We are about one month into the school year. Are you in a dreaded lunch rut yet?
For our family, we will likely be packing lunches for our son forever. My son has a number of food allergies, including peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sunflower (he may eat highly refined sunflower oil), sesame, and legumes (except for soy and kidney beans.)
I’m here to share five days of lunches. Perhaps it’ll give you some inspiration. Perhaps it’ll show you that it’s OK to not have a picture perfect lunch each day. Perhaps your children actually like the consistency of what you feel is the lunch rut. Next time I do this, I’ll also show you the after so you can see the level of vegetable rejection we are currently dealing with! Anyone with me?
If allergies are a factor for you or anyone in your family, please always make sure to check the ingredients and manufacturing processes yourself to make sure each food is safe for your family before using anything mentioned.
Day 1: Rolled organic deli turkey, apple slices, strawberries, chopped cooked veggie leftovers, and a sweet muffin with hidden spinach.
Pro tip: Cut all your apples at the start of the week, mix 1 part lemon juice with about 3 parts water (for us, I cut 5 apples and use about 1 T of lemon juice) and pour over the bowl of apples. Shake it all around and they shouldn’t brown. None of us mind the taste of a bit of watered down lemon juice. I’ve recently read seltzer works too to prevent apples from browning.
Muffins are the only surefire way my child will eat vegetables at the moment, so we make a lot of them. These sweet muffins with hidden spinach are really easy to make and healthy. I always cut back the sweetener and just about double the amount of spinach in the recipe. This round had a power greens blend instead of just spinach because that’s what we had in the freezer. Whenever we can’t quite finish a giant tub of greens, I freeze it before it goes bad. It’s perfect to add to muffins and smoothies!
Day 2: Leftover beef burger topped with a bit of Daiya cheese, grapes, clementine, veggies, guacamole, and there is a muffin and pretzel chips hiding in those bags.
This is a meal where I should have given you the after. I’m pretty sure he dipped the clementines in the guacamole instead of the vegetables. The refined palate of a preschooler… Most of the time, lunch for us is dinner leftovers and a ton of produce. This one is no different. It’s an easy way to guarantee some level of variety and health (at least in my eyes).Day 3: Butternut squash ravioli, lots of cut fruit, pickles, and vegetables with soy butter.
We started offering our son celery with soy butter in an attempt to convince him to eat the vegetables. It kind of worked for a few days. This butternut squash ravioli is a huge hit in our house. It’s a favorite of my son’s and really nice on nights where we need something fast. When it is made, it does share equipment with milk and egg, but the company is transparent in their practices related to this. Also, pickles are my favorite food in the world and I am so thankful my son agrees. They go in the treat spot of this box often.
Day 4: Rolled up turkey, some Daiya cheese hiding underneath, cucumber sticks with guacamole, baked apples, and strawberries.
Want to know what I call this lunch? What happens when we didn’t have any leftovers! For us, deli meat is the ultimate way of combating a lunch rut. This week, we did it rolled up two times but I often make it into wraps, cut it into pieces, or even put it on an English muffin. We try to buy an organic, nitrate/nitrite free meat to feel better about additives. It is really versatile and allergy-safe protein that my son enjoys. I try to always keep some on hand and often just ask my son how he’d like it packed the next day.
Day 5: Chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, cut grapes, and veggies.
This is another day of no leftovers. I clearly didn’t meal plan well for that. If your child is willing to eat things cold, you have a ton of options to combat a lunch rut. Thankfully, my son is not at all picky when it comes to food temperature. These mashed potatoes have some cauliflower mixed in, another attempt at tricking him into eating more vegetables. Our garden was plentiful in terms of tomatoes this year, so those often made it into lunch. They were typically returned, but if he’s down at the garden with us, my son likely ate a pint off the vine. I guess we take that as a win!
That is five days of our school lunches. I hope you’ve found a few helpful ideas. As I said, we try to eat leftovers and a bunch of produce for lunch, but that doesn’t always happen. If you’re feeling like you’re in a lunch rut, I’d also suggest asking your child what they would like. You might be surprised at what they come up with!
For us, having a bento style box has been a huge help in packing lunches. Before, my son’s lunch box was larger than my own with all of the glass containers it had to house each day. We love our stainless steel box and are looking forward to the investment lasting us many years, but there are many other options out there on the market. In addition to the convenience factor of one container, you fill it and you’re done. There is no more wondering if it’ll be enough. For us, it contains enough for lunch and a snack. He’s also sometimes allowed to eat the remaining items on the drive home from daycare, to save all of our sanity during dinner prep!
What are your favorite lunch foods to combat a lunch rut? Let me know what we can add to the list!