, they're more likely to eat it.
7. Limit The Sugar
Todd recommends trying to limit the sugary foods in your childs lunch. She encourages parents to "replace the sugary foods with naturally sweet food items such as fruits. Mix them with non-salty nuts to create a healthy snack."
8. Bring Them In On The Fun
You can even have your child pack their own lunch or help you pack it. Allow them to help with the shopping too so they'll be excited to pick out food they like. "When children pack their own lunch the night before, it encourages them to eat what they created," Todd says.
9. Lunches Served In Schools Are Getting Healthier
I did a little research and contacted the Department of Education of New York City and found that school lunches are actually getting healthier. In fact, this school lunch menu offers specialty menu days such as meatless Monday, Culinary Wednesdays, and local Thursdays, featuring lunch menu items with all local ingredients.
10. Send A Note
Write out a special note for your child and leave it in their lunchbox. Kids feel special when mom takes the extra time to put notes in their lunches, plus it's "great for literacy skills," says Hemming.