It’s that time of year again. The time when moms and dads need to be nutritionist, chef, and magician all rolled into one. How else will you fill the lunch sack, day after day, with good-for-them foods that kids won’t trade away? If you’re not feeling particularly magical right about now, don’t worry: We have dozens of ideas for what to include, in a handy mix-and-match chart you can post on the fridge. Round up the kids and get packing!
How to Use the Pick-a-Lunch Chart
Mix and Match. read straight down for a balanced meal (main, side, snack, and drink) that includes dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Then change it up: Your child liked the black bean wrap on Monday and the edamame on Wednesday? Put them together on Thursday for a whole new kid-approved meal. (And remember: If you hit on a winning combination that your kid loves so much he wants it every day for a month, go with it: There are no prizes in the lunchroom for Most Creative Mom.)
Have Kids Do the Mixing and Matching
It’s no secret that children are more likely to eat food they’ve had a hand in cooking—or at least putting in a reusable baggie. Depending on your child’s age, it might take more time to supervise lunch packing than to do it yourself, but start with one day a week and build up. Even little kids can tell you their top picks and watch you put it all together: That’s a lesson in putting thought and care into what you eat.
Fill in Your Favorites
We’ve created a blank chart for you to write in a few of your family’s favorites. Get your child to draw pictures in the squares and include those ideas in your own mixing and matching.
All of the Pick-a-Lunch menu options were put to the stringent taste testing of more than 1,000 children attending programs through Purple Asparagus, a nonprofit in Chicago that educates children, families, and the community about eating food that’s good for the body and the planet. Get the Free Pick-a-Lunch Chart here!