“Back to school”. If you’re a parent reading this, three magical words laden with relief, excitement and gratitude. Just the thought of it has you shaking your groove-thang while driving, showering or tip-toeing down the hall after putting the kiddos to bed. Tax free weekends to snag school supplies? Swipe that card ‘til it smokes! Orientation to get the kids acclimated with their new surroundings? How early can you get there? Time to get the offsprings back into a “normal” routine with earlier bedtimes? Lights out, darlings! The thought of having to pack lunches and reactivate your impeccable planning + organizational skills every.single.day? Skkkkkkkkkert! You’re suddenly pleading with the principle to extend summer break indefinitely.
If you’re not a parent, “back to school” season is equally as daunting because this means the days of easy, summer living are nearing an end. That “fly by the seat of your pants” mentality will soon be replaced with structure and routine (ugg) and all those “lunch meetings” you’ve spent on the patio of your favorite spot will soon come to a screeching halt.
But before you accuse us of killing your “back to school” vibes, let us help make the dreaded transition back to reality stress free! Since most of us have been on a very “loose” schedule the last few months, let’s start with the basics-lunch packing!
::LUNCH PACKING 101::
When it comes to packing lunches, do you find yourself playing the “everything but the kitchen sink” game in the mornings; scrambling to construct a moderately healthy yet appealing lunch for the ones you love? Or, are your lunches the pillar of health and come Monday morning, everything’s been washed, chopped, prepared, packaged with love and sealed with sticky notes for the next 5 days.
Regardless of where you tend to fall on this spectrum, packing lunches doesn’t have to be stressful, overwhelming or the bane of your existence! Here are 7 things you can immediately start doing to pack healthy and delicious lunches that will save your time and sanity!
PLAN LIKE A BOSS ||
Plan lunch menus in advance and schedule lunch packing as a “to do” in your planner. By doing so, you are setting yourself (and family) up for success, making “morning sendoffs” happy and hassle-free! If after school/evening schedules are equally as hectic, consider this: mornings are met with hard start times between school and work making evenings the optimal choice.
DON’T GO AT IT ALONE ||
Change the dynamic of packing lunches altogether! Leverage what feels like a daunting task into a group effort with your family or friends:
- Swap happy hour with an in-home ladies night to catch up over meal prepping.
- Make lunch packing an opportunity to spend quality time with your family. You’ll indirectly be teaching your kids how eating healthy can be fun + delicious! Added bonus – involving your kids gives them a “say” so they’re more likely to eat what’s packed versus opting for a smorgasbord bought lunch complete with Oreos, Cheez-its, and pizza. There’s also that whole concept of instilling responsibility as well. Truly a win-win if you ask us!
START WITH THE ESSENTIALS ||
Every lunch should feature a protein and veggie – hear us out:
- When it comes to finding a protein, there is something for everyone: cubed cheese, rolled lunch meat, grilled chicken or grilled chicken nuggets, peanut butter, yogurt, eggs…the list goes on! Our bodies literally need protein for fuel -it keeps us feeling fuller, longer. Since your kids can’t control when they eat, and work schedules constantly change, it’s important to pack a fulfilling lunch to power through the day.
- Veggie-tales: Kids (and some adults) are socialized to understand veggies are gross, and desserts are delicious! Let’s flip the script and help kids understand veggies got a super bad rap and actually have a coolness factor (like being really damn good for you)! Start with chopped carrots, cucumbers, peppers, or celery. If necessary, pair it with something like Ranch or peanut butter so it’s appetizing and appealing to eat.
MEAL PREP ||
Meal prep has taken adulthood by storm and if you have yet to get onboard, now’s your chance! Meal prepping is the habit of designating a specific day and time, every week, to prepare snacks, partial or full meals. While it’s different for everyone, meal prepping might include:
- Washing and chopping fruits and veggies in advance so they’re ready to grab when hunger strikes.
- Cooking complete meals for 3 days or an entire week.
- Prepping only lunches since breakfast and dinner are frequently eaten at home.
If you preach meal prep and have found what works best for you – keep going! If the thought of adding one more thing to your “do to” list activates anxiety, start small by either preparing 1 full meal in advance or by cutting /chopping/storing fruits and veggies for the week. See how this works for you and, in the long run, makes life less stressful. From there, expand into preparing 2 meals for the week, then 3, etc. Bottom line – don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
HYDRATION STATION ||
Staying hydrated is important (duh) but how we stay hydrated is even more relevant. In most cases, kids will choose anything over water and adults prefer to be hopped up on caffeine. As the most satiating form of hydration, water is super important – it’s basically liquid gold! If you or your kids aren’t keen on drinking water, doctor it up:
- Try flavored bubble water (La Croix has many options!).
- Add slices of fresh fruit or flavor drops.
- Parent hack: Let your children pick out a super fancy water bottle with their favorite superhero, hashtag or design on it. Swell bottles are all the rage and if their friends have one, you’ve just guaranteed yourself the academy award for parent of the year!
NO MORE MANIC MONDAYS ||
Weekends are cool, until Sunday night. Come Monday morning, everyone is dragging ass trying to get back into the school or work routine. Instead of placing emphasis on Friday as being the best day of the week, encourage your family (and yourself) to put a positive spin on Monday:
- Kick-off the week and Mondays day by listing 3 things you are grateful for or, try setting a new goal for the week: “I want to read 20 pages in my new book.” “I want to get to bed 5 minutes earlier”. Shifting your mindset is a great mental health hack since positivity fuels long-term health and well-being.
- Put a sweet spin on lunch! Instead of packing a special treat on Fridays, surprise the family or yourself with an extra something in Monday’s lunch! Think outside the box so the treat isn’t pure junk! Try chopped strawberries topped off with sprinkled sugar or a side of whipped cream to dunk! Or, mix peanut butter with mashed banana and freeze for some frozen yogurt deliciousness!
PORTION CONTROL ||
If those packed lunches consist mainly of anything but protein and veggies then Houston, we have a problem! The lunches you pack should resemble something more like this: largest portions should be allotted for protein + veggies and smaller portions for everything else. This obviously cultivates a healthy lifestyle and subconsciously, everybody is becoming more conscious about what proportionate meals look like.