Have you spent the last few weeks getting ready to send your teen back to school? Has the reality of making those dreaded pack lunches again set in? Are you determined to plan the lunch boxes to take the pain out of it?
Why do a lot of teens find a lunch box more trouble than its worth?
A large part of our teens lunch times is spent moving from classroom to lockers, to toilets, to see a teacher, meet their friends, play a game of basketball, then down ball, hand in notes, go to the library, uniform shop etc. Carting a lunchbox around can sometimes be a big inconvenience and can be a major reason why our kids are not having lunch. Our teens often have limited time to eat and often need to eat and walk at the same time.
Why is it so hard to plan a variety of lunches every week?
Decision fatigue… look it up it’s a real thing and often the reason we cannot decide on anything anymore… like what food should be in the pack lunches this week.
There is a lot of valuable evidence that says teens should be involved in choosing and preparing lunches to increase their independence and healthy food choices. Sometimes this leaves your teen either choosing the same and simplest food daily (e.g. a ham sandwich and an apple) or saying ‘whatever!’.
The issue here is that same lunch everyday guarantees a moldy school bag. Teens eating lunch is important for a lot of reasons around learning and growing, but for us parents it’s as simple as food in the belly= a clean school bag! Well no moldy food anyway!
So here is what we have found to be helpful.
Ask the important questions of your kids
You could say ‘I don’t think I am getting this right, what would make it easier for you to be able to eat well at school?’
Ask; ‘Do you prefer lots of little things or one/two big things for lunch?’
Ask; ‘When do you usually eat and where?’ ( e.g. morning recess, lunch, on oval, walking with friends, on way home)
As always, just asking a simple question may give you some answers and may give your teen the opportunity to reflection and to practice problem solving. The end result is mostly a teen that eats while at school.
Involve your teen.
It’s important to involve your teen. When teens have a say in what they eat they are more likely to eat it. Some teens can get up in the morning and make their own pack lunch and eat it. Some are already very independent and that’s great. Some teens however, eat better at school if you plan the pack lunches at weekend together. Either they come to the supermarket and shop with you or they simply send you a message of foods they would like, and you and your teen can make the lunches together the night before or freeze batches together over the weekend. Providing some inspiration or a list of options can be helpful for both you and your teen.
Provide an assortment of food tailored to their taste. Work with your teen when designing their lunches and try new food in limited quantities.
For the teens that do eat on the run think about anything you can put in a paper bag!
Use a zip lock bag for any moist foods and pack it in a container so they can take the zip lock bag out of the container and leave the container in their bag without worry of leakage. You can buy reusable bags eco-friendly bags, that are easier to use and easier to pull out of a uniform pocket on wash day as opposed to the end of term!
Sign up to the newsletter and we will send you a downloadable planner (current newsletter subscribers will also get this emailed to them). You can add anything to it that you know your teen likes too. Just ask your teen to pick something from each category, plan for the week and off you go.
All the best with the pack lunches!